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Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

The Athletic: 49ers among NFL’s biggest offseason ‘losers’

Jun 18, 2024 at 1:29 PM

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Here's a bold headline for you: The San Francisco 49ers are among the biggest offseason losers. Mike Jones of The Athletic recently declared that in his offseason assessment of NFL teams. While he named the Chicago Bears, Detroit Lions, and Philadelphia Eagles among the biggest offseason winners, the 49ers weren't so fortunate.

San Francisco is coming off a Super Bowl appearance, and much of the core talent from that playoff run remains. Offensively, the starting lineup looks unchanged, with playmakers Brandon Aiyuk, Christian McCaffrey, Deebo Samuel, and George Kittle set to return. However, that wasn't enough to keep them off Jones' list of the biggest offseason losers.

Jones clearly wasn't a big fan of the 49ers using the No. 31 overall pick on wide receiver Ricky Pearsall or their failure to significantly upgrade their offensive line.

"After a heartbreaking overtime loss to the Chiefs in the Super Bowl, the 49ers had a relatively quiet offseason," Jones wrote. "They gave Christian McCaffrey an extension and drafted Florida wide receiver Ricky Pearsall, who might not be ready for prime time until 2025. The offensive line could've used a bolster, but John Lynch made no significant additions."

The defense underwent an overhaul, particularly along the defensive line. Gone are key contributors like Arik Armstead, Clelin Ferrell, and Chase Young, replaced by Leonard Floyd, Yetur Gross-Matos, Maliek Collins, and Jordan Elliott.

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Jones believes the most notable departure was defensive coordinator Steve Wilks, who was replaced in-house by Nick Sorensen.

"Can first-year defensive coordinator Nick Sorensen reignite a defense that lost Armstead and Javon Kinlaw and added Leonard Floyd, Yetur Gross-Matos and Jordan Elliott?" Jones pondered.

Jones admits that Wilks' philosophy never meshed well with head coach Kyle Shanahan's, forcing the 49ers to part ways with the longtime defensive coach. The mention of Kinlaw is intriguing, considering the defensive tackle never lived up to the expectations commonly held for first-round draft picks. Kinlaw amassed only five sacks in four NFL seasons.

Despite Jones' assessment, the 49ers are favorites to represent the NFC in the Super Bowl, mainly due to their ability to retain much of their talented core.

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