With free agency and the draft right around the corner, the San Francisco 49ers are about to head into the most important offseason of the John Lynch and Kyle Shanahan era. The moves that are made over the next few months will go a long way in deciding how this regime will be remembered in the long run. I have some thoughts on that, as well as some other red and gold related topics, so I thought I'd share. Here we go:

1) As much speculation as there's been around the 49ers adding a big name wide receiver, at the end of the day I just don't think it will happen. Apparently, the guy that San Francisco covets is Odell Beckham, Jr. However, so do a lot of other teams. If the New York Giants do indeed make him available, there will be a bidding war. The number two overall pick is too valuable to trade, unless the Giants are willing to swap the number six overall pick in the process. How bad does New York want Dwayne Haskins? Do they even have to trade up to get him? This is the scenario to keep tabs on, more than even the other one, which I don't believe is going to happen. You know which one I mean. Mr. Big Chest. Antonio Brown.

Ever since his drama with the Steelers started, the all-world receiver has been linked to the 49ers by the media, fans, and, well, Brown himself. The only issue with all of that is none of the people yearning for this to happen actually have any say in the matter. There's no doubt Brown still has a couple of very productive years left, but it's the drama surrounding him that I believe is the reason he won't be in San Francisco. Shanahan puts a lot of emphasis on locker room culture, and Brown's antics just don't fit with that. Some people will disagree, but I just don't see Brown in red and gold any time soon.

One name to keep an eye on is Emmanuel Sanders. Benjamin Allbright mentioned on Twitter that there were rumors the 49ers could be interested in Sanders if he were to part ways with the Denver Broncos. Personally, this move would give me a lot of pause considering Sanders will be 32 years old and is coming off an Achilles' injury. I'd rather the Niners take a chance on a younger receiver whose arrow is pointed up like Tyrell Williams. Other names that interest me are Devin Funchess, Donte Moncrief and Devante Parker (assuming he's let go by the Miami Dolphins). While none of those three have come close to reaching their potential, a change of scenery and an offensive mind like Shanahan's might be the tonic their careers need.

2) If the 49ers feel that they'll be able to get a legit, franchise pass rusher in the draft, they don't have to overpay for one in free agency. Now, that doesn't mean they shouldn't address the need. Let me make this clear: The Niners HAVE TO make edge a priority in BOTH free agency and the draft. But my point is if Nick Bosa, Josh Allen, Jachai Polite, etc. are cornerstone pieces in their eyes, they don't have to break the bank and spend $40-$50 million guaranteed on someone like Trey Flowers. Instead, they can bring in veteran pieces like Ezekial Ansah or Brandan Graham to help mentor whoever they draft. Or, they can look at younger pieces (Dante Fowler, Shaquil Barrett, Za'Darius Smith) whose best years may still be to come. Either way, there will be affordable options available, and no excuse not to make a move to address this gaping hole.

3) I'm really interested to see just how active Lynch and Shanahan will be heading into year three. If they feel pressure from management to win this season, you could see a big splash or two, but if not, get ready for more of the "aggressively prudent" approach. And this just isn't on Lynch. Shanahan has a lot of say on who's brought in, so this is a team effort.

The 49ers' approach to free agency is kind of odd. First, they seem to overpay for secondary positions. For example, Kyle Juszczyk has a big contract for a fullback, but 4 years and $21 million isn't much in the grand scheme of things. Tagging Robbie Gould at around $5 million is a lot for a kicker, but it doesn't affect the overall number that much. You know, I just realized the 49ers currently have the highest paid fullback and kicker in the NFL. Not sure what that even means. I think both bring a lot of value to the team so I guess it doesn't matter.

Anyway, the second thing that San Francisco does is sign second-tier players to team-friendly deals. Think guys like Pierre Garçon and Malcolm Smith who both got a decent chunk of change upfront, but the 49ers were (or are) able to cut ties after the first couple of years. And while they've signed a numbers of players (Juszczyk, Garçon, Smith, Gould, Marquise Goodwin, Jerick McKinnon, Weston Richburg, etc.) there always seems to be a significant amount of cap room left over. At some point, you have to take a chance and use some of that money to bring in an impact player at a primary position. I'm not saying overpay for the sake of spending, but identify your guy and go and get him.

4) Any talk of trading Nick Mullens is just plain crazy to me. There isn't any specific rumor that I'm referring to here, but I've seen a number of articles and speculation on the subject that have annoyed me enough to address it. There's no reason to think that the 49ers can't contend for playoff spot in 2019. I'm not saying they'll be Super Bowl contenders, but a 9-7 or 10-6 record shouldn't be all that crazy of an expectation. Hell, a number of people thought San Francisco could win close to 9-10 games in 2018, and if Jimmy Garoppolo doesn't get injured in Week 3 they may have come close. But instead of keeping things afloat after Garoppolo went down, Shanahan turned the reigns over to C.J. Beathard and, before you know it, 1-2 became 1-7.

Would things have been better if Mullens was called on right away? Probably.

The 49ers went 3-5 in the eight games Mullens started, and averaged 21.1 points per game. That's not exactly setting the world on fire, but for a 23-year-old undrafted quarterback, it shows that the potential is there. Looking deeper, Mullens finished the season fifth amongst NFL signal callers in yards per attempt (8.31) and seventh in yards per game (285). And those three wins? They're as many as the 49ers had combined with Colin Kaepernick, Blaine Gabbert, Brian Hoyer and Beathard behind center from 2016-2018. Either way it's not good, but I'll take three wins in eight games any day over three wins in 32 games. As far as with Shanahan, the team's gone 9-7 with Garoppolo and Mullens, as opposed to 1-15 with Hoyer and Beathard.

Backup quarterback matters, folks. If disaster strikes again in 2019, you want to feel confident the guy you turn to can keep the ship afloat. Not sink it.

5) How underrated is Matt Breida? When you really peel back the year he had in 2018, it's kind of unbelievable. The undrafted back (who battled injuries pretty much the entire season) finished fourth in the NFL with 5.3 yards per carry, and was one of only six running backs with 10 or more runs of 20 yards or more. Breida also held his own in the passing game with 27 receptions. I'm not sure how involved Breida would have been had McKinnon not gotten injured, but given that he took every advantage of the opportunity presented to him, it's hard to imagine he won't be a huge part of the offense moving forward.

While McKinnon is the better pass catcher, Breida's running style is perfect for Shanahan's offense and, in my mind, he's a better option as a runner than McKinnon. Consider that Breida had three 100-yard rushing games this past season. McKinnon has two in his entire career. As far as carries of 20-plus yards, McKinnon has nine in four years (one less than Breida's previously mentioned total in 2018). Now this doesn't mean Breida will get a majority of the carries. I'd say this will be a 50/50 time share (or close to it), and could give Shanahan his west coast Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman. Tons of potential with this duo.

6) Finally, I was looking at some stats, as I tend to do, and these numbers were crazy to me. In Weeks 12-15, Dante Pettis caught 17 passes for 338 yards and 4 TDs. Over a full season that's 68/1,352/16. During that same time period, George Kittle had 22 receptions for 379 yards and a score. Over a full season that's 88/1,516/4. I know it can be kind of cheap to look at numbers that way, but you get the point. If this duo can stay healthy, they can be incredibly productive for the 49ers. San Francisco still really needs another receiver in my opinion, but this offense is very close to being one of the league's best.