The time for tinkering with this team is over. It is time to fire up the buzzsaw.
Whether anyone likes it or not, the 49ers are loaded with excess baggage this year. These are players who, for one reason or another, haven’t performed up to their potential or simple aren’t making a meaningful contribution to the team right now. And given that this season is a lost one for measurable steps forward (wins, for those of you from Rio Linda), there is no reason to be sentimental about these gentlemen any longer.
Furthermore, we are sitting on a practically bottomless salary cap this year — somewhere in the neighborhood of $100 million, according to one source — and we’re assured of some very attractive draft picks in the spring. Bottom line: all of these underperforming men are completely and utterly…replaceable.
Here’s one guy’s opinion on who should, by next fall if not sooner, be cut, waived, released, or allowed to walk (limp?) away.
Zane Beadles: He did so poorly in the first few games of the season that the 49ers benched him and brought in a completely unknown free agent, Laken Tomlinson, to take his place. When he has played in this scheme, he gets beaten badly by defensive linemen who are smaller and faster than he is. He also gets beaten by players who are bigger and stronger than him. His contract is good for one more year, but there is no point in denying the obvious: Beadles is an aging, below-average blocker, with the lowest PFF ratings of any 49ers lineman, and who happens to be a genuinely good guy as well (and that’s the most painful part, on one level). Let’s save ourselves some cap space and some embarrassment, and save __________________ (fill in the name of the future starting quarterback) some undeserved pain. Bring in Andrew Norwell from Carolina. See ya, Zane.
Garry Gilliam: The guy has undoubtedly been one of the worst tackles to have seen regular NFL snaps over the course of the past four seasons. His PFF scores in pass blocking and run blocking have both improved this year, it’s true, but those numbers were so appallingly low when he came to Santa Clara that it’s almost a case of “twice nothing is still nothing.” Gilliam has seen more snaps than he probably deserved this season, but that was because the team’s only other tackles going into this season were John Theus and undrafted rookie Darrell Williams. They were also scrambling to fill the gaps left by Joshua Garnett’s injury and Zane Beadles’ poor performance. His contract is up at the end of this season anyway, so there seems to be no upside in holding onto him. Adios, Garry.
Garret Celek: His presence on this roster was a last-gasp effort when Vance McDonald left to seek fresh pastures, but his liabilities are just too profound. He fumbles, he drops passes, and he gets hurt; at 29 years old, improvement was a slim chance to begin with, and it hasn’t been fulfilled this year. If you scraped together all the yards he’s gained as a receiver in his entire career, it wouldn’t have even made the top ten among receivers for 2016 alone. George Kittle isn’t perfect by any means, but he has much more upside, in terms of both talent and future. We might have to eat some money to get shod of Celek, but he isn’t the force this team needs at tight end and it is probably worth the financial pain to part ways. Pack your bags, Garrett.
Earl Mitchell: The 49ers signed him to a four year deal this past winter for the express purpose of shoring up the run defense, and he has proven to be good…on passing downs. The competition with D.J. Jones hasn’t made Mitchell’s performance much better; he isn’t necessarily bad as much as he is nothing special. Wherever I look, I am seeing mediocre numbers associated with Mitchell throughout his career, and his PFF score has actually dropped this season further into the “Poor” category. I find it hard to believe that the team can’t do better in the draft or free agency than Mitchell, who is on the wrong side of 30 in any case. Ciao, Earl.
Chris Jones: Yeah, he’s on IR, but his contract is up at the end of the season anyway. What I am seeing is that DeForrest Buckner, Solomon Thomas, and Elvis Dumervil can do everything Jones can do, do it as well if not better, and do it faster. (Oh, and they aren’t getting injured repeatedly, either.) Granted, Jones hasn’t had much of a chance to develop this year because of his injuries, but I can’t see much of an upside in keeping him. NinersNation is right — let him walk away. TTFN, Chris.
Marquise Goodwin, WR: Apart from dropping practically everything our quarterbacks have thrown at him, Goodwin hasn’t made much of an impact on this team. When Goodwin was signed to the 49ers back in March, the first adjective that football writers pinned on him was “available.” If that isn’t damning with faint praise, I don’t know what is. Goodwin is speedy, but he hasn’t shown that speed much this season, and when he does he drops the bal;…put it all together and you have someone who is simply not a good fit for a Shanahan offense, and maybe not for the NFL at all. Letting him go isn’t going to be especially cheap (he has a 2 year deal worth $6 million), but it may be necessary. Au revoir, Marquise.
Aaron Burbridge, WR: Season 1 for Burbridge totalled seven receptions for 88 yards. Season 2 ended before it began, as the Michigan State product was put on IR the week before the Carolina game. Okay, he probably wasn’t given a fair shake by the Kelly/Baalke regime, but the competition was pretty heavy for him to get any sort of roster spot this year and last year. Assuming for the moment that the receiver corps for San Francisco doesn’t get any worse, and further assuming that Burbridge is recovered from his injury by mini-camp, he will be facing an uphill battle. Can the team afford to keep him or extend the effort to see if he makes the roster? Not for my money. Auf Wiedersehen, Aaron.
DeAndre Carter, WR: Far be it from me to throw stones at a fellow Sacramento State Hornet — I got my master’s degree there, and Carter did his undergrad work there — but what does he have to show for his career thus far? He was an UDFA in 2015; he signed with the Ravens and was waived; he then signed with Raiders practice squad and was released; he signed with the Patriots practice squad, spent time at their training camp before being waived, and now he’s on the 49ers practice squad. He has no guaranteed money coming to him, and the fact that no other team has signed him this season has got to make a body wonder. If he is just taking up room, he shouldn’t take it up in Santa Clara. Arrivederci, DeAndre.
DeAndre Smelter, WR: The fact that Smelter is one of the last remaining member of Trent Baalke’s “Team ACL” is enough reason for the team to show him the door, since he is a reminder of a legacy this team should remember as little as possible. That’s petty, in and of itself, so a more substantial reason to let Smelter go is that he keeps getting hurt: he injured his hamstring in 2016 and didn’t play in the preseason, and then was cut with an injury settlement. Now he’s on the practice squad, but the rumor is that he has issues with his knee and his shoulder. He has problems with holding onto passes, and it would take some serious woodshedding to make him into a capable route runner. We don’t have the time to re-educate another receiver; we need players who will be ready on Day 1. Don’t get run over, DeAndre.
Aaron Lynch: Yep, sacrilegious as it is, this player’s time has come and gone. His performances this year have improved, but if you pay careful attention to the film on Lynch, he doesn’t go full speed on every snap and doesn’t always appear hungry to party in the backfield. My sense is that, between his fluctuating weight issues and his ongoing ankle problems, is that he just doesn’t have the conditioning to stay on the field for the full game. To be fair, he’s learning his third defensive scheme in as many years, and he’s certainly sacked more quarterbacks than Eli Harold ever could have dreamed of, but I can’t see that Robert Saleh had Lynch in mind to be the team’s primary pass rusher. He is not the second coming of Aldon Smith, as some hoped he would be; Lynch is simply not a superstar at a time that the 49ers need one. It was fun, Aaron — now scoot.
Asa Jackson: Before he got to San Francisco, Jackson had been suspended twice by the NFL, placed on IR three different times, and either waived or released six times. Had the team not parted ways with Keith Reaser (which, blessedly, they did) this fall, Jackson wouldn’t have seen any action at all, and now he is hurt again. Can we afford to have a roster spot taken up by someone who is at best a bit player on special teams? I say Malcolm Butler is a much better option, if we can get him in free agency. Toodles, Asa.
Dontae Johnson: Again, an experiment that doesn’t seem to be panning out. We drafted Johnson in 2014, and he was all potential, but as Fox Sports said, he probably hasn’t improved in all that time. The longer Johnson plays, the more his statistics decline (although his tackling numbers are still impressive, if you look at them in isolation). Plus, he’s a bit of a tweener; he hasn’t functioned well at cornerback (particularly when he’s asked to play press corner, as opposed to lining up off the ball), and there’s no indication that he either wants to play safety or would be even marginally more effective at it. Ahkello Witherspoon had a higher draft card and has at least as much upside (plus, he’s younger). I wish I didn’t think that Johnson was part of the problem at this position, but he definitely isn’t the solution. Vaya con Dios, Dontae.
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