Check out the top three prospects the 49ers could select in the 2019 NFL Draft
49ers general manager John Lynch is confident kicker Robbie Gould will be with the team when the regular season starts Sept. 8 in Tampa Bay. But exactly when Gould rejoins the team after being given the franchise tag in February is unclear.
“I can’t speak as to when he’s going to be here. But when we kick it off, he’ll be here,” Lynch said Monday.
Gould is one of three players that didn’t attend the start of the team’s offseason conditioning program last week. The other two, defensive end Dee Ford and guard Mike Person, were away expecting births of their children.
The 49ers have had offseason discussions with Gould’s representatives about a multi-year contract but have not come to an agreement. The feeling is Gould may prefer to sign a long-term deal with a team closer to his home in suburban Chicago. The deadline for a new contract with San Francisco is July 15, otherwise the negotiating window closes until next offseason.
“I think there’s a few things that make me feel really good,” Lynch said of Gould’s status. “First of all, Robbie’s extremely good at what he does and I think the last couple years have been indicative of that. Robbie’s a guy who works extremely hard at his craft. And by virtue of that position, he can do that wherever he is.
“I’m sure Robbie’s doing that. And Robbie’s going to be a part of us this coming year. I know that. We would like it to be longer than that. And we’ve made an attempt to make that happen.”
Gould, 36, is slated to be the NFL’s second-highest paid kicker in 2019 making $4.97 million. He made an NFL-high 97.1 percent of his field goal attempts last season (33 of 34) after leading the league with 39 makes during his first year with San Francisco in 2017.
With Gould’s status uncertain, the 49ers earlier this month expressed interest in Patriots free-agent kicker Stephen Gostkowski. But New England quickly re-signed him to a two-year, $8.5 million contract once the news of San Francisco’s interest became public.
“The thinking was we’ve got to do our due diligence in terms of being prepared for all scenarios,” said Lynch. “Stephen was a free agent and also very good. Our number one priority in that respect was to try to figure out something with Robbie. Stephen was there. I think our interest quickly got the Patriots to lock him down and that’s where he’s at.”
Draft class might solve 49ers’ needs at crucial positions
Naturally, the discussion surrounding San Francisco’s first-round pick dominated Lynch’s media availability on Monday. The focus was on defensive linemen Nick Bosa and Quinnen Williams, who could both boost the team’s lackluster pass rush.
But Lynch also discussed other notable positions the 49ers could address on Day 2 to find possible starters in the middle rounds. Receiver, cornerback and free safety all look like reasonable options given the way the draft is expected to shake out.
It was clear at the scouting combine San Francisco is in the market for a receiver to fill the void left by Pierre Garçon. There could be a bevy of options in Rounds 2 through 4 to give quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo a new option to improve last season’s worst-ranked red zone offense.
“Just like any position, that may be a spot where we try to improve our team,” Lynch said. “Fortunately, in this year’s draft, it seems to be a good stable of guys who can help.”
Lynch indicated the 49ers are keeping an eye on cornerbacks in this year’s class following the disappointing season from 2017 third-round pick Ahkello Witherspoon, who entered last year as an unquestioned starter for the first time. The team in the 2018 draft went back to the third round to take another cornerback in Tarvarius Moore, who played safety at Southern Mississippi, but would have to develop quickly to win a starting spot.
And with Richard Sherman turning 31 last month entering his ninth season, there’s a reasonable chance the 49ers look to fortify at cornerback again.
“That’s another one of those positions,” Lynch said, “where I think you have to consistently add those guys. we’re in nickel packages upwards of 70 percent of the time. And so, you got to have those guys and you have to have great depth at that position. So I think you’re always focused on trying to find good players.”
Lynch said San Francisco’s scouting department has given draft-able grades for 184 players in this draft class, which is down from previous seasons. It’s the team’s way of raising the standard.
“We feel like we gradually improved our roster,” he said. “It’s going to be tougher for draft picks to make our team. And so we wanted that reflected in the way we were grading draft-able players.”
Late scout honored
Lynch said the 49ers will keep the war room seat of area scout Reggie Cobb empty during the draft. Cobb passed away Saturday from a suspected heart attack at 50. He was a revered member of the organization.
“What I’m finding, is not only did Reggie have an impact on this building, the outpouring from the league has just been unbelievable,” said Lynch. “The scouts, coaches, GMs, he touched the NFL community. I think far beyond that, and we’re finding out more and more each minute with the correspondence we’re having with people, I think a lot of people just cared about him. I think that’s because he had a special way of making people feel really good about themselves.”
The coming season would have been Cobb’s 11th with San Francisco as an area scout and 26th in the NFL. He was named the NFC Scout of the Year by the Fitz Pollard Alliance in 2011. He was a second-round draft pick of the Buccaneers in 1990 and played seven seasons in the NFL at running back.