By Cam Inman
SANTA CLARA — This 49ers regime is entering Year 6, and while there’s never been more drama afoot at the quarterback position, there’s also never been as deep a roster.
Or so it seems.
After setting their initial 53-man unit Tuesday and then tinkering with it Wednesday, the 49ers should feel they’re setting course for a third NFC Championship Game appearance in four years, with Super Bowl LVII the obvious goal
“This team, as it’s constructed, has a chance and that’s a good feeling going into the year,” general manager John Lynch said before Thursday’s practice.
Here are the highlights of what Lynch and assistant GM Adam Peters said inside the John McVay Draft Room:
Nobody on that 53-man roster is a bigger surprise than Jimmy Garoppolo, probably because the 49ers thought they were trading him seven months ago.
“Like (scouting) combine time, there were really serious talks. There were probably two to teams that I felt this was going to happen,” Lynch recalled. “That’s when news broke (of Garoppolo’s elective shoulder surgery). Then things went the way they went. I’m glad we’ve arrived where we’re at … We’re happy he’s here.”
Garoppolo restructured his contract to drop his salary from $24 million to $6.5 million plus incentives, with the caveat he returns as Trey Lance’s backup.
ABOUT THAT MONEY
The 49ers reportedly gained $13 million in cap space with Garoppolo’s pay cut, and, with the season starting in 10 days, efforts are being made to use that money on contract extensions. The most pertinent player in line for a raise is defensive end Nick Bosa, who stands to make $18 million in 2023 on the fifth-year option that the 49ers exercised as a contingency plan if a new contract isn’t brokered before then.
“We’re talking to a few players. We’ll try to pursue that and see if makes sense for us and for them,” Lynch said. “We’re always trying to lock up good players.”
Projected starters entering their contract year are linebackers Dre Greenlaw and Azeez Al-Shaair; safety Jimmie Ward; right tackle Mike McGlinchey; cornerback Emmanuel Moseley; defensive ends Samson Ebukam, Jordan Willis and Charles Omenihu, center Jake Brendel; and, kicker Robbie Gould.
‘J.P.’ MASON OVER SERMON
One of the biggest roster moves was to keep undrafted rookie Jordan Mason and, on Wednesday, release 2021 third-round pick Trey Sermon.
“Bottom line, J.P. Mason just played too well and we feel he made our team better,” Lynch said. “The hard part of that equation, on Trey, there’s been so much chronicled that he wasn’t ready to play the way we needed him last year. To Trey’s credit, he was challenged and answered the bell in every way this year. We got this kid out of Georgia Tech as a backup and we couldn’t deny he earned a spot on the roster.”
“What J.P. Mason becomes, I don’t know. We’re very encouraged and think he’s going to be a real good football player for us,” Lynch added. “He runs in our style. And ultimately it came down to that. I think the transaction that made it happen was when Hance became available. He gives us real five-position versatility.”
In claiming Blake Hance off waivers as a potential backup center for their offensive line, the 49ers waived Sermon, who Lynch said they’d welcome back onto the practice squad if he wasn’t claimed by others.
Brock Purdy may have been the 262nd and final draft pick (see: “Mr. Irrelevant”) but he won over the 49ers’ brass from his first day at work, so much so that they feared losing him if waived Tuesday.
“He came in from Day 1 and showed a grasp of our offense. It wasn’t too big,” Lynch said. “This is a guy who’s played a lot of football. His presence, just a lot to like. He just earned that spot. … We like that (QB) room.”
The 49ers instead cut veteran backup Nate Sudfeld, to whom they’d guaranteed $2 million in the spring when it appeared they’d be trading Garoppolo.
The 49ers are, as this roster reflects, still very much a run-oriented team. They just may run a bit more physical this season. Lynch aptly described this:
“There’s been an evolution in us as an organization in what we covet. Some of that is predicated on how you win games. Some, you grab a player like Deebo and his physicality wears on people. We try to do a lot of things. It starts with the head coach (Kyle Shanahan) as a playcaller and gaining a schematic edge. It’s not all about scheme. You’ve got to impose your will on people.”
Lynch reflected on his days as a Pro Football Hall of Fame safety and how he relished watching Bucs fullback Mike Alstott’s brute force. “Those things get engrained: ‘Alright, this is how we win.’ If we can mix scheme with mano-a-mano, going-to-impose-our-will, that’s a good thing.”
— Defensive back Dontae Johnson has returned to the practice squad after Lynch wrestled with having to cut the nine-year veteran in what’s become a familiar routine.
— On the 49ers’ ability to find late-round gems: “We don’t wear it as a badge of honor. Some teams behold to draft choices. We’re not that team. We’re going to play our best players. “
— Peters said of wide receiver Danny Gray, a third-round pick: “We really loved his speed. It jumps out on the tape at SMU. And the other thing we talked about was his toughness, and how he catches the ball well.”
Source: Paradise Post