The San Francisco 49ers Team Needs for 2021 are difficult to pin down, due to the number of injuries they faced in 2020, but nevertheless, we will take a shot at giving you the clearest possible picture. In the 2019 season, the San Francisco 49ers finished the regular season with a record of 13-3 and started 8-0. They then dominated the Minnesota Vikings and the Green Bay Packers as they marched into Miami for the Super Bowl to play the Kansas City Chiefs. We all know how that ended for the 49ers. Still, heading into the 2020 season the 49ers found themselves with a strong squad and the drive to go one better and get their sixth Lombardi.
San Francisco’s 2020 Season
During the offseason, the 49ers had to say goodbye to Emmanuel Sanders and DeForest Buckner as they found new homes in New Orleans and Indianapolis respectively. Despite playing in the Super Bowl the 49ers still found themselves with two first-round draft picks. Javon Kinlaw and Brandon Aiyuk came with the 14th and 25th picks in the draft. Both rookies stepped straight in and played big roles in what turned out to be a disappointing season.
San Francisco started the season with a loss at the Arizona Cardinals and then ended up racking another nine losses on their way to a 6-10 record. From early in the season, the 49ers season seemed doomed. A combination of a Super Bowl hangover and a plethora of injuries made getting six wins seem like a winning year. At one point in the season, the 49ers had 22 players out injured and a further eight who had missed significant time.
A list that included Jimmy Garoppolo, George Kittle, Deebo Samuel, Raheem Mostert, Nick Bosa, Solomon Thomas, Dee Ford, and Richard Sherman. Then they got turfed out of their stadium and finished the season as the “Arizona 49ers”.
Needless to say, it was a season to forget for the 49ers and they will be eager to get going, here are the San Francisco 49ers team needs for 2021.
49ers Team Needs
Get Used to DeMeco Ryans
The first thing on the 49ers team needs list was the difficult task of replacing defensive mastermind Robert Saleh. After serving as defensive coordinator for San Francisco from 2017 to 2020, Saleh took the head coach position at the New York Jets. 2020 was a difficult year for the 49ers due to the number of injuries but in 2019 he had a year to remember.
In 2019 the 49er’s defense was first in passing defense (169.2 yards per game), second in total defense (281.8 yards per game). They also added 48 sacks which were good for fourth in the league and forced 27 turnovers throughout the season. Needless to say, the 49er’s built a formidable defense with Saleh at the helm and he will be difficult to replace.
San Francisco found their man and promoted from within. DeMeco Ryans became the linebackers coach in 2018 and after Saleh’s departure, he gained promotion to the defensive coordinator position. After playing in the league for 10 years, Ryan has spent his entire coaching career with the 49ers. Joining in 2017 as a defensive quality control coach Demeco has worked his way up and gained the respect of the players by doing it.
If you want to see the effect he has had you just need to take a look at the progression of Fred Warner. Warner played in all 16 games in 2020 and led the defense with 125 tackles, he also added two interceptions, two fumble recoveries, one forced fumble, and a sack. If Ryan can have the same impact on the rest of the defense that he had on Warner then the 49ers shouldn’t miss a step.
Next up on the 49ers team needs list is deciding the future of the quarterback position in San Fransisco. Garoppolo, the former second-round pick for the New England Patriots signed a 137.5 million dollar deal with the 49ers in 2018. He then went out injured that year and returned in 2019 to lead his team all the way to the Super Bowl. After another season plagued with injuries in 2020 could Kyle Shanahan move on from his signal-caller before the start of the 2021 season?
In the few short games that he did play, six to be exact, he didn’t exactly light up the league. In the six games, he only managed just over 1000 yards passing and had 5 interceptions with only seven touchdown passes. In a few of those games, he found himself getting benched for C.J. Beathard or Nick Mullens. Not exactly the performances you want from your well-paid quarterback.
In 2021 Jimmy G will cost just under 27 million dollars against the cap but if they decide to let him go they would save almost all of that number, $24,100,000 to be exact. With that amount of extra cap space and eight draft picks in the upcoming draft the 49ers could look to move on from their quarterback.
One man in particular that could draw their attention is Deshaun Watson. It is very clear that Watson is not happy in Houston and has expressed his wish to get out of town. San Francisco could be the very team for him. The way that Watson’s contract is made up could leave him open for a one-year rental type deal.
In 2021 Watson will only cost about ten million against the cap, meaning that if San Francisco can work a deal for him(which will include a lot of picks) they won’t blow their budget on one player. I imagine it will cost two firsts and a handful of other picks for the Texans to consider a trade but here comes the clever bit.
Bring Watson in for a year when he costs very little and add him to your already talented roster that will get all their injured players back and they will instantly become a favorite for the playoffs. Then, in 2022, trade Watson away and get back all the draft capital that it took to get him. You get a star quarterback for about ten million dollars and put yourself right back in the mix for the Super Bowl.
Once you get the quarterback position sorted, the next stop for the 49ers team needs train is to make sure that you protect him. Acquired in a trade from Washington in 2020 Trent Williams became a free agent at the end of the season. A former first-round pick excelled at Washington being selected to seven pro bowls between 2012 and 2018. Then following the trade he was selected to the pro bowl again as a 49er. Bringing Williams back for another year should be a priority for the San Francisco management.
After Williams, the big decisions come on the defensive side of the ball. Sherman and Thomas are both free agents after having a season ruined by injury. Sherman proved that in the few games he played he can still play a big role for this defense and more importantly is a great mentor for younger players. Whether or not he comes back will be down to how much it will cost San Francisco.
As for Thomas, after having his fifth-year option declined the defensive end needed to have a stellar 2020 year in order to make the grade for this San Francisco team. A torn ACL in Week Two ruined his season and he will now find himself looking for a new team in 2021. After coming into the league rated as the second-best defensive end behind Myles Garrett, Thomas has failed to impress, only racking up 6 sacks in total. Comparing that to Garrett who has 42.5 sacks and it won’t be a surprise to see the defensive end playing in a new uniform next year.
A player who could help with this is Pittsburgh Steelers free agent, Bud Dupree. Dupree has impressed year after year and if it wasn’t for a season-ending injury in 2020, he was set to have his best season to date. Through the eleven games that he did play, he racked up 23 tackles, forced two fumbles, and racked up eight sacks. Working in tandem with T.J. Watt, Dupree proved that he is one of the best edge rushers in the league and will be sought after by many teams in the upcoming free agency.
2021 NFL Draft
Last on the 49ers team needs list is the 2021 NFL Draft. As previously mentioned, if San Francisco does make a move for Watson, it will cost them a few firsts and definitely the first in 2021. That being said they will still have a few selections to help bolster their team. With the team reasonably well set up at the wide receiver, tight end, and running back positions the majority of their draft capital should be spent n the offensive line and defensive positions. If the first-round pick is traded away then in the second round the 49er’s would do well to look at the big offensive guard from Ohio State, Wyatt Davis.
The 49er’s so a big drop-off in their running ability from 2019 to 2020. In 2019 they ran for 144.1 yards per game and compared to only 118.1 in 2020 the need to strengthen the run game is obvious. Davis was one of the best interior linemen in 2020 and can instantly become a starter in 2021 and help this team’s run game.
Whether or not Sherman decides to stay with the 49ers they will need to look for some help in the secondary. That could come with their third-round pick. Caden Sterns, the safety from Texas, notched 52 tackles, an interception, and three pass breakups in a shortened 2020 season. Opting out in November, Sterns prepared for the NFL draft and would be a good addition to this 49ers team. Once the back-end of the defense is sorted, San Francisco needs to find players to get pressure on the quarterback.
If San Francisco does pull the trigger and bring in Dupree then with their fifth-round pick in the draft they should look to a player that can play in rotation with him and the returning star, Nick Bosa. Chris Rumph II is a 6”4, 235-pound speed machine who racked up eight sacks in his final year with Duke. Whether or not they bring in Dupree, Rumph could be a gamechanger on the defensive side of the ball.