NFC West Preview - 49ers Return to Glory
Biggest Additions: Samson Ebukam DE, Alex Mack C, Zach Kerr DT, Arden Key DE, Maurice Hurst DT, keeping EVERYBODY (Trent Williams LT, Tart S, Juszczyk FB, K’Waun Williams CB, Verrett CB, Jordan Willis DE, Jeff Wilson RB, Moseley CB, Brunskill OL, D.J. Jones DT)
Biggest Losses: Richard Sherman CB, Kerry Hyder DE, Ahkello Witherspoon CB, Kendrick Bourne WR, Tevin Coleman RB
Top Draft Needs: QB, CB, WR, IOL
The 49ers have a lot to be excited about in the 2021 season and big expectations. It couldn’t have started any better with John Lynch crushing the offseason. Many big names and key pieces to this team were unrestricted free agents and Lynch brought back every key piece while doing a masterful job managing the cap. Many of the high-priced signings have small salary cap hits this year that increase over the next few years which points to the 49ers had a plan to draft a rookie QB all along. I won’t go into my love for Trey Lance again, but I believe that is who we have had our eyes on the entire time and knew a trade-up would be needed.
With big money being spent to keep Trent Williams and the Juice Kyle Juszczyk, the 49ers needed to find value signings amongst the free-agent class. Alex Mack seemed like a lock to come to the bay, but it was still a great signing for a player who had his best years of his career under Shanahan in Atlanta. The signing that got me most excited was Samson Ebukam. When I saw him play on the Rams, he looked like an absolute beast out there with great size and speed. If I am being honest, I had no clue he was a free agent but when we inked him to a two-year deal, I thought it was a perfect bookend to join Mr. Bosa. If Kerry Hyder can register 8.5 sacks with the 49ers, I think Ebukam has breakout star written all over him. He has also never missed a game in his 4-year career and for a team who was decimated with injuries last year that is an important stat. Rumor has it, Dee Ford may (finally) play this year and with the addition of Ebukam, Ford can enter the game strictly as a pass-rush specialist. The 49ers didn’t add any other new pieces who will be starters, but they have built great depth on the defensive line which can free up our draft picks to focus on the secondary. Zach Kerr coming off a career year earning an 84 PFF grade is a great run stopper and big body in the middle of the defense. In more recent news I loved the dual signings of ex-Raiders Arden Key and Maurice Hurst who further the depth on the defensive line and I think both will have a very nice year playing with great surrounding talent. Most importantly, the 49ers kept all of their own. Not one key piece left from last year’s team and with everyone back from injury this year the 49ers should be back in the Super Bowl hunt.
Going into free agency I thought the losses would be great, but Lynch worked his magic and kept the losses at a minimum. The biggest loss of course is Richard Sherman but one we all knew was coming. Last year he barely played, and the pass defense was still awesome so while we will miss his leadership, the defense should be just fine. Witherspoon was the only free agent I wanted to keep but I will assume Lynch figured he could get a better player in the draft and wanted to spend the money elsewhere. The biggest surprise to me was the Patriots paying Kendrick Bourne $5 million a year. I figured we would bring him back on a one-year $1–$2 million-dollar deal. Not a big loss in my opinion but I am happy he got paid as I always was a big Bourne fan.
Heading into the draft I could not be more excited. Picking a new franchise QB is not something that comes along very often, and I have the utmost trust that Lynch and Shanahan will nail the pick. Building such great depth along the defensive line in free agency I don’t see them targeting that position group at least early in the draft. The focus in rounds 2-4 should be strictly on WR and CB. I’d love to get even more explosive on offense and while I believe Jalen Hurd could be the 3rd option in the offense, he has yet to play a regular season snap in two years, so he is not dependable. I hope we strike early on WR because CB in our Cover 3 scheme is not as vital, and we have had good luck getting solid starters later in the draft. I don’t think the 49ers will make all 9 of their picks and will trade up at least once. Late-round picks should focus on building more depth for the interior offensive line.
Overall, I simply can’t wait for the season to begin. The 49ers should be the Super Bowl favorite in the NFC as we have owned both the Rams and the Packers. The only true threat being the team with that guy who seems to be pretty good at this football thing, Tom Brady and the Bucs. The 49ers will have a more explosive offense than the 2019 team and I think the defense can be just as good as that squad. Super Bowl here we come!
Verdict: 1st place in NFC West and #1 overall Seed in the NFC