No. 2: Defensive End Solomon Thomas
In an ideal world, the 49ers would have seen their top pick from the 2017 NFL Draft, defensive end Solomon Thomas, outplay the top pick from the 2015 draft, defensive tackle Arik Armstead, this season.
Why? Well, it would allow the Niners to let Armstead walk in 2020 free agency while keeping Thomas on his rookie deal for at least one more season.
Instead, Armstead has emerged as one of San Francisco’s top defenders, the first among this group to get to 10 sacks on the season. Not so surprisingly, Armstead is looking like a must-re-sign candidate, while Thomas has again been relegated to backup duty amid a stacked defensive line.
That depth isn’t likely to change much in 2020, especially if Armstead is retained. And while depth is always a good thing to have up front, Thomas’ first-round status means he’s potentially on the “move” list to free up his near $9 million in contract owed.
That’s dead money for San Francisco, if Thomas is let go outright. But it doesn’t eliminate the possibility the 49ers could explore trading Thomas at some point this offseason.
Unless Thomas goes off these final four weeks.