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It's been a long time since the San Francisco 49ers fanbase has been excited about anything the franchise has done in recent years, but it seems like times are changing by the bay. The team's aggressive (and smart) approach to adding new talent this offseason shows that the new regime has a plan and isn't shy about executing it. There's still a long way to go, but it's hard not to be impressed so far, and the overall optimism was apparent in the questions I received for the latest mailbag.
Q: What has stood out the most to you during this first full month of the new regime? (Sheila Marie Dizon)
A: While the Kyle Shanahan/John Lynch led regime is still only in its infant stages, you can't help but be impressed by the way they go about their business. What has stuck out to me the most is the fact that players want to come to San Francisco now, and that notion would have been laughable just a couple of months ago. For evidence of this, you have to look no further than what's transpired so far in free agency. Guys like WR Pierre Garcon, QB Brian Hoyer, FB Kyle Juszczyk, WR Marquise Goodwin, WR Aldrick Robinson and TE Logan Paulsen all came to the 49ers in part because they wanted to play for Shanahan and in his system. Most of them already had experience with the Niners' new head coach, and the fact that they wanted to seek out a reunion is encouraging. Even on the defensive side of the ball, LB Malcolm Smith was attracted to San Francisco because of the system fit in new defensive coordinator Rob Saleh's 4-3. Any time a team's coaching staff is a big selling point for free agents, you have to feel good as a fan.
As far as Lynch, he's pressed all the right buttons so far as well. He carries himself with class, and is almost politician-like in the way he handles himself publicly (I mean that in a good way). He's made up for his lack of experience by putting good personnel people around him (i.e. Adam Peters, Martin Mayhew) and seems to understand what his head coach is looking for in players. If there is one consistent theme with all the new additions, it's that they are perfect scheme fits for what the coaching staff wants to do. The new regime is on the same page, and that will eventually translate to positive things on the field.
Q: With all of the free agent additions, do you think it's fair to say the Niners draft defense heavily? (Dan Ross @LCSwebzone)
A: While Smith, DT Earl Mitchell and CB K'Waun Williams have been brought in the help bolster the defense, it does seem like the Niners have been a little more concentrated on the offense so far in free agency. That would lead some to assume that the defensive side of the ball could be a top priority in the draft. While I think it's entirely possible it could play out that way, you have to remember that the 49ers need pretty much everything, and still don't have any young, cornerstone players to build the team around. Because of that, I think all bets are off when it comes to the draft.
Lynch and company are probably better off trading down, but if they can't swing a deal, they may just take the best player available at number two overall. Personally, I would say the second pick is a little too high to take someone like RB Leonard Fournette, but if the Niners feel he's a cornerstone piece, they may pull the trigger. That could be a consistent approach throughout the draft, where they just take the best player available to them because they need impact performers. Since Lynch is a rookie general manager, he has no track record, so what he'll ultimately do is a mystery.
Q: Any chance we trade for Kirk Cousins? (Chuck Vanemburgh)
Would you consider trading (Arik) Armstead with picks as part of a trade for Cousins? (@slowrunner33)
A: You didn't think I'd get through a mailbag without talking about Cousins did you? While the latest on the embattled Washington quarterback is that he's staying put this year, I'm not buying it. Cousins apparently doesn't want to be with the organization anymore, and the franchise has nothing to gain by paying $24 million to a quarterback that will sign elsewhere in 2018. Cousins wants to be reunited with Shanahan in San Francisco, and the 49ers want him. The issue here is that Washington owner Daniel Snyder has a strained relationship with the Shanahans, and doesn't want to hand Kyle his starting quarterback. I believe that, at some point, Snyder will come to his senses and ultimately agree to a deal.
Now the compensation for Cousins is another story. Some would argue that the 49ers should offer a one-sided Michael Corleone type deal, and tell Snyder to take it or leave it, knowing they'll get him in 2018 anyway. A lot can happen in a year though, and if the Niners feel Cousins is a decade-long answer for them at the most important position in sports, they should be aggressive. While a swap of first-round picks would probably be a must, the Niners may not want to add any additional picks. That's where a player who may or may not fit the new system, maybe someone like Armstead, could sweeten the deal a bit.
Al Sacco has been covering the 49ers since 2013 and has had his work used by national outlets such as ESPN and USA TODAY. In addition to his writing duties, Al is also the co-host of the No Huddle podcast presented by 49ers Webzone. If you'd like to reach Al with a media request, please contact him via Twitter @AlSacco49