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49ers Mailbag: The draft, free agency and someone named Antonio Brown

Al Sacco
Jan 16, 2019 at 9:14 AM0


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The offseason is quickly approaching and speculation is running rampant about what the San Francisco 49ers might do. Fans are clamoring for news about the draft, free agency and whether or not a trade might happen for a certain wide receiver. Let's take a look at what the Faithful want to know in the latest mailbag:

Q: With only 5 picks in the draft, do you think there is a strong possibility the 49ers trade out from #2? (@JWalizerJr)

A: Trading back is definitely a possibility for the 49ers, but I think a lot of it depends on what the Arizona Cardinals do at number one overall. With Kliff Kingsbury taking over in the desert, I'm sure he has his own vision of what he wants his roster to look like, and it's still not certain that Josh Rosen is the guy behind center. It's possible Klingsbury can fall in love with a quarterback, or maybe decide Alabama's Quinnen Williams is the best player overall, and pass on Ohio State's Nick Bosa altogether. If that happens, the 49ers should sprint to the podium and take the player that could be the missing piece to the defense.

Now if Bosa is gone, then things could get interesting. Josh Allen (Kentucky) has huge upside off the edge, but is he the second best player on the board? I'm not so sure. This draft is deep in terms of pass rushers, and San Francisco is sitting in a very fortunate position. A team like the Jacksonville Jaguars or New York Giants might decide to make a move for their quarterback of the future, and that would give the Niners options. Sliding to six or seven overall still allows head coach Kyle Shanahan and company the opportunity to get a coveted edge player as well as badly needed extra picks. In this scenario, names like Clelin Ferrell (Clemson), Rashan Gary (Michigan), or maybe even Allen could all be in play.

Q: What free agents do you believe the 49ers could go after really hard? (@jonathan_cbar)

A: I have no idea what to expect from the 49ers when it comes to free agency. I think it all depends on whether or not this current regime feels pressure to win now, or if it continues to take the slow build approach. If it's the latter, you could see it target more mid-tier level players to help fill out the roster rather than make a big splash. That would no doubt anger a lot of fans who are growing impatient after four straight 10-plus loss seasons.

If I had to guess though, I do think the 49ers will make a run at one recognizable name in former Seattle Seahawks safety Earl Thomas. Even at 30 years old, Thomas still offers the kind of big play ability the Niners desperately need. After all, Thomas had more interceptions in 2018 (three) than the entire San Francisco roster (two) despite only playing four games. Thomas is experienced in the system and will provide stability and a veteran presence for a secondary that's had too many breakdowns.

Thomas' age and injury history are a bit of a concern, but a four-year deal with most of the guaranteed money upfront wouldn't be a bad investment. The deal might be more of a two-year commitment that gives the 49ers an opportunity to move on after 2020 and not anything that would hamper them long-term.

As far as other options, I personally like Tyrell Williams who's been a productive receiver with the Los Angeles Chargers. Williams is big (6'4) and has the speed Shanahan covets. In four seasons with the Chargers, Williams scored 17 times and broke the 1,000 yard mark in 2016. 1,000 yards may not seem like a lot these days, but the only wide outs to achieve that mark in a 49ers uniform since 2003 have been Michael Crabtree (2012) and Anquan Boldin (2013, 2014).

The biggest signing though? That might be an extension with DeForest Buckner. Coming off a career year, it's imperative that Buckner stays in the fold, and it would benefit John Lynch and Paraag Marathe to get the deal done now while they have the cap room.

Q: Was not taking Derwin James a huge mistake? (@HowieHype89)

A: This is a really interesting question because the 49ers are a team that badly needs playmakers (especially on defense) and James is certainly that. In his rookie season with the Chargers, the stand out safety registered 105 tackles, 3.5 sacks, three interceptions and 13 passes defensed. He was named a first-team All-Pro and elected to the Pro Bowl. Simple put: James is a game changer.

In hindsight, would the 49ers have been better off taking James at nine overall and keeping Trent Brown? Maybe, but it's not like they made a bad pick. Mike McGlinchey seems like he'll be around for awhile at tackle, and the athletic former Notre Dame standout gives Shanahan an upgrade in the run blocking department. He's not the pass blocker Brown is, but you have to remember that Brown was also scheduled to become a free agent. Given his weight problems and the fact that he wasn't a great scheme fit, I doubt the 49ers would have committed the $10-plus million per year it would have taken to re-sign him.

Q: Is A.J. Green someone the Niners could go after in free agency? (@JakeMcCoy85)

A: While the Cincinnati Bengals do have an out in Green's contract that would cost them only $3 million in dead money in 2019, he's technically not a free agent until 2020. At that point he'd be entering his age 32 season, and I'm not sure I'd break the bank at that point. Green missed six games in 2016 and seven more in 2018. That alone should give any interested team pause in committing big money to any player, especially when you factor in his age.

Q: Al! Antonio Brown????? (Literally everyone)

A: Given the amount of cap room they have and the glaring need at the position, the 49ers will be connected to any big name receiver that's rumored to be available. Brown is the hot name now, and there's been a lot of talk about him wanting to come to San Francisco. If it actually came to fruition, I see it as a short-term, win-now move. At 31-years old, any team acquiring Brown has to assume it'll get two impact seasons, and then hope he doesn't have a steep decline. It's just not reasonable to think any receiver can sustain what he's done in his prime years well into his 30s. This is especially true for Brown who's averaged an insane 114/1,524/11 since 2013.

There's also the question of Brown's attitude. He flat out quit on the Pittsburgh Steelers before the biggest game of the season, and the fact that so many people are brushing that aside is a little crazy to me. I guess if you can play it doesn't matter to most, and considering any team acquiring him would be doing so for only the next two or three years, the assumption might be that Brown would be a good solider in a new setting for the short-term.

In the end, will the 49ers end up with the ultra-talented wide out? It's hard to imagine the team won't be doing its due diligence (see what I did there?) but I'm not sure it'll get done. Call me skeptical, but given the likely high draft pick it'll cost and $40-plus million due to Brown in 2019-2020, it just doesn't see like a move the 49ers would make.

But then again, you never know. Maybe they'll prove me wrong.

Al Sacco is the Senior Writer for 49ers Webzone, contributor to The Niners Wire and has had his work used by national outlets such as ESPN and USA TODAY. In addition to his writing duties, Al is also the co-host of the No Huddle podcast. If you'd like to reach Al with a media request, please contact him via Twitter @AlSacco49 or at [email protected].
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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