SANTA CLARA, Calif. — The San Francisco 49ers wrapped up their offseason program a bit early, as coach Kyle Shanahan shifted mandatory minicamp to the first full week of June and canceled remaining work for everyone except the rookies.
Now, the Niners turn their attention to the start of training camp, which is set to begin on July 29 at the SAP Training Center. It’s been an eventful offseason for the Niners, largely because of some of the significant things (i.e., trades) that did not happen.
Here’s a look at what we learned during the offseason program, what we know about some of the most important things the Niners face as camp approaches and some of the questions they still must answer before the season begins.
Lance stakes his claim
No storyline involving the 49ers will draw more attention than how Trey Lance settles in as the team’s starting quarterback. One offseason program cannot provide a definitive answer on Lance’s state of readiness, but there was plenty to take away from it for the young signal-caller.
With Jimmy Garoppolo staying away as he continues to rehabilitate his surgically repaired right shoulder, Lance got all of the reps with the starting offense and was present for the voluntary portion of the offseason every step of the way. The chance to get consistent reps with the first team was meaningful for Lance, who even acknowledged that he was in a “weird spot” last year but felt far more comfortable in all facets during the offseason program.
While Lance’s training camp will offer a better idea of how his season might go, teammates were impressed with how he handled himself, even as the Garoppolo situation continues to loom.
“I feel like Trey has done a really good job in really taking on all the different parts in being the QB1,” fullback Kyle Juszczyk said. “At least for myself, I feel like I’ve seen improvement on the field as far as his performance.”
Where do things stand with Deebo?
The full-squad minicamp was the first significant test of receiver Deebo Samuel‘s ongoing contract drama with the Niners. It was the first mandatory offseason activity that could have resulted in fines for Samuel if he continued to stay away. Samuel didn’t stay away, but he didn’t practice, either, opting to do some conditioning work on a side field. He was also engaged throughout the minicamp, playing catch with Shanahan’s son Carter and watching intently from the sideline with a play sheet in hand during 11-on-11 drills.
Sure, Samuel likely wanted to avoid the more than $90,000 in fines that would have come with skipping the minicamp but his presence and engagement still has to be seen as a positive sign that whatever has bothered him can still be resolved to keep him in the Bay Area in 2022 and beyond. That’s especially true when you consider other wideouts involved in contract discussions, such as Seattle’s DK Metcalf and Washington’s Terry McLaurin did not report for their respective minicamps.
“I know we go through the business part of this league, but I don’t think the relationship was ever too far away to not get it back to normal, and I think we’re working on that,” Shanahan said.
Could something get done with Samuel before training camp opens? It can’t be ruled out, and the Niners are expected to continue working toward that end over the next month or so.
Lost in the rest of the 49ers’ offseason issues has been an interior offensive line that is going to look dramatically different. Left guard Laken Tomlinson departed in free agency to the New York Jets and center Alex Mack retired, leaving right guard Daniel Brunskill as the only returning starter inside.
Second-year guard Aaron Banks is slated to step in for Tomlinson after playing just five offensive snaps as a rookie. At center, San Francisco has a few in-house options, though none has much experience playing in games. Center Jake Brendel, a journeyman with three starts to his name, worked with the starting unit in the offseason program and appears to have the inside track on that job.
Despite persistent speculation the Niners might pursue an outside free agent for the center spot, Shanahan didn’t seem in a hurry to make such a move (though one could still happen).
“We’ve been looking at all situations, and right now, we feel like we’re doing the best one for us,” Shanahan said.
Brunskill could also be a factor in the center battle with second-year lineman Jaylon Moore in line to push for a spot at guard. Nick Zakelj, Dohnovan West and Jason Poe could also be in the mix at center, though it’s unlikely Shanahan will entrust such an important position to a rookie.
What about Bosa?
While Samuel’s contract dispute has loomed large, not much discussion has centered on the fact that star defensive end Nick Bosa is also eligible for a lucrative extension for the first time. Of course, Bosa doesn’t seem like he’s paid much attention to it, either.
“I’m sure I’ll be notified,” Bosa said. “I’ve just been focusing on getting better. I’ll let my agent worry about that.”
Asked whether he’d like to get a deal done before the season, Bosa demurred, while Shanahan acknowledged that contract discussions with Bosa haven’t even begun. Bosa’s deal should be far less complicated than Samuel’s, but until there’s actual movement, it’s still unclear whether it’s even a priority for him at this point.