Trades, cuts, and restructured contracts
The San Francisco 49ers’ unexpected blockbuster trade earlier this week came as a shock to most 49ers fans and — full disclosure — blew up my predictions for the 49ers’ 2020 offseason.
DT DeForest Buckner – Traded to the Indianapolis Colts
Admittedly, this monster deal was not in my initial offseason plans for the Niners, nor was it even on my radar until the 49ers signed fellow defensive lineman Arik Armstead to a lucrative six-year contract, just before the team announced their trade of defensive tackle DeForest Buckner to the Indianapolis Colts for the No. 13 overall pick the 2020 NFL Draft.
The Colts have a deal in place for Buckner, which averages out at $21 million per season. This trade was a painful but understandable move for San Francisco, as they lost one the NFL’s top defensive players, but they gained much-needed cap space and another first-round selection in the upcoming draft.
RB Jerick McKinnon – Restructure contract
Running back Jerick McKinnon has yet to play a down of regular-season football after he signed a four-year, $30 million contract with the Niners two years ago. Once a hot commodity in NFL Free Agency 2018, McKinnon is now the ultimate “buy low” candidate; Unfortunately, releasing him would cost the 49ers at least $4 million in dead cap space.
The best scenario for Lynch and Shanahan is to restructure McKinnon’s contract, and include roster bonuses and incentives in return, particularly since the dual-thread RB has made it clear he wants to remain in San Francisco. Thankfully, the 49ers were able to get the deal completed yesterday, which will lower McKinnon’s contract to the veteran minimum, plus bonuses:
WR Emmanuel Sanders – Test the free-agent market
Wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders was a key piece to the 49ers’ offensive attack in 2019, but the 33-year-old WR believes he can command a multi-year contract at a higher price than San Francisco should be willing to spend. As the wideout is destined for a physical and statistical decline due to his age, the 49ers would be wise to let Sanders test free agency and allow a different team to spend big money on the aged receiver, while replacing him with a younger model.
However, if Sanders doesn’t find the market to his liking, the Niners should be interested in a reunion, as they would love to have him back on a team-friendly deal.
OL Ben Garland – Do not re-sign
Backup offensive lineman and converted center Ben Garland was technically able to fill in for starting center Weston Richburg during the starter’s absence last season, but despite reports to the contrary, he did not impress — from the preseason to the Super Bowl.
The 49ers also have a journeyman center and interior offensive lineman in Michael Person, which makes Garland’s presence on the roster an unnecessary “luxury.” Unfortunately, Lynch and Shanahan responded by promptly signed the former college defensive lineman to a $2.25 million deal, which potentially places Person’s roster spot in jeopardy:
WR Marquise Goodwin – Trade
"If Goodwin is allowed to run a more complete route tree — and if he stays healthy — he could be a very dangerous second receiver for the 49ers in 2017. For those who project him as a slot receiver for the 49ers due to his lack of size, Goodwin is small, but he is definitely an outside receiver. He almost exclusively lines up in a “plus” split, and he is not comfortable in the middle of the field. In Buffalo, he worked primarily outside the numbers, which will likely change this year for the San Francisco 49ers. He does excel at catching passes near the sideline, and overall, he has decent hands. – Chris Wilson"
Goodwin followed up his new contract with a career year, tallying more receptions, receiving yards and rushing yards than in all four of his other NFL seasons combined — until the Los Angeles Rams’ notoriously dirty defensive back Blake Countess took the opportunity to knock out the defenseless receiver in a meaningless Week 17 game. The cheap shot cost Countess nearly $50,000 but may have cost Goodwin his career, as the wideout has never been the same.
Perhaps a change of scenery would allow the 49ers’ former No. 1 wideout to return to his 2017 form.
DE Arik Armstead – Tag and trade
Although franchise-tagging defensive end Arik Armstead and then trading him to a pass-rush-needy team sounded like the best option for the 49ers, Lynch and Shanahan had extremely different plans. We’ll lead off the following section with what the Niners’ front office decided to do with their former first-round selection.