Grading the 49ers’ roster moves in free agency

The 49ers have signed 15 free agents so far this offseason. What will these players bring to the team, and what won’t they bring?

Let’s grade each signing.

1. FB Kyle Juszczyk — 4 years, $21 million.

I love this one. Juszczyk is the best fullback in the NFL and will be just 26 years old this season — the Niners can build their offense around him now and in the future. And not just their run offense. Juszczyk doesn’t only block and run. He caught 78 passes for the Baltimore Ravens the past two seasons. He will become Kyle Shanahan’s version of Tom Rathman.

Grade: A-plus.

Click here to read the rest of my Thursday column.

This article has 78 Comments

  1. I’d give you a C on your grades. Garcon and Goodwin grades are too harsh. I would’ve thought a C is the lowest they should have received….

    1. Pretty good grades. But they’re showing their rookie inexperience signing a couple of injury-prone players. They are still a major upgrade over Trent Baalke, though, who wouldn’t have done nothing until all the best ones are gone. I’m excited by the direction we’re going. ?

  2. My one disagreement is Garcon. Yeah it’s a front loaded expensive contract but with him and Kerley set to get the tough catches and YAC. I expect that to open the door for the younger speedier receivers like Goodwin and whoever they draft.

      1. What up Prime!!!
        I come by to read the articles but sometimes leave SMH. Been a rough 3 years but at least there is some optimism going into next year.

    1. Garçon and Hoyer are good signings! I’m not so sure about Juszczyk. I certainly hope he pans out! I also agree with resigning Kerley. I don’t think Barkley is a better signing than Hoyer by any stretch, nor do I think Robinson is a better signing than Garçon! I agree that Goodwin is a risky signing though as I question the other defensive moves.

  3. Agree with almost everything here – nicely done Grant Cohn – except two points: Garcon was a good signing – I keep seeing the Boldin comparison, and Q was 33 when he came here (and yeah, the 49ers were a good team then, but he still had 69 catches and almost 800 yards on the 2015 squad). I’d give the Garcon signing a B to B+. Point 2: Barkley is garbage. We have a warm body as QB2, great. That’s a C or C- signing.

    1. Garcon is solid player. I like how the 49ers didn’t blow all their money in free agency. You need to improve to attract free agents, and I think they will be much better than last year. They got rid of some junk. Hopefully, in a few years the playoffs will be possible. Then they can get a few big time difference makers. If they can get six or seven wins next year that would be a huge improvement.

  4. This is too good too be true — but it is:
    “The San Francisco 49ers announced on Wednesday that team physician, Dr. Timothy McAdams has been honored with the Arthur C. Rettig Award. The award was created in 2014, and is presented by the NFL Physicians Society Scientific Meeting at the annual NFL National Scouting Combine in Indianapolis. It was established to recognize an NFL team physician for excellence in academic research and advancing the health and safety of players in the NFL.”

    The title of the paper chosen for the award? “Video Analysis of ACL Injuries in the National Football League”.

    Finally, something good came out of Baalke’s ACL fetish…. McAdams had a statistically significant sample size just from Niners’ players..


    1. Did you even read the article? Grant gave the 2 bright men kudos.

      Great article Grant. I’m not a fan of the Garcon signing, too much money, but I do understand why they did it. Garvin knows Shanny’s system, great character which hopefully rubs off on the younger players. Also it shows other free agents that Niners are will to spend money and that the organization does care about competing.

    1. Reader Participation Mach 3.0

      (1)1. King Solomon QB Killer
      (2)34. Patrick Mahomes QB
      (3)66. Ethan Pocic C/G/OT
      (4)109. Howard Wilson CB
      (4)143. Jeremy McNichols RB
      (5)146. Jordan Evans ILB
      (5)161. Josh Johnson FS
      (6)186. Cethan Carter TE
      (6)202. Damore’ea Stringfellow WR *Guilty of an altercation with Seahawk fan ’14
      (7)219. Samson Ebukam OLB

      1. If the plan is to sign Kirk Cousins or draft a QB with a first-round pick next year, why would they spend a second-round pick this year on a backup QB?

        1. I’d suggest to you that plans in the NFL can change rather quickly. Hoyer, Barkley and Mahomes will form a quarterback nucleus where he’ll be able to learn. IF Snyder does not tag Cousins and/or trade him to another team out of spite in 2018, then moving forward Mahomes becomes a valuable asset similar to Garoppolupe….

          1. So your plan is to draft a quarterback in the 2nd round this year and then draft a quarterback in the first round next year?

            1. Plan is to finish with at least 6 wins and maybe target Baby Beckham with the first pick. With such a good quarterback class, we should be able to get one later. Thanks for you interest, Grant.

              *Plans are subject to change;>)

              1. My apologies. By “later” I meant where value presents itself in either the 3rd or 4th round. I would remind you that Full Shanny selected RGMe in the 1st round, and then selected Captain Kirk in the 4th round of the same said draft. So in answer to your question, Full Shanny does, that’s who;>)

            2. Carolina did that with Claussen and Newton…seemed to work out decently for them.

              Not saying they should draft Mahomes but repeating the same statement doesn’t prove a point.

        2. Plans change sometimes. There are numerous things that could happen that could alter the plan to sign Cousins, so sitting on your hands and doing nothing isn’t much of a strategy. Using a second or third round pick on a QB gives them a player to develop and if they do wind up with Cousins, he sits for a couple of years and maybe the Niners have a Garoppolo situation eventually. If he turns out to be the long term answer, then they can move on from Cousins if they want to. Nothing wrong with having multiple QB’s on the roster.

      2. I was referring to the live draft where each reader takes a turn at an assigned draft order. By the way I wouldn’t draft anyone from Stanford or Cal they are too smart and will retire early because of CTE

  6. DT Earl Mitchell
    Reports suggest 49ers were in intense negotiations with Terrell McClain. They were the front runners. But McClain signed with Washington a few days later.

    If he can stay healthy, great. If not…? I’m hoping the unbalanced fronts will help Dial play NT if Mitchell goes down. He did well in Fangio’s offset NT spot in 2014 filling in for Williams and Dorsey.

    Speaking of Dorsey… did he sign with anyone? Maybe a short contract weighted towards roster bonuses with little guaranteed will be enough to provide NT depth.

    WR Marquise Goodwin
    I would have retained Torrey Smith. Yes he has limited routes, but we knew that when we signed him. The 49ers must have seen something in the tape they didn’t like.

    WR Pierre Garçon
    I like it. Factor housing, state tax rate and team dysfunction tax. I think there’s some Paraag Marathe magic in the contract too. Its more like a two year contract with options. Expensive, but not the gamble it looks like on the surface.

    LB Malcolm Smith
    A puzzler. My only hope is Shanahan/Lynch see “traits,” and the Raiders had him in the wrong role. A sports writer (name?) recently mentioned teams go by traits more than past performance. I think there’s some Paraag Marathe magic in the contract. The last two years are option seasons.

  7. Grant —

    sure hope Garcon doesn’t read this piece ..
    when it comes time for you to interview him !!

    I like the signing .. and and am positive
    he just might ..
    prove you wrong … but ..

    on the other hand …

    opinions are like belly buttons ….

  8. I agree with much of the analysis. I especially agree with the Garcon Boldin comparison. It sounds familiar. I guess we address D front 7 in the draft. ALso, hoping we can get JuJU in the 2nd round.

  9. I have no idea how you can grade signings before they’ve even taken the field but I guess it’s hard to find ideas this time of year.

    At this point in the rebuild they are adding players to change the locker room culture and help install Shanahan’s system and expectations. Garcon is a veteran WR who knows the system and is still producing at a high level. I can’t see the reasoning behind this being a bad move. You still have to play the games and have players that can set a tone for the young guys behind them.

  10. The idea that rebuilding teams should only sign guys who will still be in their prime 3 to 4 years down the track is wrong. I have seen teams try this approach in other codes and all it does is set them back longer. You need to add some older vets that can show the young guys what it means to be a pro. Need to. And that’s what they are doing.

    1. Juszczyk doesn’t know what it means to be a pro? Hoyer doesn’t know? Aldrick Robinson doesn’t know? Staley doesn’t know? Bowman doesn’t know? Reid doesn’t know? Brooks doesn’t know? Kilgore doesn’t know? Beadles doesn’t know?

          1. Really? You think Brooks sets the right kind of tone? You think Robinson is a guy young WRs will look to emulate? You think Reid does?

            Just because a guy is a vet, doesn’t mean he is a leader or tone setter.

            1. Brooks gets a bad rap in the media but he’s good in the locker room and young players look up to him. Young players definitely look up to Reid.

              Did Boldin make any young receivers better? Young players need to sink or swim.

  11. “Problem is, the Niners paid him as if he’s a No. 1 receiver”

    The difference between the Garçon contract and the one given to Kenny Britt is minimal, $1.375mil for the term of both contracts and less than $350k if both players stay on their current deals through year 3.

    You liked the Britt signing, said the 49ers should have gone that way instead, yet he too is a #2 receiver and their contracts are extremely similar.

    1. Jack,
      You are right and Grant is wrong. How much they paid is irrelevant if he plays well. It might be a problem on a team with cap problems. Grant something else you don’t take into consideration in this article is changing the culture of the locker room. Some of these signings were 100% about changing culture. They can’t even start to build until the attitude changes.

    2. Garcon will make close to $23 million the first two years of the deal. I doubt he’ll be on the team for Year 3.

      1. I don’t care what the 49ers are paying the guy, I am going off what he costs the team and that’s their cap hits each year.

        And even if Garçon is gone after year 2 the difference each year is only slightly over $1mil.

        Saying the 49ers paid him like a #1 works I guess for those who won’t take the time to look at the details.

          1. That 23 million figure is irrelevant. He’s not costing 23 million against the cap over those 2 seasons. If he was I’d agree with you.

              1. The money is irrelevant Grant. They have the cap room and the contract will not be an anchor on their ability to sign people in the future. I could easily see Garcon playing out 3-4 years of this contract as well. Seems like a guy who keeps himself in great shape and isn’t dependent on speed for his success. He’ll likely be here for most of the deal if not all of it.

              2. Let’s see how Garcon’s pay per catch works out compared to say…Torrey Smith. Baalke signed Smith without a clue how we would bet the ball to him. I’m thinking that KS already has a plan of exactly how he will get the ball to Pierre – and more than just a few times.

      2. Grant here is like those passionate fans who feel that the players are paid out of their own personal retirement funds.

      1. Wish I knew more about Zuttah. . We need competition and depth at center.

        Anyone know if Zuttah (or Kilgore for that matter) can play guard? 49ers have zero depth at that spot.

      1. Reading Ravens fans comments, the guy wasn’t playing particularly well when he played. He was going to be released anyways, so not sure it was what you’d call “great”….

        1. If it was going to be a salary cap release, I’m liking the trade. Moving back 12 spots in the 6th is better than getting into a bidding war with a center desperate team.

          I see him as camp competition. If he doesn’t work out I won’t get my underpants in a bunch.

        2. Zutah replaces Martin and that’s not an improvement. Sounds like were worrying about spending Jed’s money again. Not our problem.

  12. Razor;
    The article states PFF rated him as the 14th best center and he was a Pro bowl alternate.
    Looks like an upgrade at center for the Niners, regardless of what the Ravens fans think.
    So maybe not “great”, but very good considering the minor amount of compensation that was given up.

  13. Hey, everybody! At least they’re doing something. Trent Baalke wouldn’t have done nothing until all the good ones are gone. I’m excited about the direction we’re headed! ?

  14. I know it’s going to take time, but I know the winning ways are coming again. Patience. Ninerfan for life!

  15. Grant started out well, but the last evaluations are a little harsh. Nobody deserves an F because every player may be an upgrade over the last roster. Some were a little old, but they bring veteran experience, and could become leaders in the locker room, and out on the field.

    Glad to see Lynch being so proactive, and with a ton of cap space, they could still sign a big name. Hope they sign all their RFAs, too.

    If the Niners sign an ILB, DT and EDGE player, they will be able to draft the BPA, while trading back to accumulate picks.

    1. Gotta agree with you on this one. Impossible for me to see how each signing is not an improvement. Seems like Grant and others are obsessing on how Jed’s money is being spent. AFAIC let Jed worry about that – it’s of no concern to me. All of these guys are there to compete to see who can make plays and win games. That’s all that matters.

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