Sure, there’s the meddlesome owner. Yeah, there’s the bare bones roster. The team doesn’t have a quarterback, or a talented offense, or a talented defense. The fan base needs placating and will call for your head. Oh, and you have no head coach. But the San Francisco 49ers new General Manager won’t have nearly as tough a job as it might seem.
First, the meddlesome owner. Jed York has hopefully, finally learned from his mistakes. His downward spiral started when he famously dismissed Jim Harbaugh instead of Trent Baalke after the two butting heads created an untenable situation. Since dismissing Harbaugh and his 43-19-1 record (good for fifth-best all-time), the San Francisco 49ers have gone 7-25 (with only four wins against non-Rams teams), and have dismissed both Jim Tomsula and Chip Kelly… oh and he did what he should have done instead of ditching Harbaugh and he fired Trent Baalke. While Jed York hasn’t admitted the roster is a disaster, dismissing Baalke is a tacit admission of that. The new GM should be free to do what he wants with his roster decisions.
The 49ers will have plenty of capital for the new GM to utilize, and a roster that will be incredibly flexible going forward. As of writing this, the 49ers are projected to have a staggering $87.6 million in 2017 cap space, second to only Cleveland’s $100+ million for 2017. However, the removal of several aging veterans will give the 49ers’ new GM even more flexibility next season. Seven 49ers will have a cap hit of at least $5.5 million next year, but Antoine Bethea, Ahmad Brooks, and Colin Kaepernick are not locks to be 49ers in 2017. Removing these three players will provide the 49ers with an absolutely insane $115 million in cap space (and releasing several underperforming down-roster players gets that up to $117). Kaepernick is expected to option out of his contract, which saves the 49ers $14 million, and Brooks and Bethea save the 49ers a combined $13 million. That’s quite a bit of money to go after free agents to rebuild the roster.
If the new GM is hesitant to open the piggy bank as soon as he signs on the dotted line, then the 49ers’ draft picks will be his weapon of choice to rebuild this roster. Thanks to Trent Baalke’s penchant for amassing draft picks, the 49ers are expected to have eleven picks in the upcoming draft, including the #2 overall. If the 49ers aren’t in love with any particular player, this can be turned into even more picks (a la the Eagles last year). The cupboard is bare, so all these picks will be extremely useful in rebuilding this roster from the ground-up.
No head coach can only be seen as a good thing for the new GM, provided that the 49ers don’t choose one before they select their general manager. The in-fighting between the GM and the head coach already doomed the Baalke-Harbaugh relationship, and apparently strained the Baalke-Kelly relationship. The 49ers would smartly find a harmonious head coach and GM balance.
The 49ers are a dumpster fire, and there’s no getting around that. You don’t go 2-14 and overhaul your organizational structure if everything is going great. The 49ers’ new GM, however, will have a great deal of flexibility and capital to rebuild the prestige franchise, the San Francisco 49ers, in his image. There isn’t a great nucleus, but there are plenty of resources available to whoever builds the next roster. It isn’t the best possible draw, but it isn’t nearly as bad as it seems.