Ranking 49ers' top five priorities on their offseason to-do list


The 49ers still have two games to play before their offseason begins.But, there is no doubt, general manager John Lynch, coach Kyle Shanahan and salary-cap expert Paraag Marathe have been going over the plan for the 2021 season and beyond.The 49ers are jammed up against the salary cap -- whatever the salary cap ends up being -- and they have a number of free agents and other personnel decisions to address in their quest to return as contenders next season.These are the team’s top five offseason priorities to take steps toward ensuring a there is no repeat of the dreadful 2020 season.

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Kerry Hyder Jr. was the 49ers’ best edge rusher this season. Hyder did an outstanding job and deserves a lot of praise for the job he did this season while playing on a one-year contract.

Hyder did so well, in fact, he might have priced himself out of the market for the 49ers.

Nick Bosa should be back after sustaining a torn ACL in Week 2. But after seeing how Ronald Blair and Jullian Taylor were not able to return this season after undergoing ACL surgeries in 2019, the 49ers would be justified in feeling some anxiety about Bosa's status.

Dee Ford will not be back after missing the final 15 games of the season with a back issue. Bosa and Ford were being counted on to form one of the league’s best pass-rushing bookends.

This is a huge position of need for the 49ers. It might be the one spot that requires the most help of any other position from outside the organization. Even if Bosa returns to pre-injury form and Hyder, Dion Jordan and Jordan Willis re-sign, the 49ers still need to add a dynamic pass-rusher to the mix.

Could they target a pass-rusher in the first round of the draft? Absolutely.

It all depends on what happens a month or so earlier, at the start of free agency, and how the depth chart looks at other positions when the draft rolls around.


Veteran cornerback Richard Sherman and Jason Verrett are scheduled for unrestricted free agency. It is difficult to envision a scenario where both of them re-sign with the 49ers.

Sherman is older and probably more expensive. Verrett proved he can stay healthy. He is the team’s best player in coverage. The 49ers should prioritize re-signing Verrett before the start of free agency.

Sherman, who acts as his own agent, foreshadowed his departure from the organization. He recently told NBC Sports Bay Area his return to the 49ers in 2021 is “not looking likely.”

Frankly, that might not be the worst thing for the 49ers, either. If, indeed, Sherman is not back with the 49ers, it could force the team to address the cornerback position with a premium draft pick. The 49ers will face NFC West wide receivers DeAndre Hopkins and DK Metcalf twice a season for the foreseeable future.

The 49ers need to find a young, long, strong, physical, tough, athletic cornerback to match up against those players. Players who fit that description generally cannot be found after the first round.

Emmanuel Moseley will be back as a restricted free agent, but the 49ers need another ascending player who can quickly develop into a playmaker in their scheme.


One of the big storylines for the 49ers’ offseason after their Super Bowl appearance was tight end George Kittle, who was eligible for a new contract.

Everything that was written and said about Kittle last year, well, just substitute Fred Warner’s name in that spot this offseason.

Warner is a legitimate superstar on the defensive side of the ball. He has not missed a game in three seasons and was named to his first Pro Bowl this week.

After playing three seasons on a low-level contract as a third-round draft pick, it would make sense that Warner would not take the chance to step on the field again without the security of a lucrative, long-term contract extension.

Warner and the 49ers could follow the exact same path that Kittle took last year.
Like Kittle, Warner is a team captain. He will not want to sit out any of the 49ers’ offseason program. The most reasonable path for the player and team is for Warner to continue to do all the right things and work in good faith with the organization.

Deadlines spur action, and it would not be a surprise to see Warner sign a big-money deal -- somewhere in the $15 million range annually -- with the 49ers that enables him to step on the field when the 49ers put on pads for the first time early in training camp.


Left tackle Trent Williams has to be the 49ers’ top priority in free agency. 

If the 49ers are able to re-sign him, then the rest of the offensive line will not require a lot of attention. But if Williams gets away, the 49ers will have a major void at the most-important spot on the offensive line.

Williams, 32, had a very good season and he seemed to enjoy himself with the 49ers after escaping the football purgatory of Washington. He made $12.5 million in 2020, and he figures to command a healthy pay raise with his next contract.

He said this week there is mutual interest in working out a multi-year contract to return to the 49ers.

The 49ers have sole negotiating rights with him through the middle of March, when the NFL’s new league year begins. The 49ers will certainly try to get his deal done early so he never becomes available for other teams.

If Williams is re-signed, the 49ers can shift their focus to other position groups. The 49ers could be just fine returning an offensive line that features Williams, left guard Laken Tomlinson, center Daniel Brunskill, right guard Colton McKivitz and right tackle Mike McGlinchey.


Maybe it’s an open-and-shut case.

Perhaps the 49ers are fully committed to bringing back quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo and his scheduled $25.5 million pay for next season.

If the 49ers have no intention of moving on from Garoppolo, they can make some conversions to his contract to lower his cap number while pushing some of his cap impact to 2022.

But, ultimately, the 49ers have to decide between one of two options: What the roster would look like with Garoppolo, and what the roster would look like without Garoppolo.

If the 49ers decide to pursue a veteran quarterback in free agency or a trade, they can structure a deal with the new QB where a great deal of cap space is saved in 2020. But which quarterbacks might be available for them to consider adding? The answer to that question will likely drive their decision.

Garoppolo has entered three seasons as the 49ers’ starting quarterback. Essentially, he missed two of those seasons due to injuries. The one year he remained on the field, the 49ers went to the Super Bowl.

After keeping the quarterback room virtually unchanged for 3 1/2 seasons, the 49ers will certainly change up some things next year.

The draft is a roll of the dice because of where the 49ers will be selecting, and which quarterbacks might or might not be available when it is their turn to pick. And if they decide to trade up to get someone Shanahan targets, that will cost a price, too.

Nick Mullens seemed to be a good bet to return as a restricted free agent to compete for the backup job. Now, his status for next season is in question. Shanahan said it appears likely Mullens will require Tommy John surgery on his throwing arm. That recovery could impact his status for the start of 2022.

C.J. Beathard will get the start on Sunday against the Arizona Cardinals. He still has a chance to make a case for returning as an unrestricted free agent to compete for a roster spot.

The 49ers on Tuesday agreed to terms with Josh Rosen, the No. 10 overall pick in the 2018 draft. The 49ers are his fourth team in three seasons. He will get a few practices and meeting time before the end of the season with his new club as a tryout.

It’s a good bet Rosen will sign a futures contract at the end of the season. He could go through an entire offseason and training camp with the 49ers and make a run at winning a roster spot in 2021.

The decisions made at quarterback -- and how it impacts their cap situation and draft status -- will set the stage for how the 49ers approach every aspect of their offseason.

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