Analyzing Offseason Moves of NFL Contenders: San Francisco 49ers

    The San Francisco 49ers started the 2022 NFL season on a disappointing note. The team was 3-4, coming off a loss to the eventual champion Kansas City Chiefs. They had just traded a mountain of picks to the Carolina Panthers in exchange for star RB Christian McCaffrey. Then, their luck turned a corner, as the team ended the season on a 10-game winning streak to finish 13-4. They were the 2nd seed in the NFC playoffs, with a stout defense and a healthy McCaffrey making their collection of playmakers genuinely electric.

    Purdy leads 49ers to 10th straight win, 38-13 over Cardinals | AP News

    Photo Cred: AP News

    Despite season-ending injuries in Weeks 1 and 13 to both QBs Trey Lance and Jimmy Garoppolo, Mr. Irrelevant QB Brock Purdy came in and looked electric himself. Purdy steered the ship to the NFC Championship game, where the QB injury curse again took its toll. Purdy went down in the first quarter against the one-seeded Philadelphia Eagles, leaving fourth-string QB Josh Johnson to take on the NFC’s best team… and they were stifled, 31-7. 

    Photo Cred: 49ers Webzone

    DeMeco Ryans, Steve Wilks, and QBs

    The 49ers entered the 2023 offseason needing to answer questions at critical positions. To start, they had to replace DC DeMeco Ryans, a tremendous defensive mind who will now become head coach of the Houston Texans. Former Carolina Panthers’ 2022 interim head coach, Steve Wilks, comes in to take his spot on the coaching staff. The injuries the Niners faced throughout the season at the QB position gave them all the excuses for losing the NFC Championship two years in a row. How can you win without a real quarterback?

    Steve Wilks hired as 49ers' defensive coordinator

    Photo Cred: ClutchPoints

    Jimmy Garoppolo’s time with the team ends, as he heads off to the Las Vegas Raiders on a three-year, $67.5 million contract. Former Panthers QB Sam Darnold comes in as a new backup, a disappointing high draft pick who will become the next reclamation project for Head Coach Kyle Shanahan. They will head into the 2023 season with an open competition between Trey Lance and Brock Purdy to be their starting QB, assuming both are healthy. Most seem to be rooting for the fan-favorite Purdy at this point, despite the team having traded three first-round picks to move up for Lance in the 2021 NFL Draft. Fans will hope whoever gets the job can stay healthy throughout the year.  

    Trey Lance, Brock Purdy Detail Offseason Road to Recovery and Game Readiness

    Photo Cred: San Francisco 49ers

    SF’s D-Line Additions & Subtractions

    San Francisco kicked off the 2023 free-agency period with a bang, signing Philadelphia Eagles DT Javon Hargrave to a four-year, $84 million deal. The team prides itself on having an overwhelming D-line, and Hargrave will be that third high-paid piece next to DT/DE Arik Armstead and DE Nick Bosa. The only question with the Hargrave move is that he signed the same contract that DT DeForest Buckner signed with the Indianapolis Colts. The same Buckner who they traded away back in 2020 for a first-round pick…

    After using that pick on what looks to be a bust in DT Javon Kinlaw, the team realized their mistake and paid up to get another dominant player on the D-line. Despite the addition of Hargrave, the team will lose some key pieces on that defensive line, with rotational edge rushers Samson Ebukam (Indianapolis) and Charles Omenihu (Kansas City) heading off to new horizons. They will be banking on a year-two leap from 2022 second-round pick, DE Drake Jackson, to replace the pair’s production.   

    😮🥩 Drake Jackson and 49ers' D-line BEEFED UP — Nick Bosa and Javon Hargrave - YouTube

    Photo Cred: YouTube (David Lombardi)

    How Will the O-Line Fare?

    With so many star players, the Niners were going to inevitably lose many vital pieces along the way. Their O-line took a significant hit this offseason, losing starting G Daniel Brunskill and starting RT Mike McGlinchey. Brunskill signed a two-year, $5.5 million contract with the Tennessee Titans, while McGlinchey signed a massive five-year, $87.5 million contract with the Denver Broncos. The team surprisingly spent no significant draft capital along the O-line, instead choosing to rely on 2022 fourth-round pick, G Spencer Burford, and 2020 fifth-round pick, OT Colton McKivitz, to take their starting spots. The offensive line will undoubtedly be their largest question mark heading into 2023. 

    🚨 Big 49ers OL updates: Colton McKivitz and Spencer Burford - YouTube

    Photo Cred: YouTube (David Lombardi)

    The State of the DBs

    San Fran will also face some large turnovers on the back seven of their dominant defense. FS Jimmie Ward follows Ryans to Houston, signing a two-year, $13 million contract with the team. Their decision to let Ward walk may become questionable, but they will hope to replace him with an impactful rookie year from third-rounder, S Ji’Ayir Brown. CB Emmanuel Mosely will also need to be replaced, as he headed north to the Detroit Lions on a one-year, $6 million deal. Former Atlanta Falcons CB Isaiah Oliver will help them do so, signing with the team for two years, $6.75 million.

    49ers Select S Ji'Ayir Brown with the No. 87 Pick in the 2023 NFL Draft

    Photo Cred: San Francisco 49ers

    The LBs and Kicker

    The 49ers will be hoping that their star linebacker duo (Fred Warner and Dre Greenlaw) can remain healthy throughout the year, as third linebacker Azeez Al-Shaair signed a one-year $5 million deal with the Tennessee Titans. Lastly, long-time kicker Robbie Gould remains a free agent, unlikely to return after the team spent a third-round pick on his replacement (Jake Moody). 

    49ers news: Fred Warner and Dre Greenlaw were ranked among the league's best linebackers by PFF - Niners Nation

    Photo Cred: Niners Nation

    To Conclude…

    The 49ers once again should dominate a weak NFC conference en route to the playoffs, where they will be looking to dethrone last year’s champions, the Eagles. Their D-line has become even more dominant, and their playmakers remain elite. The three main questions holding them back will be their health, QB, and OL. They must stay relatively healthy, their young replacements must prove to be as good as they expect, and they must make the right choice at quarterback. If they do, this team showed last year that they can beat anybody. 

    49ers | KGET 17Photo Cred: 

    Andrew Bruner
    Andrew Bruner
    I'm Andrew Bruner, a rising senior at the University of Kentucky studying Public Policy/Business. I will primarily be covering topics surrounding the NFL/NBA, alongside UK/SEC football and basketball.

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