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Earlier this week, Gregg Rosenthal of NFL.com listed two of the San Francisco 49ers free agent signings among the worst of the 2017 offseason – so far. The two players who Rosenthal listed were FB Kyle Juszczyk and LB Malcolm Smith.
On Friday, the pair made another similar list on FOX Sports. Cameron DaSilva listed both among the seven worst signings during NFL free agency so far. Below is what DeSilva had to say about each signing. Juszczyk ranked fourth on his list while Smith ranked second.
No. 4: FB Kyle Juszczyk
"Fullbacks have essentially been phased out of the NFL with many teams going three-wide or putting two tight ends on the field. The 49ers didn't feel that way. They paid Juszczyk $21 million for four years with $9.75 million guaranteed. Don't get me wrong, the former Ravens fullback is a great player, but his fit in Baltimore's offense was ideal.
"They used him frequently as a receiver out of the backfield – probably more often than they should have – which is why his numbers were eye-popping for a fullback. The 49ers need playmakers on the outside and offensive line help. Not a fullback who can catch passes out of the backfield for $5 million per year – by far the highest total of any fullback. For comparison's sake, Patrick DiMarco signed with the Bills for $2.1 million per year."
No. 2: LB Malcolm Smith
"Smith's greatest accomplishment to date is winning Super Bowl MVP, which is obviously a tremendous feat. However, beyond that, he's just a decent linebacker. According to Pro Football Focus, Smith missed 36 tackles the past two seasons in Oakland, which is a huge number for a linebacker.
"Ever since he won Super Bowl MVP honors, he's been on a downward spiral. His bank account, however, has not. He received $26.5 million for five years from the 49ers, which is a fairly large payday for a borderline starter.
"The 49ers had money to spend, and they used it. unfortunately, Smith isn't a player they should have thrown that much money at."
49ers general manager John Lynch didn't agree with Rosenthal's original assessment of the signings so it is logical to conclude that he would not agree with this one either.
RELATED John Lynch responds to NFL.com criticism of Juszczyk and Smith contracts
"We're proud of those signings," Lynch said Friday morning on KNBR. "We really are. I think I spoke to great length the value both those guys brings to us. I played in this league for a long time. I've been on the other side as a broadcaster. One thing I learned when I played – if you're sitting there reading everything that people are saying about you, taking it personally, you aren't going to be very successful. So I think we make decisions for reasons. We looked for a certain type of player. I think both those guys fit it and we're really proud.
"I think the reason that they both got nice contracts is because they were wanted and we weren't the only ones that wanted them and a lot of our situations, we weren't the highest bidder. Guys came because there's an exciting vibe here. Guys want to be here and so both those guys, Juszczyk and Malcolm, obviously, none of this means anything until they go play and we go play. We're fully aware of that but those are two guys that we're very excited to have as part of the 49ers."
Lynch wasn't the only one who liked the signing of Juszczyk. Ian Rapoport of NFL Media went on KNBR this week and was complimentary about the fullback's value.
"Juszczyk is going to be a really good player," Rapoport said on KNBR. "If you are really going to use your fullback as a tight end or an H-back — which the Niners are going to — then I don't really care what you pay him. He's not a fullback, he's a tight end. So if you want to pay him $4 million for a tight end, who cares? Five million? Who cares, you know?"
As Lynch mentioned, the 49ers' offer wasn't even the best one that Juszczyk received. His agent, Joe Linta, confirmed last week that the fullback turned down more money for the opportunity to play with head coach Kyle Shanahan. During free agency, teams overpay all the time for players who are in demand but fit needs on their squads. Of course, the 49ers have not been one of those teams for many years because former general manager Trent Baalke refused to address needs via free agency. In the case of Juszczyk, the 49ers could have lost him to a higher bidder but were able to acquire the fullback because of the reputation that Shanahan brings with him to San Francisco.
Given the lack of activity from the 49ers over the past few years, the fact that the team is making any kind of list like this might be considered a refreshing change to some.