The 49ers might be watching the rest of the NFC West get weaker in the immediate future, and this particular team might need to tear down before building back up.
It’s somewhat cliche, but the San Francisco 49ers are in for a challenging offseason heading into 2023.
For starters, a number of longtime starting players are poised to hit NFL free agency, including right tackle Mike McGlinchey and defensive back Jimmie Ward. Replacing those two won’t be easy.
Beyond that, the defensive line depth is lacking, the interior of the offensive line needs an upgrade or two and there’s this looming quarterback battle that’ll take place between Brock Purdy and Trey Lance, both of whom are coming back from serious injuries.
That said, head coach Kyle Shanahan’s squad is still in pretty good shape, and that statement is reinforced by the reality that the rest of the NFC West is probably going to either get weaker or stay stagnant heading into the league’s new year.
The Arizona Cardinals have no head coach and a problematic quarterback situation, while the Seattle Seahawks still need a defensive overhaul and have to hope quarterback Geno Smith finds the proverbial “lightning in the bottle” for a second season in a row.
And then, there are the Los Angeles Rams.
49ers should be happy if LA Rams trade away key players this offseason
Perhaps LA has a last laugh, as general manager Les Snead’s aggressive trade-aways of high NFL Draft picks ultimately led to Los Angeles winning a Super Bowl a year ago.
Even if the subsequent Super Bowl defense was one of the worst in recent league history.
Nevertheless, LA enters the offseason with no first-round pick in this year’s draft and over $14.1 million over the salary cap, according to Over the Cap. In the wake of a 5-12 season, it’s understandable why a teardown feels smarter than anything else.
And that’s what NFL.com’s Gregg Rosenthal felt should be Los Angeles’ approach this offseason, including moving on from one notable player:
"[Like] an NBA team with little cap flexibility, there are few options to refresh this roster beyond moving one of the stars. Because of his age, the 28-year-old [Jalen Ramsey] would make the most sense as a player who could attract a huge haul in return.Trading Aaron Donald feels beyond wrong, and his year-to-year status would hurt his value. Other trade or cut options would be Leonard Floyd or Tyler Higbee, but those would be more cosmetic moves when the Rams should be thinking bigger."
Star cornerbacks are as close to a premier asset on defense as an edge rusher, and someone like Ramsey would generate some trade buzz.
But that would only be the tip of what should be a long change of events in Southern California, particularly if the quarterback situation with Matthew Stafford is unresolved and the remaining skill players aren’t enough to maintain a competitive level with a team like the 49ers.
Even if that’d be the ultimate goal, it’s likely going to take at least two years before the Rams would get back into serious contention.
And the Niners couldn’t be happier about that being the case.