49ers mailbag: Shut up already about Tom Brady

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Before we get to our 49ers mailbag, let’s address one idea that’s making its way around the internet and television for reasons that don’t extend past somebody trying to fill a hole in the talking media calendar.

You guessed it. Tom Brady.

The soon-to-be 43-year-old unrestricted free agent would likely love to join a Super Bowl contender. Particularly one he rooted for while growing up in nearby San Mateo, which was just minutes from Candlestick Park.

But that feeling would have to be mutual, and there’s been no indication from 49ers brass they have any interest in changing course.

“We’re extremely proud of Jimmy (Garoppolo) and committed to Jimmy moving forward,” general manager John Lynch said at the NFL Scouting Combine last month.

That’s a pretty decisive statement that doesn’t sound like typical waffling when power brokers say things like, “We’re trying to upgrade at every position.”

Kyle Shanahan hinted at a similar notion. “This is the first time that I want every single person on our team back because I think we have a team that could win a Super Bowl. I think we showed that last year.”

Yes, every single person includes the quarterback, who went to the Super Bowl during his first full season as a starter and could be better in 2020 with a full offseason to practice playing football, not relearning how to run as he described last spring following his ACL tear. Ask Matt Ryan about his second season in Shanahan’s offense in 2016 when he won MVP while running one of the most efficient offenses in league history.

Was Garoppolo good in the fourth quarter of the Super Bowl? No. Was he the only one to blame? No.

Garoppolo didn’t allow Patrick Mahomes to convert a third-and-15 to Tyreek Hill. Garoppolo didn’t interfere with Travis Kelce in the end zone. Garoppolo didn’t flag George Kittle for an offensive pass interference that took at least three points off the board at the end of the first half.

Garoppolo was significantly better than Brady in 2019, by the way. Switching quarterbacks would throw a massive wrench into the locker room culture they’ve tried so ardently to cultivate. Garoppolo is a locker room favorite of just about everyone.

So while the internet appears to be buzzing about the idea of replacing Garoppolo with someone who was born 14 years earlier (!), I’m not buying the idea the 49ers are interested or there is any actual logic behind the idea outside of Brady’s resume.

Now, to your questions!

Chris Ancheta asks: With the Niners being up against the cap this year, do you see the Niners possibly signing guys like Jimmie Ward, and Emmanuel Sanders to deals with low cap implications the first year but bigger cap numbers in year 2 and 3 since some are projecting the cap to be near 240 mil in 2021?

James Montgomery asks: With the cap situation being as it is, How can you resign Armstead (rumors are saying this is happening) and still sign DeForest Buckner and George Kittle to long term deals? I was never a math major, but the numbers don’t seem possible.

We’re mashing these two questions with one answer because they are intertwined.

As Chris (no relation) points out, there’s a chance the salary cap spikes under the new collective bargaining agreement in 2021. But the CBA has not been ratified and there’s no telling which way the players union will go on the vote, which should happen at some point over the next week.

The sticking point is adding a 17th game to the schedule, which a number of key players, including Richard Sherman, are against.

Anyway, the 49ers are entering the new league year with $13.1 million in cap space (according to Overthecap) or $17.8 million (according to Spotrac). No matter which number is correct, it’s clearly not enough to bring back Armstead, Buckner and Kittle — or Ward and Sanders — on their projected average annual salaries.

Which is why the 49ers could backload those contracts and push money into future seasons when the salary cap is significantly higher than this season. That would be in stark contrast to many of their recent big-money deals, including Garoppolo’s, that were frontloaded to take advantage of all the cap space the team had in 2016 and 2017.

Isaac asks: Are we gonna see Hurd next season or is that back problem career threatening?

Your guess is as good as mine.

I didn’t see him around the locker room from November on. Shanahan and Lynch confirmed at the combine Hurd couldn’t sit in meetings or long plane rides. His absence from the team in Miami for the Super Bowl — the entire organization was there — is a little baffling, even if his back was hurting.

But Lynch said the hope is Hurd is fully cleared for football activities when the offseason program starts in April. I’m dubious but we’ll have a better idea around that time either way.

Kobe asks: Do the 49ers keep that first round pick or trade for some day two picks? Also are they leaning more towards a receiver or a defensive back in this draft?

I would be very surprised if San Francisco picked at No. 31. They don’t have any draft choices in rounds 2 through 4, where they’ve found a number of key contributors in the last three drafts.

I’m guessing one trade back would net two picks — and it wouldn’t be surprising if they traded back multiple times to wind up with three or four bites at the apple on day 2.

To answer the second part of the question, I’m sure they’re looking at receivers and defensive backs. Their preference will fall on to which prospect they have ranked higher, not the position that might be a greater immediate need.

Tyler Withrow asks: Based on what you know right now and assuming we don’t trade pick 31, who do you take based on the players you believe will be there?

I believe they trade back, but in the little work I’ve done on the upcoming draft class, here’s who I think they consider at 31 if they stand pat.

Receiver: Brandon Aiyuk (Arizona State) might be the closest thing in the draft to Emmanuel Sanders. Jalen Reagor (TCU) looks like what would happen if Deebo Samuel took over Marquise Goodwin’s body, though Reagor didn’t test particularly well in Indy after adding weight.

Laviska Shenault Jr. (Colorado) is a less explosive version of Samuel but there are durability questions that might cause his stock to drop. Denzel Mims (Baylor) looks like he would play Kendrick Bourne’s role as a shifty possession receiver. Michael Pittman Jr. (USC) seems like the sleeper of the entire class who might be a gem on Day 2. He’s big (6-4), fearless and was a special teams dynamo early in his college career.

Defensive line: A.J. Epenesa (Iowa) seems like a versatile replacement for Armstead who could plug in right away, though he doesn’t have nearly the same physical tools (did you know the 49ers like Iowa guys?). Yetur Gross-Matos (Penn State) is better suited along the edge but would fit in well as a situational pass rusher to spell Dee Ford and Nick Bosa.

Safety: Ashtyn Davis (Cal) seems like a strong replacement at free safety if Ward were to leave. He’s physical and rangy. Antoine Winfield Jr. (Minnesota) seems like someone worth drafting and figuring out his position later. I’m hot and cold on Grant Delpit (LSU) but understand why he’s a popular player to San Francisco in mock drafts. He’s very talented. Xavier McKinny (Alabama) is highly though of, though unlikely to last until 31.

Cornerback: Noah Igbinoghene (Auburn) is a former receiver, like Richard Sherman (how’s that for analysis?). Trevon Diggs (Alabama) is tall and excels in zone coverage, which the 49ers play as often as any team in the NFL. Jaylon Johnson (Utah) is physical and aggressive, which the coaching staff loves in defensive backs.

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