We break down the newest San Francisco 49ers after the first week of free agency: Kwon Alexander, Dee Ford, Tevin Coleman, Jason Verrett, Jordan Matthews, and David Mayo.
On the heels of another losing season and armed with over $66 million in salary cap space, we were prepared for the San Francisco 49ers to be active during the first week of 2019 NFL free agency. 49ers general manager John Lynch and head coach Kyle Shanahan — as well as the team’s “chief contract negotiator and salary cap architect” Paraag Marathe — did not disappoint. By the week’s end, the Niners landed six potential starters on offense, defense and special teams. Here’s what you need to know about the newest members of San Francisco 49ers:
LB Kwon Alexander
The 49ers made their first splash move of free agency by coming to terms with former Tampa Bay Buccaneers inside linebacker Kwon Alexander during the NFL’s two-day “tampering period.” News of the signing was initially reported by ESPN’s Adam Schefter:
49ers intend to sign former Bucs LB Kwon Alexander to a 4-year, $54 million deal that includes $27 million guaranteed, per source.
— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) March 11, 2019
Given that the post-Trent Baalke 49ers took a player rehabbing an ACL injury and briefly made him the “highest-paid inside linebacker in football,” the click-bait/freak-out competition between the national sports media and 49ers Twitter did not disappoint. However, Niner fans were no match for their media counterparts, who labeled the deal as “massive,” “eye-popping” and “huge” — often in the same 200-word article.
Once the details of the contract were revealed, descriptions of the front-loaded deal ranged from “team-friendly,” to “team-friendly” to “team-friendly.” Despite the initial overreaction, Alexander’s acquisition isn’t a slam dunk for San Francisco. The 49ers paid top-dollar for a relatively unproven player — despite his lone Pro Bowl appearance — who relies on his instincts and athleticism, as opposed to perfected technique, in order to generate success. Given the team’s recent blunders at the linebacker position, San Francisco better not miss on Alexander, who was known as the heart-and-soul of Tampa Bay’s defensive unit.
EDGE Dee Ford
The San Francisco 49ers made their most significant offseason move in the hours leading up to free agency, as the team acquired one of the NFL’s elite edge rushers, Dee Ford, from the Kansas City Chiefs. Lynch sent the 49ers’ second-round draft pick in 2020 to Kansas City in exchange for Ford, who was franchised by the Chiefs earlier this month at the cost of $15.4 million. The deal between the two teams was contingent on a contract extension between Ford and San Francisco. The two sides came together on a pricy but front-loaded five-year deal later that evening.
It’s rare for a team to place a pass-rushing specialist of Ford’s caliber on the trade block, even with the Chiefs’ planned defensive scheme changes. There’s always room on a roster for Pro Football Focus’ top-graded pass rusher from 2018, thanks to Ford’s league-leading 84 quarterback pressures. Although the 49ers have yet to decide where their new edge rusher will line up on base downs, we know how Ford will be deployed by the team in passing situations:
RB Tevin Coleman
Shanahan likely had a say when the Atlanta Falcons selected running back Tevin Coleman in the third round of the 2015 NFL draft, given Shanahan’s status as the Falcons’ offensive coordinator at the time. Four years later, Coleman has reunited with his former coach on a two-year deal, as the speedster joins a crowded San Francisco backfield. Splitting time shouldn’t be an issue for Coleman, who thrived in a similar role alongside running back Devonta Freeman in Atlanta.
Over his last three seasons, Coleman averaged 981 yards from scrimmage and 9.3 touchdowns. The running back is a threat to score from anywhere on the field, thanks to his sub-4.4 speed and his receiving ability. The 49ers managed to land Coleman on another team-friendly contract that includes a base salary of just $3.6 million in 2019. Further sweetening the deal, Coleman’s contract doesn’t include a signing bonus, which gives the 49ers the flexibility to potentially move on from the RB after next season with no salary cap implications for the team.
CB Jason Verrett
At 5-foot-9 and under 190 pounds, former Los Angeles Chargers cornerback Jason Verrett doesn’t fit the mold of the big-bodied cornerback 49ers defensive coordinator Robert Saleh likes to use in his Cover 3 defensive scheme. Verrett does, however, fit the mold of a low-risk free-agent investment who has the potential to reap substantial returns for the 49ers if the fierce undersized corner can stay healthy in 2019.
Verrett has an extensive injury history dating back to his time in college at Texas Christian University, but that didn’t stop the Chargers from drafting Verrett in the first round of the 2014 NFL Draft, partially due to his impressive workout at the NFL Scouting Combine. Verrett’s professional career started strong, particularly during his second season, when his PFF coverage grade of 90.1 ranked first in the NFL. Unfortunately, injuries limited the cornerback to just five starts over the following three years. Signing Verrett to a one-year, $3.6 million “prove-it” deal was a perfect move for the cornerback-needy 49ers.
WR Jordan Matthews
Wide receiver Jordan Matthews is another new member of the San Francisco 49ers looking to get his career back on track after multiple injury-riddled seasons. Matthews was a second-round draft pick of the Philadelphia Eagles in 2014, and looked the part to kick off his career, as he scored eight touchdowns in each of his first two seasons in the league:
Matthews was traded to the Buffalo Bills in 2017, but landed back with the Eagles after sustaining thumb, knee and hamstring injuries during the following year with the Bills and the New England Patriots. Despite his 6-foot-3 frame, Matthews has worked mostly out of the slot throughout his NFL career. After signing a one-year deal with San Francisco, the wideout should expect to see snaps from a variety of splits in 2019, given the number of slot receivers currently on the 49ers’ roster, and the team’s overall lack of height at the position. Locked on 49ers Podcast host Brian Peacock’s expectations for Matthews couldn’t be higher, given the wide receiver’s esteemed status as a Shadow 49er from the 2014 NFL Draft.
LB David Mayo
As the 49ers announced the release of inside linebacker and special-teamer Brock Coyle, San Francisco also officially announced the team’s two-year deal with inside linebacker and special-teamer David Mayo, formerly of the Carolina Panthers. Similar to Coyle during his tenure with the Seattle Seahawks, Mayo was primarily a special teams player for the Panthers who also filled in as a backup linebacker.
After Mayo failed to shine during his four-game stint in relief of WILL linebacker Thomas Davis last year, Carolina parted ways with their former fifth-round draft pick at the conclusion of the season. The financial details of Mayo’s new contract, which is unlikely to include much in the way of guaranteed money, have yet to be disclosed. Given his lack of productivity at linebacker over his four-year career, the former Sun Belt Conference Defensive Player of the Year will need to work his way onto the San Francisco 49ers’ final roster with a strong showing on special teams.
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49ers vs. Bengals: San Francisco Week 2 Game Balls & Highlights
Game balls and highlights from the San Francisco 49ers’ 41-17 victory over the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 2 of the 2019 NFL regular season.
On yesterday’s Locked On 49ers Podcast, host Brian Peacock provided a rundown of the Niners’ game — including game notes and key takeaways — and handed out four game balls to the San Francisco 49ers from their Week 2 blowout win over the Cincinnati Bengals.
The 49ers made a statement to the rest of the league during their second consecutive road victory to start the 2019 NFL regular season. Outside of a long garbage-time touchdown given up in the final minute of the matchup, the 49ers’ defense was dominant, finishing the game with four sacks, nine tackles-for-loss and one interception.
But despite holding the Bengals to just 25 yards on 19 rushing attempts, San Francisco’s offensive unit shined the brightest in Week 2 — which brings us to our first game ball:
49ers HC Kyle Shanahan
San Francisco’s offensive attack was nearly unstoppable in Week 2, and much of their success should be credited to 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan, who called one of his best games since arriving in the Bay Area over two seasons ago. The Niners tallied 572 net yards on offense at an 8.4 yards-per-play clip, and were forced to punt the ball just once during meaningful play, prior to the final two minutes of the game.
Shanahan — the 49ers’ de facto offensive coordinator — was always one step ahead of the Bengals’ defense, which was constantly confused by the Niners’ flurry of misdirection plays. With Cincinnati’s defenders forced to play both passively and reactionary, 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo took advantage by throwing for 297 passing yards and three scores. Garoppolo executed on the field, but he had Shanahan’s superb game plan to thank for his FexEx Air Passer of the Week nomination, as well as his 131.2 passer rating and his 11.9 yards-per-pass-attempt — both of which were tops in the NFL in Week 2.
49ers RB Matt Breida
Prior to the beginning of the regular season, many analysts wrote 49ers running back Matt Breida off as either a potential change-of-pace option in San Francisco’s backfield or a player who would simply ride the bench in 2019. But just two games into the season, Breida has officially put that talk to rest by claiming his well-deserved spot at the top of the 49ers’ running back depth chart, even after fellow RB Tevin Coleman eventually returns from injury.
Breida was electric on Sunday as he tallied 121 rushing yards on only 12 carries, and added 11 yards through the air on one reception. The former undrafted free agent may never be a 25-carry feature back, but it’s hard to ignore a runner who averages over 10 yards-per-touch. Breida’s outstanding Week 2 performance was highlighted by a 34-yard gain on a third-and-short run, where he looked a lot more like Hall of Fame running back Barry Sanders than a bench player who should be relegated to the sidelines:
— Chris Wilson (@cgawilson) September 16, 2019
49ers Offensive Line
Although Breida has the speed and agility necessary to break off long runs after making defenders miss, he surely didn’t mind running through some of the gaping holes the 49ers’ offensive line provided on Sunday. Breida wasn’t the only beneficiary of San Francisco’s big men up front, as the 49ers’ trio of running backs graded out as the NFL’s top unit of the week by Pro Football Focus (PFF). Recent practice-squad RB Jeff Wilson found the end zone for a pair of scores in the contest, and dual-threat running back Raheem Mostert followed his blockers on long runs and screen passes en route to a spot on PFF’s “NFL Team of the Week” for Week 2:
#49ers RB Raheem Mostert @RMos_8Ball, LB Kwon Alexander @kwon and EDGE Ronald Blair @superblair are all featured in @PFF‘s NFL Team of the Week. The @49ers‘ running backs also graded out as the #NFL‘s top group of RBs in Week 2. https://t.co/zbfzmMtEs0
— Chris Wilson (@cgawilson) September 18, 2019
It was a near-perfect day for the Niners’ offensive line, as they also kept Garoppolo’s jersey clean for the vast majority of the game. But a dark cloud fell over the group in the third quarter of the team’s Week 2 victory, when left tackle Joe Staley sustained a fractured left fibula which will keep the 49ers’ top lineman out of action for approximately six to eight weeks.
49ers LB Kwon Alexander
Last week, linebacker Kwon Alexander received a game ball from Shanahan in the 49ers’ locker room after the team’s 31-17 victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, despite his early exit from his Niners debut. Alexander was ejected from the contest when his helmet made contact with the helmet of former teammate Jameis Winston, when the quarterback awkwardly went to the ground at the end of a third-down scramble. In the limited time prior to his questionable ejection, Alexander looked like the player Shanahan and general manager John Lynch hoped to sign, as the 25-year-old linebacker flew around the field making plays and hyping up his teammates.
Last Sunday, Alexander earned his 49ers game ball for his leadership in the locker room and his passion for the game. This Sunday, Alexander earned Locked On 49ers game ball for his leadership in the locker room, his passion for the game and his production on the field. Alexander not only brought the same level of intensity to Cincinnati, but the linebacker was also one of the best — and most productive — players on the field in Week 2. With a key interception, three defended passes and six tackles, Alexander earned PFF “NFL Team of the Week” honors, and our final game ball of the week:
— Chris Wilson (@cgawilson) September 16, 2019
Listen to Locked On 49ers host Brian Peacock’s review of the San Francisco 49ers’ Week 2 victory over the Cincinnati Bengals — including game notes and key takeaways from the Niners’ second matchup of the 2019 NFL regular season — on yesterday’s Rapid React podcast:
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PODCAST: Rapid React Week 2 Win in Cincinnati
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