ANSW: The first step is to protect your quarterback investment. The next is to make your investment look good. Ergo, I'd say that offensive line and wide receiver are the top two priorities. Maybe the 49ers even split the difference and find themselves a top-tier tight end? Jimmy Graham is a free agent. Would that give the 49ers too many Jimmys/Jimmies? (He’s also 31).
ANSW: Put it this way: I think the 49ers would welcome Hyde back, but they are not going to break open the piggy bank for him. If Hyde gets a big offer on the open market, he's likely gone. The running back market has been flat recently, so we shall see. … The grand prize comes with one free meal at Bowinkle's Drive Thru. You sure you want to give that up?
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Rob Carter @roberob916 Is Tomlinson the future at LG? Does Garnett move to RG or are they looking to upgrade?
ANSW: I think they'd like to throw several cats into the bag and see which ones scratch and claw their way to the surface. (Is this going to get me in trouble with animal rights groups?). Right now there are three guys who definitely will compete for a starting spot at guard beginning in the spring:Laken Tomlinson, a revamped Joshua Garnett and Erik Magnuson. Brandon Fusco, a free agent in March, is a possibility to be re-signed. Notre Dame's Quenton Nelson will become a popular mock-draft pick for the 49ers. (So will Texas tackle Connor Williams, who is nasty enough to play guard until there’s an opening at tackle).
Erik Brekke @ekbrekke Since Shanahan got a late jump filling out his staff last year, do you see him going after anyone he couldn't get last year?
ANSW: It's a great question that I've asked myself and to which I don't know the answer. Like it always does, it'll depend on who gets fired and who gets hired in the next few weeks. I have no idea how Shanahan feels about the defense and whether he would leap at a chance to hire someone like Vic Fangio or whether he feels continuity with Robert Saleh is the better path. It was notable how well the defense has played this season when its own offense has been productive. Also consider the basic improvement this defense has made against the run.
Jason McCord @jasondmccord Do you think the 49ers envision Witherspoon as being a Richard Sherman-type corner for their defense or do they still need to make CB a high priority in the draft/free agency?
ANSW: I don't think it's an either/or situation. If the 49ers don't re-sign Dontae Johnson, they have to make cornerback a priority. Without Johnson, that would leave Greg Mabin as the only other boundary cornerback on the squad after Witherspoon.
Os Cruz @ThatOsCruz The OL seemed to give G-Rap a lot of time against CHI. Do you think the slimmed down playbook also helped them? (though not in the run game much)
ANSW: I think that had more to do with Jimmy G's athleticism and quick release as well as a banged-up Bears defense. Two of the 49ers' best games this season have come against suspect defenses -- the Giants' and the Bears'. Coincidence?
Kenny Cheung @captshoehorn Is courtland Sutton a shanahan receiver? Is (Penn State running back Saquon) Barkley too high draft pick for RB in Shanahan’s system ?
ANSW: Yes and yes -- unless the 49ers trade down. And right now they appear to be in an ideal spot to trade with a team that wants to come up and grab a quarterback. I still think, however, that if it came down between a running back and an offensive tackle, they would go with the lineman.
Brian Phipps @brandstrat Does the ascent of Jimmy G mean we’ve left rock bottom? (I’d also like a few days in Elverta.)
ANSW: The 49ers have liftoff and they're pulling some significant Jimmy Gs. (As I wrote earlier this year, they've finally separated from their conjoined twin).
How do you feel about this nickname for Jimmy: "Joe Montanner" (because he's so tan)
ANSW: Rio Linda, here you come!