The final whistle of the Super Bowl marks the end of the 2021 season. That solidifies all draft positions and gets us looking to free agency as the next chance for teams to make significant changes to their rosters. In this series, I’ll break down the needs and goals of every team as it relates to the 2022 offseason. Included will be cap space, cut candidates, positions of need, and plenty of other useful stats and notes as we prepare for free agency and the 2022 NFL Draft. Special thanks to Over the Cap, Pro Football Reference, Pro Football Focus, and Ben Baldwin’s RBSDM.com for all of the useful stats they track and house.
49ers 2021 Recap
The 49ers shocked the football landscape by trading three first-round picks to move up in the 2021 NFL Draft and eventually select Trey Lance. The team was expected to let Jimmy Garoppolo play a few middling games before handing the reins over to Lance. Things didn’t go as planned in the best way possible and Garoppolo never gave up the starting gig. He threw 20 touchdowns to 12 interceptions while also scoring three times as a runner. Garoppolo went 9-6 as a starter and made it to the NFC Championship, where his team was cut down by the Rams. After a four-win boost from 2020 to 2021 the 49ers, are now tasked with making Lance the face of their future.
Key Offensive Stats
- Points per game: 25.1 (13th)
- Dropback EPA: .17 (5th)
- Passing yards per game: 248 (12th)
- Rush EPA: -.02 (9th)
- Rushing yards per game: 127 (7th)
Deebo Samuel’s breakout was the biggest revelation of San Francisco’s season. Through nine weeks, Samuel had the sixth-highest weighted opportunity rating in the league. His target share and air yards share were both north of 32 percent. Then, when the 49ers were struggling to field a viable backfield because of injuries, Samuel became the most electric running back on the roster. He ran 53 times for 343 yards and seven touchdowns in his final eight games. Rookie back Elijah Mitchell ran for 953 yards and finished his debut campaign as Pro Football Focus’s No. 18 running back. George Kittle missed some time but still made his mark with back-to-back 150-yard games late in the season.
Key Defensive Stats
- Points per game: 21.5 (9th)
- Dropback EPA: .1 (23rd)
- Passing yards per game: 207 (6th)
- Rush EPA: -.15 (2nd)
- Rushing yards per game: 104 (7th)
The 49ers were crushed by injuries on defense in 2020 and then lost defensive coordinator Robert Saleh in the offseason. It took them a few weeks to regroup in 2021, but, once the team clicked, San Francisco’s defense was oppressive. They finished first in TFLs and second in sacks. Nick Bosa returned from a torn ACL to record 15.5 sacks and a league-high, 21 TFLs. The 49ers’ only weakness was their secondary. They had eight different corners start at least one game, mostly because of injuries. San Francisco ended the year with Emmanuel Moseley and rookie Ambry Thomas as their starter outside corners.
49ers 2022 Offseason
Total Draft Value
Notable Free Agents
|LG Laken Tomlinson, CB Josh Norman, LB Azeez Al-Shaair, S Jaquiski Tartt, CB K'Waun Williams, DE Arden Key, RT Tom Compton, DT D.J. Jones|
|DE Samson Ebukam ($6.5 million), DE Charles Omenihu ($2.5 million)|
Notes: San Francisco's total draft value is the sum of the value of every pick they own using the Fitzgerald-Spielberger NFL Draft Trade Value Chart. The values are only estimates until the NFL announces compensatory picks. Cap savings are listed assuming the player is cut before June 1st.
The 49ers gave Miami their first-round pick in this draft and the next to take Lance. They have a few extra compensatory picks on the way but still hold one of the weakest draft values this year. San Francisco is also behind the pack in cap space so they’ll need to make the most of their current roster to improve.
The 49ers are light on cap space and Tomlinson has been playing at a high level for five years. It’s unclear if the team will be able to make him a competitive offer once free agency opens. At right guard, Daniel Brunskill is a restricted free agent. He was the weakest link on San Francisco's line last year and should only return as a backup.
Moseley and Thomas formed a solid duo at the end of the season but the latter only took the field because Norman was getting torn apart. Thomas still allowed over 10 yards per target as a rookie. The 49ers also have their primary slot corner set to hit free agency. If none of their free agent corners are re-signed, San Francisco has nearly 2,000 snaps at corner about to leave the facility.
Bosa carried most of the weight for the defensive line. When it wasn't him getting to the quarterback, it was often Key, who is about to hit free agency. San Francisco's best cut candidates are also on the defensive line. Dee Ford is under contract for another year but injuries have kept him off the field for 26 games over the past two years. His presence in the lineup is more of a luxury than an expectation at this point. The 49ers have never been shy about bulking up their defensive line and they are suddenly thin in the trenches. This could be a spot they choose to address on the second and third days of the draft.
The 49ers lost Saleh and Mike LaFleur last year. Mike McDaniel, the team's run game coordinator and Kyle Shanahan's longtime sidekick, was hired as the team’s next offensive coordinator ahead of the 2021 season. After just one season in the new role, the Dolphins made him their next head coach. From 2017 to 2020, Shanahan didn’t have an offensive coordinator. LaFleur and McDaniel worked on game plans for the passing and running game each week while Shanahan called the plays on Sundays. With McDaniel gone, Shanahan appears to be reclaiming the role of de facto offensive coordinator.
Bobby Slowik has worked his way up the ranks in San Francisco for five years and will now fill LaFleur’s shoes as the passing game coordinator. Chris Foerster has been in the league for nearly 30 years, almost always serving as an offensive line coach. He is taking over McDaniel's role as run game coordinator while keeping his offensive line coach duties. Foerster has been with the 49ers for three years. Both coaches spent multiple years with Shanahan in Washington and have over a half-decade of experience under him in total. Shanahan will reclaim more responsibility over the strategy of the offense in 2022 but things should continue sailing smoothly.
The first order of business for the 49ers is to trade Garoppolo. San Francisco paid three first-round picks to draft Lance. They can’t sit on his rookie contract without playing him any longer. If Carson Wentz can garner more than two third-round picks, Garoppolo could have a first-round valuation.
After moving Jimmy, the offseason will be dedicated to building an offense around Lance. The rookie struggled under pressure in his brief appearances but displayed unreal athleticism and arm strength. He finished third in yards after contact per attempt among quarterbacks and averaged 15.5 yards per throw when going at least 20 yards downfield. The offense will need to look far different in 2022, but Shanahan has to go all-in on getting the most out of his young quarterback