49ers

49ers focus on improving offensive skill positions

49ers focus on improving offensive skill positions

On the first day of the new league year, the 49ers reached contract agreements with nine unrestricted free agents, including seven offensive players and a kicker.

General manager John Lynch went from the “liberating” feeling of having no quarterbacks under contract to placing Brian Hoyer and Matt Barkley on the depth chart.

While Colin Kaepernick remains available at a fraction of his previously scheduled $14.9 million salary, the 49ers prioritized signing two quarterbacks who opened last season as reserves to Jay Cutler with the Chicago Bears.

The past four seasons the 49ers have ranked 32nd, 29th, 30th and 30th in passing yards. Under new coach Kyle Shanahan, the 49ers seemed intent on adding players to help improve their passing game.

[RELATED: Report: Kirk Cousins says 'I'm going to be a 49er' eventually]

Neither Hoyer nor Barkley is likely be viewed as a long-term answer at quarterback, so the 49ers remain open to using the No. 2 overall pick on a quarterback such as Mitchell Trubisky or patiently waiting for Kirk Cousins to become available at a reasonable price. The 49ers' best option could be to wait after this season to obtain him at no compensation to Washington.

Cousins officially signed his exclusive franchise tender with Washington on Friday, according to his agent. With that formality, Cousins can now be traded. But Washington has shown no inclination to deal Cousins, who could walk a year from now as a free agent.

Here is a look at the players who saw action for the 49ers last season at the offensive skill positions, and how things look after the first day of free agency:

Quarterback
2016: Colin Kaepernick, Christian Ponder, Blaine Gabbert
2017: Brian Hoyer, Matt Barkley
The 49ers must keep all their options open at quarterback, but it’s unclear whether they remain in the market for another veteran to add to the mix unless an obvious starter becomes available.

Hoyer was clearly the 49ers’ top target among the available quarterbacks. Shanahan worked with him for a season with the Cleveland Browns. Hoyer averaged 329.5 yards passing in his four full games with the Chicago Bears last season before sustaining a season-ending broken left arm.

The 49ers, meanwhile, averaged a league-worst 181.9 yards passing per game.

Barkley is now with his third team in his short career after beginning with Philadelphia Eagles during the Chip Kelly era. Barkley will enter training camp competing for a spot on the 53-man roster. Whether the 49ers keep two or three quarterbacks remains to be determined.

Running back
2016: Carlos Hyde, Shaun Draughn, DuJuan Harris, Raheem Mostart, Mike Davis
2017: Carlos Hyde, Kyle Juszczyk, Raheem Mostart, Mike Davis
The 49ers are certainly in the market to add to the running back position. Carlos Hyde remains a work in progress but the clear choice to be the team’s top runner.

“Right now, I see Carlos being our back,” Shanahan said at the NFL Scouting Combine. “We’ve studied a lot of the guys on tape. He’s the guy that’s got the most. Carlos is a guy who I was a fan of coming out of college. He had a real good career there. I looked at him hard when I was in Cleveland at the time and had a good feeling he was going to be a great back then. I don’t think he’s a finished product. I think there’s a lot more to his game and I look forward to us helping him bring that out.”

The 49ers now have a fullback with the addition of Juszczyk. He is a highly versatile player who can line up all across the formation to provide Shanahan with many options to find the best matchups. In the past two seasons with Baltimore, Juszczyk caught 78 passes for 587 yards. He earned a trip to the Pro Bowl in his final season with the Ravens.

Wide receiver
2016: Torrey Smith, Quinton Patton, Jeremy Kerley, Aaron Burbridge, Rod Streater, Chris Harper
2017: Pierre Garçon, Marquise Goodwin, Jeremy Kerley, Aldrick Robinson, Bruce Ellington, Aaron Burbridge, Chris Harper, Eric Rogers, DeAndre Smelter, DeAndre Carter, Rashad Ross
The 49ers released Smith this week and are obviously allowing Patton to leave as a free agent. After signing Kerley to a contract extension last week, the 49ers struck in free agency with the additions of Garçon, Goodwin and Robinson.

Here is what each of those players produced last season for their respective clubs:
Garçon (Washington): 16 games, 79 catches, 1,041 yards, 13.2 avg, 3 TDs
Kerley (49ers): 16 games, 64-667-10.4-3
Goodwin (Buffalo): 15 games, 29-431-14.9-3
Robinson (Atlanta): 16 games, 20-323-16.1-2

The 49ers should also look to add a potentially dynamic receiver within the first two days of the draft.

Tight end
2016: Vance McDonald, Garrett Celek, Blake Bell, Je’Ron Hamm, Jim Dray
2017: Vance McDonald, Garrett Celek, Logan Paulsen, Blake Bell, Je’Ron Hamm
In one of Trent Baalke’s final moves as general manager, the 49ers awarded McDonald with a contract extension that basically amounts to three years for $19.7 million.

The 49ers on Thursday added Paulsen, who is considered more of a blocking tight end. He can be kept in for pass protection or he can be a vital component in the run game. Paulsen’s best seasons as a pass-catcher came with (surprise!) Shanahan as the offensive coordinator in Washington. Paulsen combined to catch 53 passes for 575 yards and four TDs over the 2012 and ’13 seasons.

Kicker
2016: Phil Dawson
2017: Robbie Gould
The 49ers have said their good-byes to Dawson, who had a strong four-year run with the organization and is remaining in the NFC West with the Arizona Cardinals. Dawson, 42, was named the winner of the Bill Walsh Award as the team MVP in 2015.

Gould, 35, appeared in just 10 games for the New York Giants last season. He made all 10 of his field-goal attempts but missed three of his 23 extra-point tries. Gould ranks seventh all-time with a field-goal accuracy percentage of 85.886.

Shanahan: Carradine could be heading to IR

tank-carradine-49ers-injury.jpg
AP

Shanahan: Carradine could be heading to IR

Defensive lineman Tank Carradine will miss an extended period of time with a high ankle sprain sustained in the fourth quarter of the 49ers’ 41-39 loss to the Los Angeles Rams on Thursday night.

Coach Kyle Shanahan said on Friday the team was awaiting the results of an MRI examination. The 49ers could decide to place Carradine on injured reserve, which would make him eligible to return to action later in the season.

“We’re going to have to get that and really decide whether IR or not,” Shanahan said. “Because any time you have a high ankle sprain it’s going to be a while. We’re not exactly sure how long that’s going to be, but we’ll have to decide that probably Monday.”

The 49ers expect to be without the services of linebacker Reuben Foster and safety Eric Reid, too.

Also, fullback Kyle Juszczyk, safety Jaquiski Tartt and linebacker Brock Coyle are in the concussion protocol after sustaining head injuries on Thursday.

Although the 49ers’ medical staff no longer requires Foster to wear an orthopedic boot for his high ankle sprain, Shanahan said he would be shocked if the rookie is able to return to action Oct. 1 against the Arizona Cardinals.

“I’d be shocked if he came back this week,” Shanahan said. “I’d be surprised. We’re taking it week to week. I’m not really expecting him this week but You never know with some of these athletes. He might be there, but I’m not expecting it right now.”

Reid’s rehab is behind Foster’s, according to Shanahan. Reid sustained a left knee injury Sunday against the Seattle Seahawks and is expected to miss multiple games.

Speaking at his day-after-game press conference, Shanahan said he was disappointed that the 49ers’ pass rush did not apply more pressure to Rams quarterback Jared Goff.

“We didn’t affect the quarterback enough,” Shanahan said. “I thought we did a very good job against Seattle and we took a step back on that last night.”

When asked what he saw on the critical late-fourth-quarter play on which rookie receiver Trent Taylor was called for pass interference, Shanahan said, “I saw a very good route.“

 

Controversial pass-interference call derails 49ers comeback

Controversial pass-interference call derails 49ers comeback

SANTA CLARA -- The 49ers had momentum and field position on their side when Trent Taylor made a sprawling catch at the Los Angeles Rams' 39-yard line.

The 49ers, down by two points, were nearing field-goal range on the first play after the two-minute warning. But the momentum was quickly halted.

Taylor was called for offensive pass interference as he broke to the outside against the coverage of Rams cornerback Nickell Robey-Coleman. TV replays were inconclusive whether Taylor extended his right arm to push off.

“I ran the route the way it was called, the way that I always run it,” Taylor told NBC Sports Bay Area afer the game. “Felt good about it, and it was a great play call. But the ref’s decision on that, that’s nothing I can comment on. So I’ll just leave it as it is.”

The penalty set back the 49ers 10 yards. Brian Hoyer’s third-and-20 pass was incomplete, and he was sacked on fourth down to end any hope of a 49ers comeback victory.

“In that time of the game I would think you would let people play,” said Hoyer, prefacing his remarks with his intention to not say anything would warrant a fine.

“But I haven’t seen it. I have to go and watch the film. You know what, you don’t want to leave it up to the refs anyways. You hope you make a few plays earlier in the game to change the outcome. If it comes down to that, then that’s what it is. That’s what the guys job is to do.”

Taylor caught three passes for 32 yards, including his first NFL touchdown. He was also involved in another key play just moments earlier as the 49ers sought to tie the game. Hoyer’s two-point conversion pass attempt was tipped by Los Angeles cornerback Troy Hill and intercepted by defensive tackle Michael Brockers.

Coach Kyle Shanahan said Taylor was the third option on the play. Pierre Garçon and Marquise Goodwin were both well-covered on their inside-breaking routes. Taylor initially had separation against Hill, but that was a problem for the 49ers. The route called for Taylor to cut it back inside. Hoyer and Taylor teamed up for a touchdown on the exact same route on the other side earlier in the game against Hill.

“They got lucky and guessed the play,” Taylor said. “They were on it, so there was nothing we could do about it.”