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2021 Team Building

We are just past halfway through the season, and have a pretty good look at the deficiencies of our team, and a better idea as to draft positioning, as well as where certain college players are slotted to be drafted. My goal is to provide an absolute best case scenario to bring us back to super bowl contention. First, we have to see who will still be on the roster in 2021, and how much cap room we will have to round out the rest of the roster. I am excluding practice squad members or back of the roster players who carry no to minimal dead cap.

Jimmy Garoppolo, QB - $26,900,000
Dee Ford, DE - $20,785,000
Arik Armstead, DL - $12,500,000
Weston Richburg, C - $11,405,142
Jimmie Ward, FS - $11,000,000
Nick Bosa, DE - $9,325,509
Laken Tomlinson, IOL - $6,585,000
Mike McGlinchey, OT - $6,006,026
George Kittle, TE - $5,500,000
Robbie Gould, PK - $5,250,000
Javon Kinlaw, DT – $3,520,157
Raheem Mostert, RB - $3,333,334
Brandon Aiyuk, WR - $2,848,032
Deebo Samuel, WR - $2,049,279
Mark Nzeocha, LB - $1,600,000
Fred Warner, LB - $1,234,547
Jalen Hurd, WR - $1,167,185
Tarvarius Moore, FS - $1,116,093
Mitch Wishnowsky, P - $1,041,018
Kentavius Street, DL - $1,002,552
Shon Coleman, OT - $962,500
Richie James Jr, WR - $939,145
Dre Greenlaw, LB - $930,429
Justin Skule, OT - $894,714
Colton McKivitz, OL - $861,829
Azeez Al-Shaair, LB - $855,000
Charlie Woerner, TE - $825,257

This puts us at a roster of 27/52 (wow that is a lot of free agents) with a cap hit of $140,437,748. With $13,443,427 in dead cap, and an estimated $7,000,000 for the rookie draft pool, that leaves us with only $14,118,825 of cap space if the cap drops to an estimated $175,000,000. I am no cap expert, and so I may have overlooked a detail or two, but this essentially means that we have a lot of slots to fill and not a lot of money to do it, so let's first identify the key positions to fill.

When it comes to team building, I firmly believe that there are a few key positions that every team needs. These are the positions that get the big contracts, and that you want to save cap space for, and these are the positions that you want to draft or sign every year until you fill those slots with players deserving of a second contract. They will take up the majority of the cap, and you fill the rest of the roster around them with affordable veterans and/or a steadily revolving cast of young players on rookie contracts. Yes, this means that, according to my philosophy, it was the correct move to make the Buckner trade (regardless of my position on the Arik Armstead extension). Anyway, those key positions are:

QB – For obvious reasons
Left Tackle – Blind side protector
Center – Interior protection is important, but a cerebral player able to make calls at the line is equally as critical
#1 Offensive Weapon – This can be anyone from a running back like Christian McCaffery to a wide receiver like DeAndre Hopkins; they just need to be a true difference maker for your team.

Pass Rusher – Typically an edge rusher, but can be an interior player such as Aaron Donald or Chris Jones
#1 CB – Ideally can follow the Tae Adams, DK Metcalfs, and Tyreek Hills of the world
Eraser – These are your Jamal Adams, Honey Badgers, and Bobby Wagners of the world.

So, let's see what the Niner's have on their roster:

Left Tackle:
#1 OW: George Kittle, TE

Pass Rusher: Nick Bosa, DE
#1 CB:
Eraser: Fred Warner, LB

A lot of blank slots; not great, Bob. Now, where I would start is by looking at which of these positions we can fill in free agency, as this is the quickest way to fill the position with a proven game-changing talent. I believe that we should start with looking at our own free agents first. However, because free agents cost money, let's first see where we can provide addition via subtraction. Releasing Jimmy G (ideally via trade – more on that later), Weston Richburg, and Dee Ford saves us $24,100,000, $4,896,349, and $6,430,008 respectively, or a total of $35,426,357 saved. Yes, we take quite a hit with dead money for Dee and Richburg, but it still a much needed net positive. Now, back to free agency with $49,545,182 to use. The two key targets are offensive tackle Trent Williams who gets an average of $17,000,000/yr ($32,545,182 remaining) and offensive center Corey Linsley who we are prepared to make the second highest paid center in the league on a per year basis at $11,500,000 ($21,045,182 remaining). Both players are older, but still playing at a high level. It will be worth paying top dollar for shorter contracts, especially to keep Linsley away from resigning with GB. Let's take another look at the key positions.

Left Tackle: Trent Williams, OT
Center: Corey Linsley, C
#1 OW: George Kittle, TE

Pass Rusher: Nick Bosa, DE
#1 CB:
Eraser: Fred Warner, LB

Much better, though we are still obviously missing the most important position in football. Before we get to there, let's see what other 49er free agents we should prioritize bringing back to help bring the roster closer to 52 players.

Jaquiski Tartt, S
Kyle Juszczyk, FB
Kendrick Bourne, WR
K'Waun Williams, CB
Kerry Hyder, DE / Ronald Blair, DE (whichever comes cheaper)
Jordan Reed, TE
Jason Verrett, CB
Jeff Wilson, RB
Emmanuel Moseley, CB
Daniel Brunskill, OL
DJ Jones, IDL
JaMycal Hasty, RB
Kevin Givens, DT
Marcell Harris, S
Nick Mullens, QB / CJ Beathard, QB (whichever comes cheaper)

This puts our roster at:

QB: Nick Mullens / CJ Beathard
OL: Trent Williams, Laken Tomlinson, Corey Linsley, Daniel Brunskill, Mike McGlinchey, Shon Coleman, Colton McKivitz, Justin Skule
RB: Raheem Mostert, Jeff Wilson Jr, JaMycal Hasty
WR: Brandon Aiyuk, Deebo Samuel, Jalen Hurd, Richie James, Kendrick Bourne
TE: George Kittle, Jordan Reed, Charlie Woerner
DL: Arik Armstead, DJ Jones, Javon Kinlaw, Nick Bosa, Kentavius Street, Kerry Hyder / Ronald Blair, Kevin Givens
LB: Fred Warner, Dre Greenlaw, Azeez Al-Shair, Mark Nzeocha
CB: Emmanuel Moseley, Jason Verrett, K'waun Williams
S: Jimmie Ward, Jaquiski Tartt, Tarvarius Moore, Marcell Harris
P: Mitch Wishnowsky
PK: Robbie Gould

I would be looking at Jimmie Ward and Laken Tomlinson as potential trade ammo ($5,000,000 saved) and a cap casualty ($3,994,470 saved) respectively. Colton McKivitz, Justin Skule, and Kentavius Street are obvious back of the roster players that I would be looking to move off of and/or upgrade from.

With the base of our pre-draft roster set, it is time to look ahead to the 2021 NFL draft. In addition to filling the remaining "key positions," I think it will be most important to add depth to the DE position, upgrade the IOL talent, and fill out our WR room. For WR, given we already have our #1 OW and therefor I do not view WR as a premium need, I prefer to fill certain roles. We have our #1 WR that can get open all over the field (Brandon Aiyuk), our possession threat (Deebo Samuel), our big body "go get it" safety blanket (Jalen Hurd), and our slot receiver chain mover (Kendrick Bourne). We are just missing our deep threat. With those needs in mind, it is time for the draft.

Best Case Scenario:

The quickest way to win a Superbowl with this roster is to trade for quarterback Aaron Rodgers. Greenbay drafted Jordan Love in the first round with an eye obviously to the future, given most figured the Packers would attempt to surround Rodgers with more talent to go for a Superbowl. Eventually, they will need to know what they have in him, and if they have another disappointing playoff loss, they can have a look as early as next season. Rodgers does carry a heavy dead cap hit for the Packers if they let him go, but they still end up net positive with regards to total savings, and they get value for him before he is another year older, and potentially coming off a season not as statistically impressive as the one he is having this year. For Aaron Rodgers it makes sense as he goes to his home town team to finish his career with a very real chance at another ring. For the Niners, it makes sense as he will only cost roughly $24,000,000 in 2021, which is a totally doable contract, and quite a steal for a QB of his ability. He is coming from a Shanahan disciple's system that he is beginning to blossom in, and is reunited with his center Corey Linsley. At his age, I am offering a 2021 2nd round pick, and a conditional 2022 2nd round pick that becomes a 1st round pick if we make the playoffs with him starting at least 75% of the games. I would be willing to offer a 2022 1st rounder straight up (though I think we have to start looking at a replacement for RT of the future, ideally at that spot), but we need to retain our 2021 1st rounder in order to retain this as a best case scenario.

After trading for Rodgers, I am looking to offload Jimmy G to the patriots for a 2nd round pick, and Jimmie Ward for a 3rd round pick. Bill Belichick loves Jimmy G, and you have to believe he still thinks he can win with him, and Jimmy is a QB who has proven he can take a well-coached team to the ship if healthy. Jimmie Ward I assume is thought of much higher by NFL teams than by SF fans, and with us eating ~50% of his contract, I think a team in need of safety help will give up good ammo.

R1: Caleb Farley, CB
A scheme versatile true number one corner, with the size/strength to play DK and Hopkins, and the speed/fluidity to play the weapons that the rams trot out. Great football IQ as a former QB, great ball skills as a former WR, and willing to stick his nose in and tackle. We absolutely need a corner (or two) and Farley is my favorite. I think he is a top 10 prospect in this class, so I would also be fine at this spot with any of my top 4 corners in the draft, in the following order: 1. Caleb Farley, 2. Jaycee Horn, 3. Eric Stokes, 4. Patrick Surtain II

R2 (from NE): Jason Oweh, ER
Freak athlete speed rusher that is undoubtedly raw, but is only going to be asked to come in on nickel downs, the same way we used Dee Ford in devastating fashion. With Bosa and Armstead we are set at DE on base downs, but a DPR (Designated Pass Rusher) is sorely missing with the inability to rely on Dee Ford.

R3 (Jimmie Ward): Zion Johnson, IOL
I think we are all clamoring for an upgrade at the guard position. With the inconsistent play of Brunskill and the bloated contract of Tomlinson, Zion Johnson is a nice ZBS prospect.

R4: Alaric Jackson, OL
A converted LT (who was good enough to keep his job on the left side despite the emergence of Tristan Wirfs), I project Alaric to move inside at the next level. Alaric is one my favorites in this draft class, and has been a crush of mine since last year, as I was hoping he would declare. I think he is a better prospect than Zion Johnson, but expect him to go later in the draft.

R5: Keith Taylor, CB
Inside and outside versatility keeps the depth at the position well stocked.

R5 (from NO): Zaven Collins, LB
Zaven is a big human being, and a bit of a tweener. He can play on and off ball, and I'd like to use his athleticism in different packages and different situations at the SAM position similar to how Belichick has historically used some of his tweener backers. Whether in coverage or getting to the passer, he can be a versatile piece.

R5 (compensatory): Joshua Kaindoh, DE
A traitsy prospect with elite size and great athletic ability. Hasn't yet put it all together, but I see him as a late bloomer who can help spell Bosa or Armstead at DE.

R6: Jaelon Darden, WR
This is the deep threat we are missing. I have seen comps to Darnell Mooney who has been having an excellent rookie season with the Bears. Explosive with quick feet, a flexible lower half, deep speed, good hands, and good routes in a small body package. Talk about twitched up.

R7: Xavier Henderson, S
Safety depth.

R7 (from NYJ): Keith Duncan, PK
Potential contract relief.

Key Roster:
QB: Aaron Rodgers, Nick Mullens (CJ Beathard)
OL: Trent Williams, Alaric Jackson, Corey Linsley, Daniel Brunskill (Zion Johnson), Mike McGlinchey
RB: Raheem Mostert, Jeff Wilson Jr, JaMycal Hasty, Kyle Juszczyk
WR: Brandon Aiyuk, Deebo Samuel, Jalen Hurd, Jaelon Darden, Kendrick Bourne, Richie James Jr.
TE: George Kittle, Jordan Reed, Charlie Woerner
DL: Arik Armstead, DJ Jones, Javon Kinlaw, Nick Bosa, Jason Oweh, Joshua Kaindoh, Kerry Hyder (Ronald Blair), Kevin Givens
LB: Fred Warner, Dre Greenlaw, Zaven Collins, Azeez Al-Shair
CB: Emmanuel Moseley, Jason Verrett, K'waun Williams, Caleb Farley, Keith Taylor
S: Jaquiski Tartt, Tarvarius Moore, Marcell Harris, Xavier Henderson
P: Mitch Wishnowsky
PK: Robbie Gould (Keith Duncan)

With no Aaron Rodgers, but with the same picks, I am looking at:
R1: Zach Wilson, QB
R2: Jason Oweh, ER
R2: Eric Stokes, CB
I wonder if GB would be willing to trade Rodgers to us. LaFleur is a close friend of Shanahan, which may get the deal done, but he also knows how dangerous 49ers would be to beat in the playoffs if GB should be matched up against us. If LaFleur thinks they can be in the SB for 2021 season with Jordan Love at the helm, I dont think he would give Shanahan his missing piece to be a complete powerhouse
Not bad
Like the mock and the analysis is pretty good. Nice plan.
Bravo! 👍
Zaven is starting to get recognized.....a lot. I'd be willing to go zach 1st, zaven 2nd if we get Corey Lindsey in FA. Alaric Jackson 4, and two zone corners + darden 5
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