49ers Mailbag: Which GM best pairs with McDaniels?

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AP

49ers Mailbag: Which GM best pairs with McDaniels?

The 49ers are on Day 4 of their coach-general manager tour as they sort through a lengthy list of candidates for both jobs.

Before we get to answering questions posted on Facebook for 49ers Mailbag, here is where the search stands:

Wednesday, Jan. 4
Buffalo interim head coach Anthony Lynn (coach)

Thursday, Jan. 5
Green Bay director of football operations Eliot Wolf (GM)
Green Bay director of player personnel Brian Gutekunst (GM)

Friday, Jan. 6
Minnesota assistant general manager George Paton (GM)
Atlanta offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan (coach)

Saturday, Jan. 7
New England offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels (coach)

Sunday, Jan. 8
Indianapolis vice president of football operations Jimmy Raye III (GM)

Monday, Jan. 9
Washington offensive coordinator Sean McVay (coach)
Carolina assistant general manager Brandon Beane (GM)

Tuesday, Jan. 10
Carolina defensive coordinator Sean McDermott (coach)
ESPN analyst Louis Riddick (GM)

Sunday, Jan. 15
Seattle offensive line/assistant head coach Tom Cable (coach)

Monday, Jan. 16
Seattle co-director of player personnel Scott Fitterer (GM)
Seattle co-director of player personnel Trent Kirchner (GM)

TBA
Miami defensive coordinator Vance Joseph (coach)

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Q: How are the Niners going to determine a good GM/HC pairing if they are hiring them at the same time? Shouldn't they hire a GM first?‬ (Dustin Heron)
A: That’s exactly how they plan to determine a good coach-GM pairing, by hiring them together.

Here’s what Jed York had to say during his press conference on Monday:
”We need to be open and flexible to structure. We need to make sure that the head coach and the general manager know each other, have a good understanding for each other. Doesn’t mean that they had to have worked together in the past, but they have to have a good respect for each other and a good understanding and know that they have similar visions and philosophies on building a football team.”

Remember all that talk that York might be demoted or stripped of power? Well, the opposite appears to be true. Although he was involved in the previous coaching searches, York ultimately left the decisions to GM Trent Baalke.

This time, York wants to sign off on both hires and determine for himself if he believes the coach and general manager will be able to work together and pull in the same direction.

Q: Which would McDaniels prefer? Caserio or Riddick?‬ (Isaac Lopez)
A: The 49ers’ job is certainly more intriguing to Josh McDaniels now than it’s ever been because he would have a major voice (the voice?) in the hiring of the team’s general manager.

He declined to interview with the 49ers in 2011, shortly after the Denver Broncos fired him as head coach after less than two seasons. Two years ago, McDaniels interviewed with the 49ers, but he was not sold on the job – most likely because he had continued questions about the structure with Baalke as general manager.

What makes this a good situation for McDaniels now is that he will be coming into a situation where he and a general manager of his choosing (or at least a GM with whom he feels comfortable) will have carte blanche to build the roster and do everything they deem necessary to turn the franchise around.

The 49ers are expected to have $80 million in cap room and 10 draft picks, including the No. 2 pick in each round.

It looks as if Nick Caserio is opting to remain as New England’s top personnel guy under coach Bill Belichick. ESPN analyst Louis Riddick has made it known what he thinks of McDaniels, and it’s safe to assume they know each other. Riddick has to be considered a strong candidate for a position he's already stated he would accept.

Minnesota assistant general manager George Paton is highly respected within NFL circles and could remain in the picture regardless of which way it goes at head coach. And although Green Bay executive Eliot Wolf does not know McDaniels, those who know both of them believe they would fit well together.

Q: Will all Chip Kelly and Trent Baalke guys be let go? Will new HC/GM determine new DC?‬ (Alex Tran)
A: The head coach and general manager will be completely free to choose their staffs. On Monday, York said he spoke to the coaching staff and those in football operations.

Said York:
“I let them know that the new general manager and the new head coach are going to make the final decisions on who’s here and who’s not. Those folks are all under contract. They are going to have the ability to go somewhere else and there are no tampering charges. They are free to talk to anybody else.”

So, yes, the takeaway is that Jed York and Paraag Marathe are conducting these interviews. According to York, he will make the hires and then step out of the way and give the coach and general manager all the support they feel they need to build the roster to their specifications.

Mailbag: Which 49ers vets are on shaky ground?

Mailbag: Which 49ers vets are on shaky ground?

The 49ers’ new regime heads to the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis this week with the first major wave of offseason activity set to kick off.

Already, the 49ers have made roster improvements. And there figure to be plenty of activity ahead in the coming weeks.

Here are some questions submitted by readers on Facebook for this edition of 49ers Mailbag:

Do you see the 49ers cutting ties with larger contracts like Bethea, Torrey Smith and Ahmad Brooks?‬ (Blair Wilkins)
The 49ers have approximately $75 million in space under the salary cap – and that’s before any adjustment of Colin Kaepernick’s contract. So it’s not as if the organization needs to create cap room.

Any decision made to part ways with veteran players will be made solely on how that player fits into what the 49ers envision on the field.

And that’s what general manager John Lynch, coach Kyle Shanahan and his staff are doing now. They are studying the video from last season to determine which players fit their ideals.

Safety Antoine Bethea is scheduled to earn $5.75 million. Bethea, 32, enters the final year of his contract. There is no question he is everything the 49ers want in a player off the field. If one of the younger guys is not better than Bethea, there is no reason to get rid of him.

Brooks is on the books to earn $5.3 million in 2017. That’s not a huge amount for a starting outside linebacker or defensive end – whichever spot he might fit best. The 49ers must look to upgrade their pass rush. Brooks turns 33 next month. He’s good for six sacks a season. Again, it’s not as if the 49ers can’t afford him. And, as of now, it’s not as if the 49ers have anyone better.

Smith is scheduled to earn $8 million. He has been vastly underutilized in his two seasons since signing with the 49ers. He’s the most interesting case of the high-priced veterans.

Kyle Shanahan’s offense is predicated on using the running game to set up the play-action shot down the field. Smith is limited. He’s not a possession receiver. He’s not going to make plays over the middle. He is an outside receiver whose contributions come in the vertical passing game. But that’s what Shanahan wants.

If Smith is paired with a strong tight end, a running back who catch the ball out of the backfield, a slot receiver with short-area quickness to get open underneath, a very good receiver on the other side and an accurate quarterback who can throw the deep ball, there should be a role for Smith in the 49ers’ offense.

Will the 49ers continue to be aggressive pursuing free agents this offseason? If so, what positions?‬ (Bradley Lodge)
The 49ers have zeroed in on two veteran free agents and they signed them both.

The organization has already spent more money than it did all of last offseason on veteran free agency with the four-year, $16 million deal to sign defensive tackle Earl Mitchell, whom the Miami Dolphins recently released.

Nickel back K’Waun Williams has a history with 49ers defensive backs coach Jeff Hafley. The 49ers did not have to make much of a financial investment to sign him.

The 49ers will definitely go after a veteran quarterback or two in free agency or via trade. Pass rusher, inside linebacker and wide receiver are other positions the 49ers can be expected to look during free agency.

The opening of the new league year – when free-agent signings and trades can occur – is March 9. The draft is seven weeks later.

The 49ers must fill as many of their needs with smart deals that fit into the long-term plan with veteran acquisitions. Then, the draft is about taking the best players on their board when it’s time to select. Teams that reach for need generally strike out.

What are the chances of drafting a QB with first pick and playing them behind a Kap / Cousins until they're ready to become starter?‬ (Hillory Broussard)
If Colin Kaepernick returns, it will not be as a no-questions-asked starter. Just read what Lynch said on KNBR this week about the team’s needs:

“Do we have some places – probably the ultimate position, quarterback – where we need to improve? Absolutely. And we’re committed to doing that.”

That statement can easily be interpreted that Lynch does not believe the 49ers had a starting-caliber quarterback on the roster last season.

But if the 49ers were to go out and swing a trade for Kirk Cousins or Jimmy Garoppolo, it’s going to take a big commitment – in terms of draft picks and a suitable new contract. Then, the 49ers would have that player.

Cousins or Garoppolo would unquestionably fill the 49ers’ need at quarterback for 2017 and beyond -- at least in the minds of the 49ers' new decision-makers. There would be no reason for the 49ers to then draft a quarterback with the No. 2 overall pick – if the 49ers even had the No. 2 overall pick at that point.

 

49ers have already spent more in 2017 free agency than a year ago

49ers have already spent more in 2017 free agency than a year ago

Under the 49ers’ new regime, the club has already invested more in the free-agent market than a year ago under then-general manager Trent Baalke.

Just a reminder: The free-agent signing period does not officially open until March 9.

The 49ers on Friday reached a contract agreement with veteran defensive tackle Earl Mitchell, who is penciled into be a starter in the team’s new 4-3 base scheme under defensive coordinator Robert Saleh.

"As soon as Earl hit the open market, he became a priority for us to sign,” 49ers general manager John Lynch said in a statement released Saturday morning. “A man of high character, he represents everything we want to be as a football team. Earl is a tone-setter who plays the game with a tremendous passion and the effort necessary to win in this league. We believe those qualities are contagious and will help to make our team stronger. We look forward to the impact Earl will have on the field, in the locker room and in our community.”

It was the first significant move under Lynch, who also signed a player with NFL experience earlier in the week.

The 49ers also added cornerback K’Waun Williams to a one-year contract. Williams served as the Cleveland Browns’ nickel back for two seasons. The Browns released him before the start of last season and he was unable to play due to an ankle injury.

Mitchell was available to be signed before the start of the new league year because the Miami Dolphins released him last week in a move to save the team $4 million in cap space.

Mitchell took four free-agent visits and after wrapping up his tour with the Atlanta Falcons on Friday, he and the 49ers quickly agreed on a four-year, $16 million contract that includes $5.5 million of money in the first year, according to a source.

Last year, Baalke did little to improve the roster for coach Chip Kelly. The 49ers, who finished 5-11 in Jim Tomsula's one season, dropped to 2-14. Just hours after the season concluded, the 49ers announced the firings of Baalke and Kelly.

The only veteran free-agent addition who stepped on the field for the 49ers last season was offensive lineman Zane Beadles. The 49ers signed Beadles in late-March to a three-year, $9.75 million contract with a $1.75 million signing bonus. Beadles had a good season for the 49ers, starting 12 games at left guard, two games at left tackle and the final two games at center.

The 49ers have already shown more willingness to be aggressive under Lynch’s leadership.

Mitchell, 29, is a seven-year veteran who began his NFL career from 2010 to ’13 with the Houston Texans. He was a rookie in Saleh’s final season as assistant linebackers coach in Houston.

Mitchell joins DeForest Buckner, Arik Armstead and Quinton Dial on the 49ers defensive line. The 49ers view Mitchell as a high-energy player who bring good character to the locker room. The signing of Mitchell could be an indication the 49ers are moving on from Glenn Dorsey, who is scheduled to be an unrestricted free agent.

With 5.5 sacks in seven seasons, the 49ers do not figure to use Mitchell in passing situations. The club must try to bolster its pass rush in free agency or the draft. Last season, Buckner and Ahmad Brooks shared the team-lead with six sacks apiece. In 2015, Brooks and Aaron Lynch both led the way with 6.5 sacks.