It’s been a month and a half since the San Francisco 49ers announced the hiring of General Manager John Lynch, and just over a month since Kyle Shanahan was officially named the new Head Coach, and already they’ve done a lot with the roster as far as bringing in fresh faces as getting rid of old ones. With free agency dying down, it’s about time to rate their performance so far.
Safety Antoine Bethea started for the 49ers the past three seasons, finding declining levels of success each year. Bethea’s best season with the team was his first, where he earned the third pro bowl nomination of his career and his only with the team. In 2015, Bethea was placed on Injured Reserve after sustaining a pectoral injury in week 7. Last year, the veteran safety started all 16 games but was lackluster at best. Per Pro Football Focus, Bethea allowed 566 yards into his coverage last year, the most among safeties. He will be turning 33 years old in July and this was definitely the right time to let him go.
Wide Receiver Torrey Smith signed a 5 year, $40 million dollar contract with the 49ers in 2015, but failed to live up to even a fraction of that on the field. In 16 games in 2015, Smith logged 33 catches for 663 yards and 4 touchdowns, but was only targeted 61 times, the lowest of his career until that point. Last year in 12 games, Smith caught 20 passes for 267 yards and 3 touchdowns. His target numbers were even lower, only seeing the ball thrown his way 49 times. A lot of Smith’s performance can be placed on the team around him, but he just doesn’t have the skillset to be a true number one receiver. Maybe Shanahan could have found some use for him, but the best thing for both parties here was a divorce.
Center Marcus Martin, a third round pick in the 2014 NFL Draft, was the least surprising of these cuts. After ranking among the league’s worst offensive lineman in 2014 and 2015, Martin was only active for five games last year and started two due to injuries to the team’s staring linemen. Other than his young age (23), there’s no real argument that the 49ers should’ve kept Martin.
One of the best moves Lynch and Shanahan made was re-signing wide receiver Jeremy Kerley. Last year, Kerley was the team’s best pass catcher and earned a chance to compete for a stating role with the team next year. Aside from bringing back restricted free agents Mike Purcell and Carl Bradford, the 49ers let all of their other free agents walk. The most surprising of these might be linebacker Gerald Hodges, who was decent for the team last year, but is still replaceable.
The 49ers also signed a handful of free agents, chief among the being Wide Receiver Pierre Garcon, Fullback Kyle Juszcyzk, and Quarterback Brian Hoyer. Although none of these moves are overly splashy, they’re better than what the 49ers had before at these positions and are relatively cheap.
The most recent move, and maybe the best, by Lynch was the trade which sent the 49ers sixth round pick this year to the Baltimore Ravens for their sixth round pick and Center Jeremy Zuttah. A pro bowl alternate last year, Zuttah is a strong addition to the 49ers promising but inconsistent offensive line.
Overall, I’d say John Lynch (and Kyle Shanahan) have earned a solid B+ so far. They’ve taken a measured approach to everything they’ve done so far and haven’t gotten burned on any bad deals. While this offseason hasn’t been spectacular for the 49ers, there’s not much to complain about regarding the 49ers new Head Coach and General Manager duo.
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