As we get closer to NFL free agency, many teams made big moves before the March 15 deadline. The San Francisco 49ers are no exception. Having lost many valuable players like offensive lineman Daniel Brunskill (or the Aaron Donald equalizer) and linebacker Azeez Al-Shaair to the Tennessee Titans, cornerback Emmanuel Moseley to the Detroit Lions and offensive tackle Mike McGlinchey to the Denver Broncos, the front office has a lot of pressure to replace these lost pieces.
Let’s talk about the big resignings. Jake Brendel, the 49ers center, just completed his first season starting for the team and definitely did a good enough job to generate some buzz among coaches and general managers. This was a safe signing and though Brendel hasn’t been fantastic– 22nd amongst centers in pass block win rate and eighth in run block win rate — he brings stability to the team and will continue to improve. The Niners also resigned defensive tackle Kevin Givens and safety Tashaun Gipson to a one-year contract.
Another seemingly great move is the signing of former Eagles defensive tackle Javon Hargrave. He was the projected number two free agent in ESPN’s top 100. The agreement was a four-year, $84 million dollar deal with at least $40 million guaranteed. Now, the Niners can add him to a powerhouse arsenal of defensive players including Nick Bosa, the reigning defensive player of the year. Though this isn’t quite addressing the Niners’ secondary like I would’ve wanted, it definitely strengthens their defense as a whole. It also doesn’t hurt that this makes the Eagles much weaker — a team that the Niners are probably going to have a lot of close games against.
The 49ers signed former Carolina Panthers quarterback Sam Darnold to a one-year deal. Sure, I knew that it was potentially in the books to add to the quarterback room since both Trey Lance and Brock Purdy are recovering from injuries, but I don’t know how I feel about this.
All three quarterbacks are injury prone and haven’t proved that they can be consistent and healthy. Darnold has experience and is walking into every QBs dream situation. Hopefully, he doesn’t play more than he has to because when it comes down to quarterback play, I don’t think he can deliver.
Of course, the Niners had no reason to sign a QB except that they traded away what we once thought was our franchise QB, Jimmy Garoppolo, to Sin City.
Earlier this week, Garoppolo closed a three-year, $67.5 million dollar deal with the Las Vegas Raiders. Garoppolo spent the past six seasons with the 49ers and most notably led them to the 2019 Super Bowl before ultimately losing to the Kansas City Chiefs.
After an illustrious career at Eastern Illinois, Garoppolo was drafted in the second round of the 2014 Draft. He was picked up by Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots, winning two Super Bowls as a backup to Tom Brady.
In October 2017, Garoppolo was traded to the 49ers. I remember where I was the moment it was announced that he was coming to the Bay. I remember watching the game against the Seahawks with our awful 2017 team — a team that at one point was 1–10. Garoppolo was brought in at the last minute, and he wasted no time in throwing a touchdown. That was the first bit of hope I had felt in a long time. Of course, he ended up winning the last five games of the season, making his record as a starter 7–0 (including his two starts for the Patriots).
Soon after, in February 2018, the 49ers and Garoppolo agreed on a five-year contract worth $137.5 million, making it the largest annual contract in NFL history. The next five years resulted in one Super Bowl appearance/NFC Championship and two divisional clinches.
As a lifetime Niners fan, I knew this trade was bound to happen, though it doesn’t make it any easier. Through all the adversity that he faced, he was always a great leader and represented our team the right way. Though his injuries really got the best of him and limited his potential for the team, he never let it get the best of him. Whether you like him or not, Garoppolo brought a lot of joy back into Niner football.
It’s been a tumultuous time for Niners fans, but it’s too early to tell how these changes are going to play out. We can only hope the team takes advantage of the offseason and comes back in the summer to play some great football.