49ers NFL Draft: 5 early needs for San Francisco in 2021
By Peter Panacy
The 49ers have a Super Bowl-caliber roster entering 2020, but some big-time changes mean big-time needs for the 2021 NFL Draft.
The San Francisco 49ers roster in 2021 could look a lot different than the anticipated squad many will watch this upcoming season.
Free agency will likely play a big part, as the Niners no longer boast a plethora of cap space and have some exceptionally large contract extensions to dish out in the very near future, including a market-setting one for All-Pro tight end George Kittle. Linebacker Fred Warner won’t be cheap in future years, and EDGE Nick Bosa could end up commanding the most money ever for a defensive player.
As such, San Francisco will need to say goodbye to a number of pending free agents a little less than a year from now, and general manager John Lynch will have to capitalize on those cheaper rookie deals to maintain his team’s Super Bowl window.
That means the focus is already on the 49ers’ needs for the 2021 NFL Draft a little less than a year from now.
Currently, the Niners boast six picks in the 2021 draft, sending off their third-round pick as part of the package for veteran Pro Bowl offensive tackle Trent Williams.
Williams’ status beyond this season opens up one pressing need for San Francisco, the offensive line, which is where we’ll start in breaking down the team’s early needs in next year’s NFL Draft.
No. 5: Reinforcing the 49ers Offensive Line
There are three primary question marks facing San Francisco’s O-line: Williams’ future, a long-term starter at right guard and potentially making left guard Laken Tomlinson a cap casualty.
Williams, who is signed through 2020, cannot be franchise tagged next season, per his latest contractual reworkings, and Spotrac.com’s market-value tool suggests he’ll be worth an average annual value of $15.4 million.
Unless Williams is willing to take a notable decrease in pay as opposed to his value, it’s going to be tough for San Francisco to re-sign him.
Likewise, the Niners could potentially move on from Tomlinson, who has zero in guaranteed money in 2021 and could save the team $5 million if cut a year from now.
Tomlinson has been reliable since joining the 49ers in 2017, yes. But things get weird with no guaranteed money on the table.
Is the versatile Daniel Brunskill a long-term answer at right guard? Perhaps, but that decision is a long way off from being finalized.