D. Ross Cameron-USA TODAY Sports

D. Ross Cameron-USA TODAY Sports

Where ESPN’s Barnwell ranks the 49ers’ offseason

Jun 8, 2021 at 6:44 AM--

Last year, ESPN's Bill Barnwell had the Tampa Bay Buccaneers winning the offseason. Of course, it was tough to vote against them, given they added a future Hall of Fame quarterback and built around him. That team ended up winning the Super Bowl and is once again Barnwell's pick this year for having the best offseason.

"This encapsulates both free agency and the draft and measures what each team did versus our expectations heading into the offseason," Barnwell comments.

The San Francisco 49ers came in at No. 9, making them the highest-ranked NFC West team. The Seattle Seahawks ranked at No. 17, the Arizona Cardinals at No. 21, and despite adding Matthew Stafford, the Los Angeles Rams sit at No. 27.

First, let's take a look at what Barnwell liked about the 49ers' offseason. The writer was a fan of the team's aggressive move to trade up and draft its quarterback of the future in Trey Lance. It provides San Francisco with better depth at the position.

"Lance gives Kyle Shanahan a cheap, high-upside quarterback to build the rest of his team around over the next few years, with the savings at quarterback going toward future extensions for Fred Warner and Nick Bosa," wrote Barnwell.

The team also re-signed veteran left tackle Trent Williams and added veteran center Alex Mack to replace the retired Weston Richburg.

Now, the bad.

Barnwell feels there was a wasted opportunity this offseason. While the plan to keep Jimmy Garoppolo on the roster and create an easier transition for Lance is a good one, the 49ers missed out on trading the veteran to a quarterback-needy team like the New England Patriots of Chicago Bears. Both found their passers of the future via the draft.

There are also some injury concerns surrounding Garoppolo, who has missed 23 games over the past three seasons and has only made it out of September injury-free once in his career.

"The Niners could still trade or cut Garoppolo in August to create the cap space they'll want to roll over into future seasons," Barnwell noted, "but their leverage will likely be greatly reduced, driving down the compensation they would get in return."

Barnwell also wonders about the impact of losing defensive coordinator Robert Saleh. The New York Jets coach took assistants Mike LaFleur and John Benton with him, leaving DeMeco Ryans to run San Francisco's defense.

As for what is left to do this offseason, the top priority is a contract extension for star linebacker Fred Warner. Barnwell guesses that the All-Pro could fetch a four-year deal worth $76 million. That would make him a top-3 paid linebacker in the NFL.

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