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Will the 49ers sign a veteran center? Will they move Deebo Samuel to tight end? And other mailbag questions answered

Marc Adams
Aug 3, 2022 at 8:20 AM--

On Monday, the San Francisco 49ers began padded practices. The contract extension for Deebo Samuel was also announced. It's a fun time of the year, as the team prepares to make another run for a sixth Super Bowl championship.

We opened up the 49ers mailbag and had plenty of questions to choose from. Let's respond to a handful:

Diana Kayatani: There's talk about Jimmy possibly going to the Seahawks. If and when he leaves, where should he go?

Felix Watkins: Where do you think Jimmy is going?

The world awaits news on Jimmy Garoppolo. Will he be traded or released? Where will he go? Will he be a starter or a backup? How does he get his hair to look so nice?

I wish we already had the answer to those questions. The good news is that Garoppolo is throwing each day, and something should happen within the next five weeks. Then our long, national nightmare will finally be over.

One thing is for sure, Kyle Shanahan made it clear that Garoppolo will not be on the 49ers roster when week one rolls around. It appears the team is moving on from the Subway® star.

I'm not sure why there are so many rumors regarding Seattle. Some of the beat writers there are on the record as saying there's no way the Seahawks will bring on Garoppolo. But who knows? If he's released, they may decide to sign the former 49ers' QB. Seattle has a history of signing former 49ers players. They're like rats, scavenging whatever they can find.

Regardless, Garoppolo always draws a crowd.

Matt Hutson: How much of an impact will Javon Kinlaw make this season? Do you think he is able to stay healthy?

The 49ers hope (and need) Javon Kinlaw to make a huge impact this season. After missing last year, while recovering from knee surgery, Kinlaw needs to make his presence known in 2022.

Not only did the 49ers lose D.J. Jones, the run-stuffing defensive tackle, but there have already been injuries along the defensive line, threatening the depth of this great unit. Arik Armstead has an MCL sprain. He likely won't be available until week one of the regular season. Maurice Hurst tore his bicep and will probably miss this season, after missing most of last year. He has been placed on injured reserve.

Hassan Ridgeway was also injured, sustaining a quad injury that could cost him a couple of weeks of practice.

The team doesn't need Kinlaw to become DeForest Buckner. They just need him to replace Jones, and maybe provide a little bit of pass rush, while occupying multiple blockers. By all accounts, he looks lean and in great shape.

Matt's question about whether or not Kinlaw can stay healthy is the big question. If he can, he should make a great impact this season. If not, I hope someone else steps up, because the 49ers have to be able to stop the run.

Caleb Simmons: Will Trey Lance play at all in any of the pre-season games?

My best guess is that Lance will play in at least two of the preseason games. He's so young and raw that he could use all the reps he can get. Even if it is in the preseason.

I think players like Trent Williams, Mike McGlinchey, Nick Bosa, etc. won't play much. But I also wonder how Kyle Shanahan will handle having Lance play without Williams and McGlinchey. I'd hate to take the chance of getting Lance hurt. But again, he needs experience, and that comes from playing.

And don't forget that in addition to having a new quarterback, the 49ers have a mostly new offensive line. It's important that this group gels.

Eric Cobb: Will Trey Lance be able to make a miracle? BA 1000 yards receiving, GK 1000 yards receiving, and Deebo Samuel 1800 all-purpose yards?

Eric has some high expectations for Lance. I don't think it would take a miracle for San Francisco to have Brandon Aiyuk and George Kittle surpass 1,000 yards receiving, and have Samuel end up with 1,800 total yards. It is possible, but it's not likely. There are a few reasons why:

  1. Lance is essentially a rookie, so I don't expect him to turn into Dan Marino. To have Aiyuk, Kittle, and Samuel over 1,000 yards each, Lance would probably have to pass for around 4,000 yards, when you factor in the other receivers, tight ends, and running backs.
  2. Shanahan hasn't deployed a pass-first offense since he was in Atlanta. That was when he had Matt Ryan and Julio Jones.
  3. The 49ers will be a run-first team, at least until Lance is ready to become Marino.

But, hey, miracles do happen, so it's possible. Aiyuk had 826 yards receiving last season. And that was after a slow start. Kittle had 910 receiving yards in 2021, despite missing three games and Samuel led the bunch with 1,405 yards receiving.

The biggest hangup would be Samuel getting to 1,800 total yards. If he ends up with 1,400 yards receiving again, he would need 400 yards rushing. Last season he had 365, so he was close, but I don't expect the 49ers will run Samuel as much in 2022. They shouldn't need to.

You can make the case that it's possible. I just don't see it happening.

Tatko Bobby: Now that we paid him, can we put Deebo at tight end on the other side of George?

I think the coaching staff likes where they have Samuel. They have no plans of moving Samuel to tight end. But if Shanahan ever returns my calls, I'll be sure to ask him that question.

Ben Greiman: Is Deebo gonna be used strictly as a receiver?

Ben, are you asking if Samuel will be moved to tight end, too?

Deebo Samuel is a wide receiver who will occasionally run the ball. He will probably even line up in the backfield some in 2022, though not as often, I hope. His new contract has no restrictions, so the 49ers can use him however they deem necessary to win games. For each season of his new contract, he can earn up to an extra $1.95 million in incentives based on certain milestones as a rusher.

Samuel very well could hit those rushing touchdown figures, but it doesn't seem likely he'll hit the rushing yards threshhold. 380 yards is 15 more than he had last season, and again, I don't believe the 49ers will use him as much in that capacity.

Remember way back in the dark days of the offseason when the national media was reporting Samuel wanted to be traded and wasn't happy because of how he was used? We all knew that was ridiculous because Samuel agreed to be used as a running back down the stretch. Turns out he just wanted to be compensated for how they might use him. On Tuesday, when he spoke to the media, Samuel even said that those rumors weren't true.

Samuel didn't hate how he was being used. He wasn't hating on California. It was about the money. It's always about the money.

Michael Roma: Over or under. Do you see Lance getting the team to 10 wins?

I actually think the 49ers will win 11 games in 2022. But a lot has to go right. They have to stay relatively healthy, the offensive line has to be as solid as last season, and Lance has to be as good, if not better than Garoppolo was a year ago.

Since I am expecting them to win 11 games, I believe those things will happen. I think Lance will struggle some early on, but his team will carry him. As the season goes on, I expect Lance to be much better.

So, while I don't see Lance getting the team to 10 wins, I see the team as a whole getting to 10 (or more) wins.

Frank Sanborn: Who is standing out the most at camp?

Charvarius Ward has been the best player on the field so far. In fact, the secondary as a whole has been outstanding to this point, especially the starting corners, Ward and Emmanuel Moseley. The starting safeties, Jimmie Ward and Talanoa Hufanga have been everywhere in practice. Even Tarvarius Moore, who missed all of 2021, has played well.

I keep hearing good things about rookie right guard Spencer Burford. He's impressed the coaches enough that it looks like he may have taken that right guard spot from Daniel Brunskill. If Burford can play better than Brunskill played last season, that could be a huge boost for the offensive line, especially since center and left guard are expected to be worse than in 2021.

Other players I hear standing out in training camp include wide receivers Aiyuk and Malik Turner, defensive lineman Charles Omenihu, and of course, Nick Bosa.

Niner Jim: Is it reasonable to think that the NFC West has the most difficult path to higher playoff seeds, since GB, TB and probably PHL/DAL all have easier schedules than the West teams this year? Which would mean winning the division is of high value.

Yes, the NFC West is the toughest division in the conference and has the added difficulty of having to play the AFC West—the toughest division in football—this season.

If the 49ers will have a chance to host a postseason game, they will need to win the division. But the NFC West is tough. Winning this division will be harder than it was in 2019.

But winning the West could potentially be easier than last season. I expect the Rams to experience what it's like to be the defending champs. Even though they are really good, being the team everyone wants to knock off can take its toll on some teams. And the Rams lost some key players. Are they even as good as they were last year? National media says they are. But we know what that means.

The Cardinals will be a tough out, but they're kind of a mess. Plus they always seem to fall off as the season rolls along.

Who knows what Seattle will look like? They will have a good running game, for sure. This is why the Kinlaw question above is so important. But without Russell Wilson, the Seahawks won't be the threat they were every year.

Bob Heyrman: Is there someone you expect to emerge as an impact player this season that is currently flying under the radar?

Omenihu would be one. It sounds like he is having a great camp so far. I also like what I'm hearing about Kemoko Turay. Both defensive linemen could make an impact in 2022.

Aiyuk could be the one to take the biggest leap, but he's not really flying under the radar. He worked out with Lance much of the offseason, and the two have hooked up a lot in camp. I think Aiyuk will take his game to a new level this season.

And don't forget about second-year running back Trey Sermon. I keep hearing good things about him. On Tuesday, Kyle Posey of Niners Nation wrote, "The 49ers still need to figure out their third-down back situation. They have options. Trey Sermon might be the best. He looks good. Sermon looks like a no-nonsense runner. He also is the back who looks the most comfortable catching passes out of the backfield."

Posey also said undrafted rookie Jordan Mason has looked good. I keep hearing that, as well. I'm guessing Mason starts the season on the practice squad, but there is a buzz about him.

Mickey Wrangle: Time to sign a veteran center? Most pressing need? Need to protect qb1!

Eddie, Sr.: Should the Niners sign another offensive linemen to help that position group?

From what I've read and heard, the coaching staff likes Jake Brendel. Based on reports from camp, he hasn't been that great but has been better than Brunskill. So there's that. J.C. Tretter is the name that keeps being brought up to be signed. But I'm not sure he's healthy.

Either way, I think the 49ers will ride it out and see how the preseason goes. Right now Brendel is having to practice against the league's best defensive line. I would expect him to not look great. We should learn more during the preseason games and at the start of the regular season. And we may get a better idea in a couple of weeks when the 49ers have joint practices with the Minnesota Vikings prior to their preseason game against each other.

That said, the center position might be the most pressing need, and if it's not, left guard is. But Mickey is right—keeping Lance upright is priority one.

As for Eddie's question about adding another lineman, if the 49ers don't add another center, I don't expect them to add another offensive lineman. At least not one that would be any better than the ones currently in training camp. I've read good things about Burford, as I mentioned earlier. And Trent Williams said some really good things about Aaron Banks. Williams doesn't normally talk up teammates like others do, so hopefully that is a positive sign.

Thanks for all the questions, and for reading us here at 49ers Webzone. We consider it a privilege to bring 49ers' content to you.

Go Niners!
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