John Lynch and Kyle Shanahan spoke publicly at the NFL scouting combine in Indianapolis on Wednesday and Thursday, spoke publicly for the first time in almost three weeks. They won’t speak to the media again until free agency starts mid-March. Their words are limited.
I didn’t attend their interviews at the combine — I’m not there. I watched on TV and read quotes online just like you. And I drew conclusions.
These are my top five.
1. The 49ers regret drafting Reuben Foster.
Here’s what Lynch said: “We knew we were going to have to put great structure around (Foster). One lesson I learned, it’s probably a lot easier to do that in the college environment than in the NFL. These guys have to be men.”
Lynch thought he could keep Foster out of trouble, just as Alabama head coach Nick Saban kept Foster out of trouble in college.
But, Lynch forgot or didn’t know or didn’t care that NFL teams can’t babysit their players year round — the Collective Bargaining Agreement forbids contact between teams and players during the offseason. Almost five months.
Every year from January to May, the 49ers will have to cross their fingers and hope Foster doesn’t get arrested. They’re in a position no other team would want to be in. That’s why everyone else passed on Foster during the first round of the draft last year.
If Lynch could get a do-over in the 2017 draft, he probably would pass on Foster. Drafting Foster was one of the growing pains Jed York said Lynch would experience as a rookie GM.
2. The 49ers plan to make big moves during free agency.
Here’s what Lynch said: “I think that’s a huge bonus for us that we have (Jimmy Garoppolo) locked up going into free agency. I think it makes us a place where a lot of people want to be and we’re excited about that.”
Lynch stressed the importance of finishing Garoppolo’s contract before free agency, so the 49ers could use him to draw the best free agents. That must mean Lynch is targeting some of the best free agents.
Last year, the 49ers signed a bunch of low-to-mid-priced free agents, most of whom had played for Shanahan or defensive coordinator Robert Saleh in the past.
The coaches were the draw for free agents.
Now, the quarterback is the draw. And Lynch believes the quarterback can draw top talent.
Look for Lynch to target an elite guard — Justin Pugh, Andrew Norwell or Josh Sitton. And look for Lynch to target an elite cornerback — Trumaine Johnson, Rashaan Melvin or Aqib Talib if the Denver Broncos release him, as they may according to reports.
3. The 49ers are prepared to lose Carlos Hyde.
Here’s what Lynch said: “We’ve had discussions with Carlos all the way through the season. We haven’t been able to come to an agreement, but those discussions are ongoing.”
The 49ers probably made Hyde an offer, not a whopping big offer. Hyde probably thinks he can get a better offer from another team and almost certainly will. Expect him to leave. He could be a Pro Bowler in a shotgun offense. His career rushing average is 4.9 yards per carry when the quarterback is in the shotgun.