Predictions For Six 49er Free Agents
There are now officially five games left to the 2017 NFL season after the San Francisco 49ers fell once again to the Seattle Seahawks 24-13 this past Sunday. But despite a season that was lost before it even started, the 49ers as a whole are comprised of various young and talented players who have played with tremendous heart and passion till the very end of each game.
Now the task of figuring out whom on this current 53-man roster will be in the plans for the 49ers in 2018 will fall upon both head coach Kyle Shanahan and general manager John Lynch as they will evaluate every position during these final five weeks of the season.
With nine draft picks coupled with the most projected salary cap space going into 2018, the 49ers are in great shape to set up for a promising season. And as it currently stands, the 49ers currently have a total of 16 players that are due to hit the free agent market after this season. Let’s focus on six of those players and see how they could (or could not) fit into the 49ers plans for next season.
Quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo
2-2 for 18 yards and a touchdown with a 143.8 quarterback rating…those were Garoppolo’s stats in his cameo appearance at the end of Sunday’s game against the Seahawks. After current-starting quarterback C.J. Beathard was injured on the final drive of the game, Garoppolo would finish the last three plays of the drive by finding wide receiver Louis Murphy Jr. in the end zone as time expired. Although it was omly a tiny sample seen on the field, Garoppolo’s ability to command an offense was finally on display and sent 49ers fans home very upbeat after enduring another tough defeat to watch at Levi’s Stadium.
Despite the 49ers acquiring Garoppolo from the New England Patriots in exchange for a 2nd-round pick in next year’s Draft, the fourth-year quarterback from Eastern Illinois is scheduled to become a free agent once the season ends. And while there are no guarantees of a return, it’s unimaginable that the 49ers would invest a 2nd-round pick and acquire Garoppolo just to let him sign elsewhere. Whether Garoppolo gets a long-term deal or signs a franchise tag may depend on how much (and what) we will see from him during these last five games.
Strong Safety Eric Reid
Reid is the sole remaining starter on the 49ers defense that played in the January 2014 NFC Championship game against the Seahawks during his rookie campaign. Experience and leadership are valuable assets that Reid possesses and it will be interesting to see how the former LSU standout fits into the 49ers future with the emergence of strong safety Jaquiski Tartt who is currently on injured reserve. Tartt was impressing defensive coordinator Robert Saleh and the rest of the coaching staff prior to his injury that Reid was moved from his natural position of strong safety to linebacker.
Although Reid is a natural leader, it’s hard to see Reid’s future with the 49ers beyond this year with both Tartt and free safety Jimmie Ward seemingly a part of the franchise’s future plans. And even though Reid is having yet another solid season, don’t be surprised if him and 49ers decide to part ways.
Running Back Carlos Hyde
Despite having his share of ups and down during his time in San Francisco, the 49ers coaching staff have been really impressed with Hyde. The Achilles heel of Hyde’s career has been injuries and consistency, but the former Ohio State Buckeye running back has averaged 4.1 yards this season as well as played in every game this far.
Besides sharing carries this season with rookie running back Matt Breida, Hyde needs to also keep in mind that rookie running back Joe Williams (who has spent the entire season in IR) is waiting in the wings as well. If Hyde comes back to join both Breida and Williams in the backfield it could have the potential to being a very capable running back-by-committee for the 49ers. And though a return isn’t guaranteed, the chance Hyde comes back in a red and gold uniform is a fair 50/50.
Cornerback Dontae Johnson
At 6-2, Johnson possesses natural size that carries serious value at his position. But since joining the 49ers in 2014, Johnson has yet to establish himself on a consistent basis. And while this isn’t to say that Johnson is a bad cornerback, the fact that only one interception has been recorded by the fourth-year veteran during his career (his rookie season) can’t make the Niner Faithful sleep easy at night.
Rookie cornerbacks Ahkello Witherspoon and Adrian Colbert have played exceptionally well this season and both show great promise. If Johnson happens to return it will be in a back-up role. But it will be surprising if the 49ers bring Johnson back.
Defensive End Tank Carradine
After spending his rookie season on injured reserve, Carradine would spend the next three having difficulty fitting into the 3-4 defensive scheme that the 49ers previously ran. Whether it was on the defensive line or even at outside linebacker, Carradine could not develop a rhythm that would make him a force in the fromt seven. But now playing in Saleh’s 4-3 scheme, Carradine looks more effective on the field.
The problem for Carradine is that he is mixed in a crowded defensive line with the likes of DeForest Buckner, Arik Armstead and rookie Solomon Thomas. And while Carradine has shown flashes of effectiveness, the numbers game could end against his favor.
Linebacker Aaron Lynch
Lynch has been an enigma the past couple season after posting 12.5 sacks during his first two seasons with the 49ers. Questions about his weight and desire to play the game have haunted Lynch as the fourth-year veteran has not played a down since Week 6 against the Washington Redskins. With a lot of cap space and plenty of draft picks, Lynch is very expendable.
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