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Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

Where the 49ers landed in ESPN’s post-free-agency power rankings

Mar 28, 2023 at 8:29 AM

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In February, ESPN released its "way-too-early" power rankings following the Super Bowl. The San Francisco 49ers came in at No. 3, with the two Super Bowl participants, the Kansas City Chiefs and Philadelphia Eagles, as the only teams ranked higher.

Over a month later, with the bulk of significant free-agency moves in the books, not much has changed for head coach Kyle Shanahan's squad. The Eagles have dropped out of the top three, falling from the No. 2 spot to fourth, replaced by the Cincinnati Bengals. The Niners remain at No. 3.

Quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo has departed for the Las Vegas Raiders. Tackle Mike McGlinchey is among the newest Denver Broncos. San Francisco added Javon Hargrave to its defensive line, signing him to a four-year, $84 million deal. The team also added Sam Darnold to its quarterback room and several other key components to the roster.

ESPN asked its NFL Nation reporters to identify one under-the-radar move each team made over the past couple of weeks. So what was it for the 49ers? Was it the addition of defensive end Clelin Ferrell or cornerback Isaiah Oliver? Was it the signing of defensive end Austin Bryant?

It was none of those moves. Instead, the most underrated move, in the eyes of team reporter Nick Wagoner, was retaining quarterbacks coach Brian Griese.

"Griese's hire raised some eyebrows in 2022 because he had never coached in the NFL," wrote Wagoner. "But he proved a natural fit as the Niners got good quarterback play despite injuries. Griese signed a two-year deal in 2022, but it was unclear whether he would return because he was away from his family in Denver for the season."

General manager John Lynch and the 49ers were concerned that Griese's time with the team might be short-lived.

"He had to go kind of weigh all that, and he had us nervous," Lynch said via Wagoner. "But we understand that. So he kind of went through that process ... But he's back."

With Garoppolo gone, the trio in the 49ers' quarterbacks room consists of last season's rookie sensation and last overall pick in the draft, Brock Purdy, third-year player and former No. 3 overall pick, Trey Lance, and free-agency acquisition Sam Darnold.

It's a young group. Darnold, at age 25, is the oldest. Purdy is 23 years old, while Lance, 22, is the youngest and most inexperienced of the group.

Wagoner added, "That continuity is no small thing for a quarterback room that isn't long on experience, save for addition Sam Darnold."

Where does the rest of the NFC West sit within the power ranking? The Seattle Seahawks came in at No. 12, the Los Angeles Rams at No. 25, and the Arizona Cardinals are last, at No. 32.

Click here to view the entire ESPN power ranking.
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