Heading into the offseason, the offensive needs for the San Francisco 49ers are not as significant and far less prevalent heading into the offseason. The NFL Combine is a week away as teams prepare their lists of players they will be watching closely. There are some major decisions on the offense regarding free agency and the draft. Today we take a look at the offensive needs for the 49ers heading into the offseason.
There’s Level to This
There are levels when we discuss what needs exist. That should go without saying but it’s important to keep it in mind. Sure, the 49ers have an offensive line that played fairly well last season. However, upgrades can always be made. In essence, a third tight end is not as important as a third wide receiver. As a result, we will be focusing on the areas which would most drastically improve if changes are made.
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While each position group could stand to get an upgrade, this isn’t a full breakdown of each position. That’s something for later, after the combine and before free agency. Instead, today we take a look at the biggest three needs on offense. Without further adieu, let’s jump in!
Interior Offensive Line
This is the biggest need for the 49ers as they head into the offseason. We started our look back at the 2019 season by reviewing the job done by the offensive line. It was San Francisco’s weakest group among both the offense and defense. The interior of the offensive line, in particular, struggled the most. The 49ers return their starting five from the 2019 season opener with center, Weston Richburg, set to return from injury. However, key backups Ben Garland and Daniel Brunskill are set to become free agents.
Garland filled in over the final three regular-season games and the entire playoffs after the Richburg injury. The Air Force Academy graduate played well and is a valuable player on the roster. Current starting guards Mike Person and Laken Tomlinson were more than capable run blockers. However, both men struggled in pass protection, with the issues coming into focus late in the Super Bowl loss to the Chiefs. Between the draft and free agency, there are more than a few interesting options for John Lynch and Kyle Shanahan to target if they’re looking to upgrade the interior of the offensive line.
Who’s Behind Jimmy?
Jimmy Garoppolo is the unquestioned starter for the 49ers. To be fair, anyone questioning his spot is either delusional or attempting to rock the boat. In just his first full season in the offense, Garoppolo felt just shy of 4,000 yards passing and had one of the best seasons for a 49ers quarterback since Jeff Garcia in the early 2000s. Garoppolo has room left to grow so his position as the starter is not a question at this point. Shanahan now must focus on the big decision behind his starter. Are we heading into year two of both C.J. Beathard and Nick Mullens on the roster?
Mullens is an exclusive rights free agent so there isn’t much worry about bringing him back. However, it will be interesting to see if there is a market for the former undrafted free agent. Meanwhile, Beathard has been given numerous opportunities to show his ability in the NFL, often displaying more toughness than talent. To be fair, Beathard was not asked to do much during his college career at the University of Iowa. Iowa ran a power run scheme and kept things simple in the passing game. The question becomes, do the 49ers trust Beathard as the backup if a team dangles a big enough carrot for Mullens? Do the 49ers offload Beathard in favor of a rookie? San Francisco needs to have those questions answered.
Another Wide Receiver
The midseason trade to acquire Emmanuel Sanders was a major catalyst in the 49ers getting their offense turned around. At the time of the trade, the offense looked to be slowing amidst injuries to the offensive line and playmakers. Unfortunately, Sanders is now set to become a free agent and will likely garner significant attention. The veteran showed how much is left in the tank and could be too costly to return to San Francisco. Deebo Samuel turned in a solid and exciting rookie season, showing off the ability to make plays all over the field. Kendrick Bourne became the third option at wide receiver and a steady red zone threat as the season progressed. However, Bourne is a restricted free agent and could see sizable interest once the league year begins.
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If Bourne and Sanders are not kept, the 49ers have both Trent Taylor and Jalen Hurd returning from season-long injuries. Both players had exciting camps before the season and will contend for playing time. Then comes the question of what happens to Dante Pettis. The former University of Washington standout finished the 2019 season firmly in the doghouse. He saw time on special teams but was non-existent on offense. It would not be shocking if Shanahan chooses to move on from Pettis but the expectation is to give him at least the preseason to prove his worth. Another player to watch is Marquise Goodwin. The speedster finished the season on injured reserve but also missed a handful of games before that. He is a likely cap casualty with a 2020 salary number of around $5 million. San Francisco needs to decide if they’ll spend money to bring in additional help on the outside.
– Ryan Adverderada is the Managing Editor for Full Press Coverage 49ers. He also covered the Arizona Cardinals for Full Press Coverage. Like and follow on Follow @ryanadverderada