The NFL offseason continues on … sort of.
And the questions continue, too.
Thanks to all the folks who submitted their questions via Twitter for this edition of 49ers Mailbag.
Would the Niners consider drafting OT at 13 to replace @jstaley74?
— Jaxamillion (@JaxCasey) March 28, 2020
General manager John Lynch seemed confident Joe Staley would be back for at least another season when he was asked last month about the six-time Pro Bowl left tackle.
I don’t know that Staley has told the team, definitively, he plans to return. Staley, who turns 36 in August, dealt with more physical issues last season than at any point in his 13-year career. Perhaps he just wants to take some time to see how his body feels later in the offseason.
The 49ers certainly would want clarity on Staley’s status before the draft. And it’s also likely they would not want word to get out before the draft because they would love for other teams to be in the dark whether left tackle is or is not a high draft priority for them.
Mike McGlinchey appears locked into right tackle, and there does not seem to be a plan to move him to the other side to ultimately replace Staley.
On the depth chart, the 49ers re-signed Shon Coleman. Justin Skule also returns after starting eight games with mixed results.
If the top available player on the 49ers’ board at any point is an offensive tackle, I think that’s the way they would go.
Is the center position open for competition between Garland and Richburg? Or is it locked to Richburg to lose?
— CJ Niners 🇺🇸💪🏼 (@4NinersFaithful) March 28, 2020
Weston Richburg is clearly the team’s top option at center. But after he underwent surgery to repair a torn patellar tendon in December, Ben Garland stepped in and played well enough to keep the offense rolling.
If Richburg is healthy, it’s his job. Until then, the 49ers have to feel confident Garland can keep things afloat.
I know everyone loves the WR’s… but is there a clear ranking of Jeudy, Lamb and Ruggs in the draft? Who’s 1,2,3?
— Aaron Campbell (@apc123172) March 28, 2020
Like most positions, it’s personal preference.
The Raiders also figure to be in the market for a wide receiver with the No. 12 pick. If the 49ers have one receiver ranked far above the rest, and Las Vegas takes that player, then the 49ers could look to trade back or go with a different position.
For a breakdown of the top three wide receivers, see above video.
It may just be me, but with Sherm’s age and the WR in the rest of our division – isn’t CB a bigger need than WR right now?
— Sahil Keval (@sahilkeval) March 28, 2020
If everyone comes back healthy, the 49ers have quite a few options at wide receiver. Of course, none of them really are proven.
I agree the 49ers must look to strengthen their cornerback position. And looking a year in advance, there is no guarantee Richard Sherman will be back in 2021. And, even for the 2020 season, Emmanuel Moseley and Ahkello Witherspoon are the only other corners with starting experience on the roster.
Cornerback is a priority, especially because the trade of DeForest Buckner likely means the pass rush will not be as dominant.
Do the 49ers grab another veteran DT or roll with in house options to fill in Buckners role.
— Jon (@jknop750) March 28, 2020
I doubt the 49ers will sign a starting-caliber defensive tackle at this stage of free agency. Maybe they bring in a player who has a chance to compete for a spot in the D-line rotation, but I doubt it.
Was part of the willingness to trade Buckner a growing confidence in Solomon Thomas? Do you believe Thomas has a greater role now that he can push inside more regularly? Saleh seemed to talk him up during the season but that could have been solid coach speak.
— Jordan Bakker (@bakkerjb) March 28, 2020
I believe the trade of Buckner was all about the contract they were going to have to give him to keep him, as well as the draft pick there were able to pick up in a trade.
Solomon Thomas is under contract for just one more season. They certainly will not pick up the fifth-year option on Thomas, but that does not mean he is gone after this season. The 49ers could look to sign Thomas to a minimum-type contract next year, and he might be willing to accept such a deal.
Buckner rarely came off the field during his four seasons with the club. Now, the 49ers must incorporate more of a rotation to take strain off Arik Armstead and Nick Bosa. That rotation should include Thomas, Dee Ford, D.J. Jones, Ronald Blair, Jullian Taylor, Kentavius Street and, perhaps, a draft pick.
Do you think trading Buckner signals a shift in philosophy with Shanahan thinking he can be more successful with a high-powered offense and an average defense compared to what he had with an average offense and a great defense?
^question only for Matt to answer^
— Scott Hansen (@MKEMovieMan) March 28, 2020
Dang, you’re making me think with this question. How dare you!
I don’t believe it signals a shift, per se. The 49ers’ stated goal is to be a contender every season. The trade was not done for the benefit it provides the team this season as much as what it will do two, three, four years down the road.
That said, Kyle Shanahan never felt like the 49ers’ offense last season was an unstoppable force – at least, not like he felt with Atlanta during the 2016 season. Still, the 49ers were fourth in the NFL in total yards and No. 2 in scoring.
So maybe the 49ers’ offensive production last season proved to Shanahan that it can become a dominant force in 2020 with some specific upgrades, such as a wider variety of third-down options.
What’s going on with Goodwin? Would the 49ers cut him if they fail to find a trade partner before his 2020 salary becomes guatanteed? Thanks Matt!
— Marco Corral Almada (@mcorralalmada) March 28, 2020
I was shocked last month when Shanahan said, definitively, the 49ers would not release Marquise Goodwin. Of course, I can understand why he would say that. The 49ers want to see if they can trade him.
But with this draft class, I have a difficult time believing any team would surrender a draft pick and pay Goodwin $4.5 million for the upcoming season in salary and bonuses.
Let’s put it this way: I’d be surprised if Goodwin is on the field the next time the 49ers are able to get together on the field.
🤔 Do you think the 49ers will be better prepared than some teams for the all virtual draft since they have already been using a lot of the technology ?
— Michele 🐏♈️🏀⚾️🏈 (@4GenSFFanFam) March 28, 2020
The NFL has put together guidelines leading up to the draft to level the playing field. General manager John Lynch said on Friday that there will be “no excuses.” I don’t know if the 49ers have an advantage over the other teams in the league, but they certainly have no disadvantage when it comes to technology.
Where the 49ers could have an advantage over some teams is that Lynch and Shanahan work well together, so the communication between the personnel department and coaching staff is very good. Not all teams are like that.
What seems more likely in your opinion: delay the full season or chop the season (like 1982) and keep all the calendar and playoff dates? In which would the owners lose less?
— brazil 49ers (@rmgaspar) March 28, 2020
The NFL has to be planning for everything at this stage. Is it possible, under the right circumstances, that games could be played without crowds? TV ratings would be astronomical. But I’m just spit-balling. I have no idea.
What I wonder about is when it will be safe to gather in large crowds. Hopefully, the actions taken by mayors and governors will slow the spread of COVID-19. And, hopefully, we start to see a flattening of the curve within a month.
But if a vaccine is still a year or more away, does that mean we risk outbreaks that compromise our healthcare system until that point? I have no idea.