San Francisco 49ers general manager John Lynch said the team was “talking to a few players” about contract extensions when speaking to the media yesterday. Lynch didn’t state who specifically, but here are four Niners who the team could be negotiating contract extensions with. And no, none of them are Jimmy Garoppolo.
Jimmie Ward, Safety
The former first-round pick was just voted by his peers as the 96th best player on the NFL Top 100 List and is the best safety on the 49ers’ roster. At 31 years old, Jimmie Ward is in the final year of his deal and is set to be an unrestricted free agent in 2023. It would be puzzling if the 49ers decided to wait for the entire off-season to extend Ward considering the team could’ve created over $6 million in cap space to spend in free agency earlier this off-season. But that still doesn’t change the fact that he is the best safety on the Niners and they elected to not draft a safety either.
It’s likely the 49ers will draft a safety next year regardless. Even if the Niners elect to extend Jimmie Ward, how long and how much would they be willing to pay a safety entering his mid 30’s with Deebo Samuel and Nick Bosa’s salaries increasing next year? Maybe the 49ers just pay Ward no matter what since he is one of their best players in the secondary.
Emmanuel Moseley, Cornerback
Moseley has been one of the most steady and reliable contributors on the field for the 49ers over the last few years. With 2020 standout CB Jason Verrett suffering an injury in Week One of last season, Moseley served as the Niners’ number one cornerback for practically all of 2021.
After being targeted 55 times in 2021, the 26-year-old didn’t allow a single touchdown and only allowed a passer rating of 65.6 in what was the best season of his career. Although Moseley missed six games last season, he still played 89% of possible defensive snaps which was a dramatic improvement from the previous two years where he played 56% in 2019 and 65% in 2020.
San Francisco signed CB Charvarius Ward this off-season to a 3-year-deal with the intention of him being the number one cornerback for this defense. That being said, with the production that Moseley provided while being called upon last season it’d be hard to just let him walk in free agency. Especially after seeing how the cornerbacks performed last season without two solid starters where we saw former 49ers Josh Norman and Dre Kirkpatrick struggling regularly. It certainly wouldn’t hurt to have both sides of the field in good hands with Charvarius Ward and Emmanuel Moseley for the next few years to help take pressure off of whoever is playing safety. That is if San Francisco can afford it of course.
With Moseley improving and only being 26 years old, another season like 2021 or better could price himself out of the 49ers’ budget next off-season. Who would you choose to extend between Emmanuel and 31-year-old Jimmie Ward if you could only pick one?
Azeez Al-Shaair or Dre Greenlaw, Linebackers
These two get paired together on this list because it’s tough to talk about extending one of them without mentioning the other. Both joined the 49ers in 2019 and are both 24 years old. Dre Greenlaw saw the field more than Azeez Al-Shaair in 2019 and 2020. Greenlaw also has two more career starts than Al-Shaair. However, Al-Shaair has played in 12 more games in his career than Greenlaw.
It’s hard to pick one over the other, but that may be necessary for the 49ers should they choose to keep either of them. It depends on their market value because it wouldn’t make sense to cash out on both linebackers when the Niners are already paying Fred Warner who is arguably the best linebacker in the NFL. So how do you choose between two underdogs who have been great contributors playing the same position?
As mentioned earlier, Al-Shaair has played in 12 more career games than Greenlaw. Including last season where Greenlaw was mostly sidelined due to injury, only playing three regular season games and starting two of them. Azeez started all 13 games he played last season and after seeing him step into what felt like Greenlaw’s role the two years prior, we can conclude the 49ers have an elite linebacking core.
Al-Shaair also played a career-high 89% of possible defensive snaps in 2021 in comparison to Greenlaw whose career-high is 82% in 2020, when most of the team was depleted from injury. So availability is a factor when trying to choose between the two.
Although recent availability history doesn’t swing in Greenlaw’s favor, he has been better in coverage than Al-Shaair. In 2021, Azeez allowed a passer rating of 101.3 and 3 touchdowns after being targeted 66 times. In comparison, Greenlaw has never allowed a passer rating above 92.2 and has never allowed a touchdown in coverage. And the season Greenlaw allowed a 92.2 passer rating was the 2020 season, cursed by injuries and therefore a supporting cast not up to par with 2019 or 2021.
Dre Greenlaw has a lower missed tackle percentage than Al-Shaair as well. Greenlaw’s career missed tackle percentage of 5% is significantly better than Al-Shaair’s 15.5%. While these are just numbers and statistics, sometimes this is what it comes down to when possibly having to choose between two productive players that play the same position as these stats could be brought up in negotiations.
It’s possible these contract talks that Lynch mentioned don’t advance into anything further until next off-season. But it would be good news for the faithful to hear that the 49ers are holding onto one or multiple key contributors for at least a little while longer and any of these four would be a great option. But the Niners have to consider what Nick Bosa’s salary will look like after extending his contract assuming they get his deal done.
Who would you like the 49ers to re-sign?