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Could Kyle Shanahan and the 49ers face a second rebuild this off-season?

Chris Beno
Nov 15, 2021 at 9:35 AM--

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As the 2021 season reaches the halfway point, one thing is for sure: there is still a lot of football left. Even with the San Francisco 49ers sitting at 3-5, they still (thanks to an underperforming NFC) have a legitimate shot at getting to the playoffs this year. But it's not too early to start thinking about the future. If the season were to end now, head coach Kyle Shanahan would be coming off his fourth losing season in five years. The 49ers would also have over 30 players entering free agency, no first-round draft pick in 2022, and appear to be on the brink of a second rebuild under the current front office. Just for fun, let's begin thinking about what this off-season could look like for the 49ers.

How this season wraps up will strongly determine the approach this off-season. Did the 49ers finally get rookies involved? Did those rookies show enough to inspire confidence going forward? Did someone emerge as a vocal leader on the team? Veteran leadership is something that has been missed the first half of this season. Are the 49ers still a marquee landing spot for top free agents?

The 49ers currently have 33 players entering free agency at the end of the season. Some notable names are:

  • CB Jason Verrett
  • OL Laken Tomlinson
  • DT D.J. Jones
  • RB Raheem Mostert
  • CB K'Waun Williams
  • RB Jeff Wilson
  • S Jaquiski Tartt

Veteran quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo accounts for $27 million towards the cap in 2022. He is expected to be released at the end of the season, which would free up some much-needed money for a rebuild. However, if his replacement, Trey Lance, does not get on the field in 2021, there's a chance the 49ers will keep Garoppolo another year. CEO Jed York already gave his approval when the team traded up in the 2021 draft for Lance. But given Garoppolo's struggles, health, and salary, keeping him seems highly unlikely.

So far, the front office has shown no urgency to look beyond this season and has put all of the chips on the table to win now, even at the cost of developing its future stars. Currently sitting at 3-5 and watching a team with no identity struggle week after week, it looks like that plan has backfired. Sure, they can turn it around and string together some wins, maybe make a push for a playoff spot. But this 2021 49ers team has yet to put together a complete game on tape, which doesn't inspire hopes of a successful second half of the season.

After trading away their 2022 and 2023 first-round picks for rookie Trey Lance, and the lack of trust the coaching staff shows towards rookies, look for this front office to be active in free agency. Here are a few positions to keep an eye on.


With the injury concerns of cornerback Jason Verrett, I would like to see the 49ers make a push to sign at least one top free agent corner. Some notable corners available this off-season are:

  • Stephon Gilmore
  • Joe Haden
  • Chris Harris
  • Kyle Fuller
  • Casey Hayward

There are a ton of available corners that would instantly upgrade the 49ers' secondary. The team should have more available cap money to spend, especially with the impending departure of Jimmy Garoppolo. Over the years, the 49ers have opted to bolster their pass rush on the defensive line and go cheap in the secondary. But as everyone has seen, when the pass rush isn't there, the secondary gets exposed. I would like to see the 49ers finally address and fix the secondary issues this offseason.

Running Back

Another position group I would like to see the 49ers address is running back. The team looks to be losing its first- and second-string running backs this off-season in Raheem Mostert and Jeff Wilson. Both backs have battled injuries in their careers and have missed quite a few games. There is no doubt that the team misses Mostert's big-play capability, but whether or not they choose to re-sign him seems unlikely. The 49ers have typically not invested much into the running back room and have opted for a plug-and-play approach that has been very successful under Shanahan.

One thing to also keep in mind with the running backs is that the team drafted Trey Sermon and Elijah Mitchell this year. Mitchell has emerged as a feature back, while Sermon has been a healthy scratch. If the team does decide to sign a more experienced back this off-season, here's some notable free agents:

  • Melvin Gordon
  • Marlon Mack
  • Sony Michel
  • James Conner
  • Devonta Freeman

Offensive Line

The last position group to keep an eye on is the offensive line. Guard Laken Tomlinson is scheduled to be a free agent this off-season. Tomlinson has been a solid starter for much of his time with the 49ers, and as such, the team should do everything they can to re-sign him and keep the left side of the line solid for quarterback Trey Lance next year. However, the right side of the line is a flat-out liability. With veteran tackle Mike McGlinchey out for the season with a quad tear, and the uncertainty of rookie lineman Jaylon Moore's capability to play right tackle, look for the 49ers to address this position, in particular, this off-season. Notable free agent right tackles are:

  • Trenton Brown
  • Germain Ifedi
  • Mitchell Schwartz

The 49ers should also look into upgrading the right guard spot. Some notable free agent guards are:

  • Brandon Scherff
  • Kyle Long

Rookie guard Aaron Banks has been a healthy scratch this season. Whether or not he develops into the starting guard that the 49ers projected as a second-round prospect is yet to be seen. His development is crucial going forward to shore up the right side of the offensive line this off-season. The team needs him to step up so it can play a starter who is still on a rookie contract.

As the 49ers look to turn their season around, some concern for the future would do them well. Without being in the building, it's impossible to know how much effort is spent thinking about the future of the franchise. Either way, the 49ers are primed to be very active in free agency this off-season, which as a fan, is very exciting. Let's hope the team finishes the 2021 season strong and puts something on tape to give everyone hope going into the off-season. It's time this front office reminds the league why the San Francisco 49ers are a marquee destination for NFL players and start giving fans something for which to be excited.
  • Chris Beno
  • Written by:
    Coming from Elk Grove, California I grew up a Bay Area sports fan. I've been cheering for the 49ers for as long as I can remember. In 2005 I joined the Army when I was 18 and got stationed at Fort Hood, Texas. I just kind of hung around here. I've always enjoyed writing and have typically focus on writing music. I am truly blessed to get to cover the 49ers, and have my articles published on the 49ers Webzone. I appreciate all of the Faithful that take the time to read the articles that myself and other contributors put out there. The 49ers have without a doubt the best fanbase, and best content creators around.
The opinions within this article are those of the writer and, while just as important, are not necessarily those of the site as a whole.


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