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State of the 49ers: Rebuilding a Dynasty

Stewart M. Cockrell
Feb 28, 2017 at 10:39 AM

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John Lynch and Kyle Shanahan have taken over the 49ers with the tough task of rebuilding a dynasty. While conventional wisdom says that this is a multiple year project for the 49ers, there are ways that the 49ers could jumpstart their rebuild with a smart use of draft capital and the huge amount of cap space the team currently has at its disposal. With the combine and new league year upon us, here are some thoughts that come to mind on how the 49ers can best start their journey back to competitive football:

Trade For Kirk Cousins: I'm not a big fan of trading draft picks, especially when you own the second one of the draft. Unless you are going to get a haul from a desperate team that needs to move up for a quarterback, it makes no sense really to trade out of a spot that will give you one of the best players in the draft. That being said, most experts have been floating the idea of San Francisco and Washington swapping first-round picks and then throwing in a conditional pick in 2018. Assuming that conditional pick starts at a fourth-round pick, with the chance of moving to a second-round pick, I think that compensation works out fairly well.

Here is why I think the 49ers will do this deal: they are QB needy and no matter the amount of smoke that Lynch and Shanahan blow Kaepernick's way, it just isn't going to happen. He isn't a fit for the offense and frankly, it just feels like the time. Secondly, any quarterback the 49ers pick this season is a project and likely won't see the field until 2018 or even 2019. While I think following the Raiders model of building through the draft is smart, having a competent quarterback now is what is needed.

The draft commitment aside, the financial commitment is a steep one. While I think Cousins would take a longer deal for the security of the $20 million-a-year range, lest we forget this is a guy who is only 17-14-1 over the last two seasons and actually has a losing record for his career. If the deal irons out to around five years and $80-100 million with $47-50 million guaranteed, that is likely fair compensation as long as it isn't too backloaded. If Cousins doesn't pan out, the 49ers can move on after three years and likely look to the draft then.

Finally, Cousins just makes more sense than Garoppolo in two facets. First, why any team would send New England a package of high-round picks is beyond me. They are one of the best teams in the NFL and from a sheer competitive nature, why would another team strengthen that? Second, assuming father time doesn't catch Tom Brady, teams can have Garoppolo without having to give up draft capital as it is clear he will likely test free agency. The most likely scenario is Cleveland sending their second first-rounder to New England for Garoppolo and then committing to him long-term. It is the perfectly perfect Cleveland move but if it provides them with a potential franchise quarterback then kudos to them.

Sign At Least One Big Name Free Agent: We all know that teams overpay in free agency. Often teams are paying players coming off a big contract year and it doesn't make sense to use this model as a long-term solution to building a team. However, with the cap space, the 49ers have to use some of it on new players. Currently, there are not many players outside of Eric Reid on the team who really deserve an extension that would eat into the cap space. While ta lot of big names are going to hit the market, it makes sense to target players who fit the offense, but also players who mesh well with the addition of Cousins. While DeSean Jackson seems like a no-brainer, the 49ers already have a deep threat wideout in Torrey Smith and that is why I think the 49ers need to make a hard push for either Pierre Garcon or Alshon Jeffery. While I like Garcon a bit more due to the lack of PED suspensions on his resume, I think either would be a huge upgrade to our receiving corps.

If the team could make a splashy signing on the defensive side of the ball that would go a long way to helping it move in the right direction. Holes at linebacker, pass rusher and cornerback can be filled in free agency as well with manageable contracts that allow for youth to be established and groomed for future years.

Finally, the team needs to find the right number of second-tier role players to round out the depth chart. This team was woefully bad when starters went down and it showed later in the season. Free agency is a nice place to look to fill some of these depth holes as the 49ers should use the draft to find as many starters as possible.

Draft An Impact Player At 17: Here is where things can start to get interesting: the mock drafts are all over the place with respect to which player Washington is slated to take with this pick. It has the Redskins going with anyone from a tight end to a defensive lineman to a safety. An intriguing player who could be available in this area is Clemson WR Mike Williams. The 49ers need more talent on offense and Williams would give them that. Other players who are interesting here are Dalvin Cook, Corey Davis, or O.J. Howard. In a perfect world, the 49ers could trade down from this spot into the early 20s and pick up a mid-round pick to replace the pick traded for Cousins. There are many players in this area who would likely be a nice fit defensively for the team as that side of the ball needs to be addressed as well. In a draft deep in pass rushers, it would make sense to skip here and go explosive offensive talent, though.

Hit A Home Run In The Second Round: Let's assume that the 49ers go defense in the first-round and that a certain Stanford Cardinal is sitting there for the taking. While I think it is likely that New England will take Christian McCaffrey, as he fits their mold so well, he is an intriguing player who could help our team in many areas and could be a special player in our offense. While I don't know if he has 25 carries-a-game running back written on him, he could touch the ball 10-15 times a game and make a game-changing play here and there. If I am being completely honest, assuming the 49ers make the trade for Cousins, the perfect world scenario would be drafting Mike Williams at 17 and then McCaffrey with their second-round pick. With the addition of Garcon or Jeffery as a free agent, you suddenly have an offense that begins to look really scary. It might be a bit of a dream scenario, but it is fun to imagine in a pre-combine world in which we currently live.

Find Defensive Gems: This is a deeper class for defense and I think the 49ers can wait until the third-round, or later, to look at players at pass rusher and inside linebacker. The defense is going to be a multi-year rebuild anyway as there are some talent voids and aging players who need to be replaced. Ideally, if the 49ers could find another gem like Bowman in the third- or fourth-round and get a little bigger in the secondary, it would go a long way towards fielding a more competitive defense. Also, playing fewer snaps would probably help this group too and that area has already been addressed with the firing of Chip Kelly. While no plan is perfect and this plan is a little overly optimistic, the new leadership has already proven that it is willing to spend a little money and is also able to convince free agents to choose San Francisco over other teams that likely are closer to contention. While the 49ers likely will not have the luxury of driving tough bargains for at least a year, the team will have to be willing to overpay slightly to attract talent.
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.


  • beldar
    I really like the idea of getting Garrett, or Johnathan Allen if we keep that 2nd pick. Putting together a dominant defensive line could change things quick, and I expect big things from Armstead and Buckner this season. That said, getting Cousins, not drafting anybody with a knee injury, and moving back a few spots to 17 would be more than acceptable to me.
    Mar 1, 2017 at 1:25 AM
  • Monsterniner
    I´d love Dont´a Hightower in free agency to be our Sam LB because he fits the mold very well. Hightower as Sam, Bowman as Mike and Armstrong as Will would make our LB corps very good. On offense I want Cousins at the right price which means not giving 2 1st rounders. About his price I don´t care if he comes at 20M per year because if we find a good QB in the draft we will have to pay him sooner or later just like all the other teams with good QB´s. On draft day well, I just want BPA in every round.
    Feb 28, 2017 at 6:35 PM
  • ted
    McCaffrey to the Patriots in the first round would be a dream senerio for 31 teams he is a major bust.
    Feb 28, 2017 at 2:13 PM
  • Kendrick W.
    Sorry but I stopped reading at Kirk..... Who is Cousins? If he is any good, why would Washington not want him? I'd rather see Gabbert be a placeholder for 2million a season than pay cousins 24 to lose just as many games. But truthfully I want to see Kap give us a little excitement for about 4 mil a year renegotiated. I also think you are overlooking I the fact that we need draft picks now for the team that shows up in 3 years. Long after Kap and Cousins are out of the NFL as starters.
    Feb 28, 2017 at 2:06 PM
    Response: I've asked myself that same question, they clearly are reluctant to commit to him long term, however his production the past two years has been light years ahead of anything the 49ers have put together in the last two seasons. Nearly 10k yards and over 50 touchdowns. In comparison 49ers QB's have only thrown for 6800 yards and 37 TD's. That is enough of a sample to say he would be an upgrade over current.
  • Robby
    I think u r on the right track, but there are a few blanks that I am going to try and fill in. 1st , our own free agents. I think Hodges should be re-signed. He could compete for one of the starting outside lb spots and be insurance for Navarro and the draft. Db's Cris Davis and Cromartie ended up on IR last year. They r both versatile players who should at least b brought back as part of the 90 to compete. Next, as far as other teams UFA'S, let's say they do the trade for Cousins and have the 17th pick. We should also look at secondary free agents for experienced depth. Players like Zack Brown and John Simon at LB, Jabaal Sheard and Nick perry at rush end, and Kenny Hill at WR and Rex Burkhardt at Rb just to name a few. Now the draft. Assuming we have the 17th pick, I still trade down one time, hopefully to about 22-24 range. Now, we have a 1st, 2 seconds, 11 total picks, and a starting qb. Maybe a rusher like Taco Charlton or Charles Harris in the 1st, Zay Jones Curtis Samual, Jaarad Davis or Dion Dawkins in the 2nd. Continue drafting for depth and hopefully future starters. Now u r rebuilding a dynasty.
    Feb 28, 2017 at 2:05 PM
    Response: I think building through the draft is always the way to go, but my moves were more designed to bring us out of the cellar and into the 6-8 win range to make that next jump from drafting well and building the team.

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