On March 10, Kyle Shanahan and John Lynch gathered on stage with their newly signed free agents. They were like a couple of kids surrounded by new toys on Christmas morning.
They were “thrilled,” “excited,” “pumped” at their $50 million haul, which they said would be part of the backbone of the 49ers’ rebuilding effort.
Eight months later, the elation is gone, the batteries are missing, some toys are broken and others already have been exchanged. Was the money well spent?
In a few cases, yes, but through nine games it seems as if the 49ers are getting more use out of their low-key – and inexpensive – free-agent signings than their more dazzling purchases. Here’s a cost-benefit analysis that ranks those offseason acquisitions. Salary cap numbers and where the players rank on the team’s pay scale are from OvertheCap.com.
Kicker Robbie Gould – The 49ers’ former kicker, Phil Dawson, has missed more field goals at Levi’s Stadium (one) this year than Gould. His 18 field goals are tied for seventh-best in the league and his 65 points are 41 more than San Francisco’s next highest scorer, Carlos Hyde. Not too shabby for someone who was without a job for half of last season. Cap number: $1.75 million, ranking 21st highest paid on the roster.
Guard Brandon Fusco – He’s not one of the NFL’s top guards and the 49ers may not rush to re-sign him when he becomes a free agent again in March. But Fusco ranks second here because of a modest salary and the fact that, unlike nearly everyone else on this list, he’s played through every game. Of a possible 619 offensive snaps, Fusco has played 605. Cap number: $1.4 million, 25th.
Wide receiver Pierre Garcon – Yes, the 49ers are paying an awful lot of money – he signed a five-year, $47.5 million contract – for a 31-year-old who will miss half the season. But Garcon isn’t injury prone, rather he’s the victim of a cheap shot in Philadelphia. And his value is underscored by this: Of all San Francisco players out with injuries this year, the 49ers will miss Garcon the most. Cap number: $6.42 million, second.
Nickel cornerback K’Waun Williams – The 49ers have been so impressed by Williams that they’ve already signed the nickel cornerback to a contract extension. He’s missed the last two games with a quadriceps strain but is a possibility to return this week. Cap number: $1.52 million, 23rd.
Linebacker Brock Coyle – He was signed largely for his special-teams ability but, barring injuries, he’ll likely start alongside Reuben Foster for the rest of the season. Coyle played well against the Eagles and Cardinals. That the 49ers special teams have been solid all season also speaks well of the linebacker. Cap number: $1.45 million, 24th.
Nose tackle Earl Mitchell – The middle of the 49ers defense – linebacker and safety – has been rocked by injuries and transactions. Mitchell and DeForest Buckner have offered a measure of stability, although the 49ers rank last in rushing yards allowed per game this year. Pro Football Focus ranks Mitchell 104th of 117 interior defenders based largely on how he’s defended the run. Cap number: $2.92 million, 11th.
Outside linebacker Dekoda Watson – The 49ers are paying him to be a core special-teamer and that’s what he’s been. Cap number: $1.33 million, 28th.
Wide receiver Aldrick Robinson – Robinson has something neither Garcon nor Marquise Goodwin has this season – a touchdown. A single score is nothing to brag about, of course, but with Garcon out, Robinson’s opportunities will expand in the second half of the season. The 49ers should get some bang for a player with a modest salary. Cap number: $1.8 million, 20th.
Wide receiver Marquise Goodwin – Goodwin is low on this list because expectations were so high. While he’s had three catches of 50 yards or more, he’s had just as many drops. Still, he needs only 15 receiving yards to surpass his previous single-season high, 431 yards. Cap number: $3.25 million, 10th.
Tight end Logan Paulsen – He’s been on and off the roster four times already. He’s not part of the team’s future but he’s not breaking the bank, either. Cap number: N/A
Defensive end Elvis Dumervil – You might have forgotten that Dumervil is still with the team. That’s because he gets on the field so seldom. He’s played 158 of a possible 672 snaps this season, 23.5 percent. Dumervil leads the 49ers in sacks. But his total, 3 1/2 sacks, is lower than nearly every other team’s sack leader, a stat made worse by the fact that the 49ers have played one more game than all but seven teams. Cap number: $3.37 million, ninth.
Quarterback Brian Hoyer – Hoyer’s had one true chance in his career to seize a starting job from start to finish. He lost that opportunity after just six starts. But look at his acquisition this way: If he wasn’t on the 49ers’ roster, would the Patriots have been as eager to deal them Jimmy Garoppolo? Cap number: N/A
Full back Kyle Juszczyk – Before they signed him, Shanahan and Lynch asked themselves if they were paying a fullback too much. The answer: Yes, at least this season. Juszczyk is the highest-paid fullback in the NFL but only has nine catches and as many touchdowns (one) as lost fumbles. Since they’ve arrived, Shanahan and Lynch have combed the roster for players whose production doesn’t match their hefty price tag. One of their most prominent March acquisitions fits that description more than anyone. Cap number: $3.75 million, seventh.
Others – Tackle Garry Gilliam and linebacker Malcolm Smith are on injured reserve.
Ask Me Anything
The Bee’s Matt Barrows is hosting an AMA today from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. to answer questions about the 49ers, the Jimmy Garopollo trade and, well, anything. www.reddit.com/r/NFL