Kyle Shanahan is securing 2017 offensive starters before the 2016 versions are fully out the door.
According to national reports, the 49ers on Wednesday agreed to a two-year contract with quarterback Brian Hoyer and found him two pass catchers, Pierre Garçon and Marquise Goodwin.
ESPN also reported the team landed pass-catching fullback Kyle Juszczyk, 25, who spent his first four seasons in the league with Baltimore. That trio accounted for a combined 1,738 receiving yards last season. In 2016, the 49ers finished last in the league in passing offense with 2,911 yards.
No deals can be signed until the start of the NFL’s new year Thursday at 1 p.m. Pacific. Over the past two days, however, teams could negotiate with agents and agree in principle on contracts.
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“I can tell you that one of the great things about the relationship thus far with Kyle is he has a very focused and specific profile for what he wants at each position,” general manager John Lynch said last week at the NFL scouting combine. “And I think it’s as strong as any at the receiver position. And so you can look at traits and those are things we’re looking at. Traits (as far as) how he does certain things at each level of the route. And that’s one thing Kyle’s done a tremendous job of is developing a philosophy for what he’s looking for at each position.”
Those traits led Shanahan to Garçon, 30, who had the best season of his nine-year career when Shanahan was his offensive coordinator in Washington in 2013, and Goodwin, 26, a less accomplished receiver but one with blazing speed who played his first four seasons with Buffalo.
The pair would seem to form a thunder-and-lightning duo, with the physical Garçon – he has been likened to former 49er Anquan Boldin – as a possession receiver and Goodwin, a former track star who competed in the 2012 Olympics in the long jump, the new downfield threat.
Once they sign, they are the front-runners to replace 2016 starters Torrey Smith and Quinton Patton. Smith was released Tuesday and could sign with his former squad, the Ravens. Patton is a free agent who is not expected back.
San Francisco’s 2015-16 starting quarterbacks, Blaine Gabbert and Colin Kaepernick, are not expected back, either.
Hoyer, 31, will be on his seventh team when he signs with the 49ers. His acquisition likely puts an end to – or at least a damper on – speculation San Francisco will trade for Washington quarterback Kirk Cousins.
To do so, the 49ers would have to send draft picks to the Redskins and sign Cousins to a hefty long-term deal. They could gamble that Cousins becomes an unrestricted free agent next year, which still would require them to work out a long-term contract but would allow them to retain their draft picks. The 49ers also could draft a quarterback in what, at this point at least, seems like a promising 2018 class.
Under that strategy, the 49ers would need a bridge to 2018. Which is where Hoyer comes in. Like Garçon, he has a history with Shanahan, his offensive coordinator with Cleveland in 2014. He completed just 55.3 percent of his passes that season for 12 touchdowns with 13 interceptions and finished with a lowly 76.5 passer rating. But the talent-starved Browns went 7-6 in his starts.
Last season with the Bears was the opposite. Hoyer posted a 98.0 passer rating and threw for six touchdowns with no interceptions in five starts before suffering a season-ending a broken left (non-throwing) arm. But the Bears won only oncein those starts and didn’t score more than 23 points.