It was not until Bill Walsh and Joe Montana came along that the worm turned, and after that came Steve Young and Jerry Rice, along with five Super Bowls, many victory celebrations, and the delicious habit of winning, which I highly recommend.
-Hunter S. Thompson. "My 49er Habit." November 4, 2002.

The NFL offseason is not an easy time for seasoned football junkies. For us, the arrogant talk from experts about how the 2018 season will play out is like listening to a gristmill grind hunks of steel, glass and raw animal bones into a pulp. February and March speculation only spawns an endless array of petty Twitter arguments.

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Already, the San Francisco 49ers made three key signings - quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, wide receiver Marquise Goodwin and cornerback Richard Sherman. But in typical 49er fashion, these good contracts came two questionable extensions - center Daniel Kilgore and tackle Garry Gilliam.

The 49ers finally have the quarterback position locked up, but one could make an argument that the team has needs at nearly every spot on the roster. Yes, the 49ers need better backup tackle than Garry Gilliam. No, Jimmie Ward is not going to make it through the 2018 season injury-free, and linebacker Brock Coyle is not the answer at inside linebacker.

Here are three areas in which we can all agree, rather than argue ourselves into knots about drafting an edge rusher over an offensive guard.

The Interior Line is Suspect, and it Starts with Zane Beadles


No matter what it costs the team, general manager John Lynch must release Zane Beadles, an $11 million mistake leftover from the Dark Ages of the Baalke Era. Pro Football Focus gave Beadles a 32.9-grade last season, ranking him as one of the worst linemen in the NFL.

When the 49ers last played in a Super Bowl, it was easy to point at the defense and say, "That's what got them there." But take a look at the roster between the 2011-2013 seasons. The four of the five offensive linemen played 44 regular season games together. It's clear they knew each other's tendencies and had excellent communication.

When the dominant offensive line began to fall apart, the 49ers ignored bringing the pieces back together. Instead, the executive brass went after other 'needs' and treated the front five like the quarantined leper caged in the basement. Too often, the strategy left the 49ers with the choice among players like Zane Beadles, Jordan Devey, and Laken Tomlinson.

We can argue another day about why resigning Kilgore and Gilliam was a bad idea. Today, let's agree that Beadles is taking up space on the roster. It's time for Lynch to release Beadles and start rebuilding the offensive line. That starts with bringing free agent guard Andrew Norwell to Santa Clara.

I understand Norwell may already be headed to the New York Giants, and if that rumor proves true, free agent Josh Sitton is the next choice. Both Norwell and Sitton out rank Tomlinson in every gradable category; however, somehow Tomlinson finished the 2017 season with a 70 grade from Pro Football Focus. I don't believe veteran Joshua Garnett is a bust and could benefit from veteran guidance from talented guards like Norwell or Sitton.

It's time to stop being cheap with offensive linemen. Once the 49ers invested $137 million in a quarterback, the idea of choosing someone from the day-old bread basket seems preposterous.

The 49ers Need an Inside Linebacker


Goodwin's new contract certainly opened up an unexpected adventure for the 2018 offseason. For a time, I thought the team needed to find another receiver in free agency. After linebacker Reuben Foster's second run-in with law enforcement, I shifted gears and want Lynch to target a reliable, highly-skilled inside linebacker.

Last season, I felt a little guilty not buying a ticket for the Brock Coyle hype train. But, after watching the film a few days after the game, I'd feel like John the Baptist bathed me in the Jordan River, washing away my guilt with the sands of the desert.

The film always revealed indisputable fact: Coyle is, at best, a serviceable backup linebacker for the 49ers, which leaves Lynch with two options for the position.

  1. Veteran Malcolm Smith is still under contract, and it's possible he could come back from his pectoral injury to be a dominating force in defensive coordinator Robert Saleh's scheme.
  2. With no superstars or somewhat-stars in the free agent pool, the 49ers have no choice but to take Roquan Smith or Tremaine Edmunds in the first round of the upcoming draft.

Secondary Wants and Needs - Wants Talent; Needs Invulnerability


As I was putting the finishing touches on this article for the seventh time, the 49ers decided to sign cornerback Richard Sherman to a three-year deal.

First, an objective view.

The 49ers need more skill in the secondary, and Richard Sherman brings talent by the truckload. Put aside his Achilles injury for a moment. The man strikes fear into the hearts of the opposing quarterback so much that even superstars rarely throw his way. The 49ers haven't had a cornerback like Sherman since Deion Sanders.

Now, for the subjective observation.

Sherman wearing the scarlet and gold is going take sober reflection and profound adjustment. Think of it this way: He's the schoolyard kid who made fun of our parent's Datsun 210, smacked us in the back of the head as he walked to the chalkboard and pinned us down to the playground dirt and fed us worms. In a span of just a few days, all these memories are supposed to disappear?

What's sustaining me is the thought of him picking off Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson at Century Link Field and taking it in for six points. After pointing to the crowd, Sherman finds SeaHulk and gives him the finger. That moment - including the rain of boos from the crowd and Sherman's ejection - would avenge the nine straight losses the 49ers suffered at the hands of the Seahawks.

With the definite upgrade at cornerback, what the secondary now needs is for their biological makeup to be enhanced by earth's yellow sun. Both injuries to Jimmie Ward and Jaquiski Tartt left defensive coordinator Robert Saleh no choice but to use a bottle of Elmer's School Glue and popsicle sticks to build a secondary. There's nothing Lynch can do to prevent injury, but I'm hopeful this season allows the 49ers' secondary to play at least 14 games together and enter the playoffs relatively unscarred.

These ideas might not jive with your line of thinking, and that's okay. There are a lot of wrong ways to build a championship team, notably drafting players with ACL issues or making no moves during the opening hours of free agency. You and I don't have an executive office at 4949 Centennial Boulevard.

No matter, March 14 is going to be the start of a new season, and a return to the delicious habit of winning.