It was a season of downright awful luck for the San Francisco 49ers. Though they were the NFC representative in the Super Bowl in 2019, they missed the postseason in 2020 by a mile. At 6-10, they finished the year dead last in the NFC West. It was not a fun season by the bay.
In their defense, San Francisco was crushed with injuries. At one point in November, the team had 22 players out as a result, 12 on offense and 10 on defense. Eight other players sat out at least one contest due to injury.
The big injury early in the season took place in Week Two against the New York Jets. Though the Niners prevailed 31-13, the game soon became the worst of times. DE Nick Bosa tore his ACL, ending his season. Quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, running backs Raheem Mostert and Tevin Coleman, and DL Solomon Thomas were also injured in the win.
Other early injuries include wide out Deebo Samuel, who had a Jones (foot) fracture, and fellow receivers Brandon Aiyuk and Jalen Hurd, putting a strain on players looking to catch the ball.
Sure, injuries give young players a chance to get their feet wet in the National Football League, but overall, the Niners were a shell of what they were the year before, a squad that led the Kansas City Chiefs by double digits in the fourth quarter of Super Bowl LIV.
One year ago today, the Kansas City #Chiefs came back from down 20-10 in the 4th quarter to beat the San Francisco #49ers in the #SuperBowl #Touchdown #SuperbowlWeeknd #NFL #NFLTwitter #NFLPlayoffs
— Gabriel Schray (@schrayguy) February 3, 2021
As fans look at the current roster, they prepare themselves for an active offseason. The club has no less than 37 players who are either unrestricted or restricted free agents. Therefore, their roster could look quite different come opening day 2021.
WHAT A RUN Jeff Wilson Jr.! 😱
And check out QB C.J. Beathard lead blocking downfield! 💪
— NFL Network (@nflnetwork) August 30, 2019
Now that the nightmare of 2020 is in the books, let’s take a look at the free agents whom the Niners will have to make tough decisions on this offseason.
QB C.J. Beathard, 28
C Tony Bergstrom, 35
WR Kendrick Bourne, 26
T Daniel Brunskill, 27
RB Tevin Coleman, 28
G Tom Compton, 32
WR River Cracraft, 27
TE Ross Dwelly, 26
C Ben Garland, 33
C Hroniss Grasu, 30
FB Kyle Juszczyk 30
RB Jerick McKinnon, 29
QB Nick Mullens, 26
TE Jordan Reed, 31
QB Josh Rosen, 24
WR Trent Taylor, 27
RB Austin Walter, 25
T Trent Williams, 32
DE Ezekiel Ansah, 32
DE Ronald Blair, 28
S Marcell Harris, 27
DE Kerry Hyder, 30
CB Dontae Johnson, 30
DT D.J. Jones, 26
DE Dion Jordan, 31
CB Emmanuel Moseley, 25
LS Taybor Pepper, 27
CB Richard Sherman, 33
FS Jaquiski Tartt, 29
CB Jamar Taylor, 27
DE Solomon Thomas, 26
CB Jason Verrett, 30
LB Joe Walker, 29
CB Ken Webster, 25
CB K’Waun Williams, 30
DE Jordan Willis, 26
CB Ahkello Witherspoon, 26
Offseason Outlook: As the Niners enter the offseason, the team will have a projected $9.54 million in salary cap space, so they do have some flexibility to make moves.
Offensive tackle Trent Williams, fullback Kyle Juszczyk, and corners Ahkello Witherspoon, Richard Sherman, and Emmanuel Moseley are five key players, and the team will need to figure out what to do with all of them this offseason.
Another #49ers touchdown, rookie 1st round pick Brandon Aiyuk runs it in from 19 yards away.
— Dov Kleiman (@NFL_DovKleiman) September 27, 2020
Right now, the Niners have no corners on their roster who are not free agents, so the team must make figuring out their defensive backfield their highest priority. Sherman might be the most interesting name to consider. He just finished a three-year, $39 million deal that he negotiated for himself.
It wouldn’t be a shock to see him come back in 2021, but if another team with more cap space wants a solid veteran with a decade of experience in the NFL, it might be tough for the Niners to match a deal.
Williams is one of the best left tackles in the game, and with the number of injuries the team suffered, they need a solid lineman to protect the quarterback in 2021.
Bringing back Juszczyk is a tough call, as not many teams use fullbacks anymore, but the Niners love to use him in various roles.
There is no question that Juszczyk’s presence on the field helps against the pass rush. He likes the way the front office has treated him, but the multiple time Pro Bowl fullback has a high asking price that the Niners cannot ignore.
Can this team come back from losing double digit games and represent the NFC in the Super Bowl in February 2022?
It could happen, but the club will have to make some tough decisions first. They can’t afford to miss on too many of them if they want to be successful in 2021.