After what feels like an eternity, the 49ers are back to football and are now in the home stretch to the opening day on September 10th against the Panthers. Between now and then, lots will be written, hearts will be broken (probably the fans’ as a plucky rookie we all saw as the next big thing fails to make the 53) and we will get an inconclusive and probably misleading glimpse at the future of this football team.
But first to the Cardinal in the room, or rather, the Cardinal who may well not be in the room.
Solomon Thomas still unsigned
In the past two seasons, both third overall picks have been unsigned going into training camp. The nature of rookie contracts and the extent to which teams have attempted to eat into the predetermined guidelines set about by the 2011 CBA has seen rookie contracts taking increasingly long to agree on and sign. The reason this particular case is somewhat disconcerting to 49ers fans is that Thomas not only shares his draft slot with last year’s number three pick Joey Bosa, he also shares an agent. Bosa had a well publicised and lengthy holdout as a rookie before he signed his rookie deal.
The growing trend for teams to add offsetting language and deferred payments into rookie contracts, despite the 2011 CBA negotiation that made rookie contracts more team friendly, is making rookie contract negotiations more arduous for both sides. Bosa’s team came into conflict with the Chargers surrounding deferred payments and offset language in his rookie deal. The Chargers wanted both offsetting language and deferred payments within the deal, but Bosa’s team wanted to ensure that Bosa’s contract featured just one of either offsetting language or deferred payments (in this instance a deferral of part of his signing bonus). The Chargers have a history of contentious contract negotiations with their rookie signings, preceding the 2011 CBA and continuing after it.
Perhaps the 49ers are also pressing for both offsetting language and deferred payments and Thomas’ camp are pushing back accordingly, as is there right. This however, would be out of character with the 49ers’ recent negotiations with their first round picks, as the team allegedly paid both Arik Armstead and DeForest Buckner their full signing bonuses as rookies. Paraag Marathe, who played a significant role in the Armstead and Buckner negotiations, has been similarly involved in contract negotiations under the new front office.
As a result of their previous negotiating history, it seems most likely that the hold up for Thomas’ contract is more based on the fact that he’s been largely away from the team. We have seen several rookies sign their contracts in the past week and I would expect Thomas to follow shortly or perhaps even be announced today. There could well be small monetary issues at play which need to be ironed out, but I feel it is unlikely that the more significant issues of the team attempting to force both offsetting language and deferred payments into Thomas’ contract are not a cause of Thomas’ situation currently.
Some pre-release and unfinished Madden 18 ratings were leaking out on Tuesday and contain some interesting tidbits.
Kyle Juszczyk is the 49ers’ best player at 91 OVR, followed by Navorro Bowman at 88 OVR. The 49ers QB room is deemed fairly evenly matched, with Brian Hoyer a 75 OVR and both Matt Barkley and CJ Beathard coming in at 72 OVR.
The 49ers look reasonably set at RB with an 83 OVR Carlos Hyde, Tim Hightower at 80 and Joe Williams at 72, but there is no Matt Breida rating which may or may not change for release. At WR, Pierre Garçon leads the way at 85 OVR, and Vance McDonald is the best TE at 77 OVR whilst previous Nothing But Niners guests George Kittle and Cole Hikutini are rated 72 and 67 respectively.
Another former NBN guest Lorenzo Jerome comes in at 63 OVR, whilst Jimmie Ward is rated 80 as a free safety. Fellow DB and potential breakout star Rashard Robinson is rated 76. NBN’s most recent guest, Trent Brown, is 75 OVR.
The defensive line attributes are likely to change a little, as DeForest Buckner is rated 79 as a LE when he will actually play DT (expect a small increase) and Solomon Thomas is rated 79 as a DT when he will actually play LE. I would expect a small increase there too.
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An interesting stat
In a PFF article on the Titans, there was considerable emphasis placed on the importance of pre-snap motion in their offense to throw the opposition defense off balance and force them to make adjustments just before the snap. This helped to contribute to busts and confusion on the defense and enable big plays.
The Titans used pre-snap motion on 56.8% of their plays last season, which was 16.3% above the league average. The only team they trailed? The Falcons under Kyle Shanahan. Expect a lot of pre-snap motion this season. It will force the defense into quick adjustments, assist the quarterback in reading the defense before the snap and give players like Marquise Goodwin a little more space to operate in.