Kwon Alexander Jersey

FILE - This is a June 6, 2018, file photo showing Tampa Bay Buccaneers outside linebacker Kwon Alexander during a studio photo session at the team training facility, in Tampa, Fla. The San Francisco 49ers have agreed to sign linebacker Kwon Alexander to a four-year contract worth $54 million. A person familiar with the contract said the sides came to an agreement Monday, March 11, 2019, soon after teams were allowed to contact pending unrestricted free agents. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the deal can’t be finalized until the new league year starts Wednesday. (AP Photo/Chris O’Meara, File)

The 49ers remain unclear when their most expensive free-agent acquisition, linebacker Kwon Alexander, will be ready to play with his new team.

But they should have a better idea when Alexander returns to team headquarters in Santa Clara on April 2 to have his surgically repaired torn ACL examined by San Francisco’s medical staff.

“It’s kind of an empty feeling that we know he was in good hands with the (Tampa Bay Buccaneers),” general manager John Lynch said Monday at the NFL owners meetings. “But all of a sudden once we acquire him, he can no longer start doing his rehab or continue doing his rehab with the Bucs.”

Alexander, 24, signed a four-year, $54 million contract with the 49ers despite suffering the injury Oct. 21 in a victory over the Cleveland Browns. His contract includes $14.25 million in guarantees for 2019, even though there’s a chance Alexander misses time or doesn’t return to 100 percent.

“We’re going to get to assess exactly where he’s at,” Lynch said. “I can tell you … when you do a deal like that, you want the return right away but we had discussions that, hey, when you’re making an investment like this, we’ve got to make sure he’s right. So we will hold true to that. … Our conversations with the people from the Buccaneers (indicate) that he’s on track.”

Alexander’s $13.5 million average annual salary is higher than star linebackers such as Carolina’s Luke Kuechly ($12.4 million) and Seattle’s Bobby Wagner ($10.75 million). Alexander was brought in to play the “stack linebacker” position vacated by the release of 2017 first-round draft pick Reuben Foster in November.

Alexander’s contract includes just $3 million in true guarantees over the remaining three years of the contract after 2019, perhaps insulating the 49ers if Alexander can’t return to his pre-injury form. He led the NFL in solo tackles in 2016 and was named a Pro-Bowl alternate after the 2017 season.

McKinnon to remain in the fold

The 49ers’ addition of free-agent running back Tevin Coleman raised questions about the future of Jerick McKinnon, a free-agent signing in 2018 who didn’t play last season because of a torn ACL suffered before the season opener.

But Lynch on Monday quelled any speculation that McKinnon wouldn’t be in the mix in the 49ers’ backfield, confirming he would be on the roster beyond April 1, when his 2019 salary becomes fully guaranteed. He’s due $3.7 million and would cost $5.75 million against the salary cap if his various bonuses are realized.

“Jerick is going to be a part of us. We’re excited to see that through,” Lynch said. “Jerick is working incredibly hard. It was an unfortunate blow that happened to him, but you never like to see that and this year, last year, we were extremely excited that we had him, but he’s always had kind of a chip on his shoulder because that was his first opportunity to be the guy and I’m sure he’ll have a bigger chip on his shoulder.”

San Francisco dealt with several injuries to running backs throughout 2018 but could have a quality duo if Coleman and McKinnon can stay healthy. Coleman last season had a career-best 1,076 yards from scrimmage and has scored 28 touchdowns over the past three seasons.

The 49ers were surprised they were able to get Coleman — who played under coach Kyle Shanahan when he was the Falcons’ offensive coordinator in 2015 and 2016 — on a two-year, $8.5 million contract.

“We saw an opportunity with Tevin and we pounced on it because we knew the player he was, and that’s one where Kyle had first-hand experience with him,” Lynch said. “If we can do it at that price, absolutely we’d be involved. And we worked hard to get it done and we’re really thrilled.”

Dee Ford Jersey

Image result for Dee Ford

It’s not often premier pass rushers become available in the NFL. By and large, teams are limited to finding an elite pass rusher via the draft.

For example, when generational pass rusher Von Miller’s contract was up, the Denver Broncos franchise tagged the outside linebacker and signed him soon after to a lucrative long-term deal. Los Angeles Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald is another example of the value placed on top talent. In 2018, Donald was set to enter the final year of his contract before the Rams signed the four time All-Pro and five time Pro Bowler to a multi-year extension.

When the Kansas City Chiefs put Dee Ford on the trade block, the San Francisco 49ers jumped at the opportunity to add him. The 49ers acquired Ford in a trade with the Kansas City Chiefs in exchange for a 2020 second-round pick. San Francisco subsequently signed Ford to a five-year contract. The cost was steep, but well worth it given Ford’s ability as well as the scarcity at the position.

Ford recorded 13 sacks last season and his pressures led to 10 takeaways for Kansas City’s defense. He also racked up a league-leading seven forced fumbles, and no NFL defensive lineman totaled more pressures (78).

His standout campaign begs the question, should Ford be considered among the league’s top pass rushers?

“I think he would be,” general manager John Lynch said on Thursday during an appearance on 49ers Live. “He has some qualities. I’ll put his first step right off the line of scrimmage – his get off – up there with anybody in the league. And that excites us.”

The 49ers are hopeful Ford can replicate his dominant 2018 season. Adding the edge threat should complement San Francisco’s series of first-round interior rushers in DeForest Buckner, Arik Armstead and Solomon Thomas.

“When you start pulling tackles off the guys we have inside, now all of a sudden they can’t be so inclined to say ‘you’ve got to watch 99 (Buckner), you’ve got to watch 94 (Thomas), you’ve got to watch 91 (Armstead),’” Lynch explained. “Now they’re going to have to say ‘55 is out here and we’re going to have to fly out to get him.’ You start to provide that collectively we want to be a dominant group up front. We’re starting to have the makings of that. Now they’ve got to go do that. And they’re fully aware of that.”

There’s still much to prove before Ford enters the conversation with the likes of Miller, Donald and the rest of a lean list of pass rushers who rightfully claim the label of “elite.” But as of now, the 49ers believe in Ford’s trajectory and potential.

“We studied all kinds of different players. Dee is the guy we want,” Lynch added. “He’s got some rare qualities that we think will blend real well to any team, but our team specifically.”

George Kittle Jersey


Dec 24, 2017; Santa Clara, CA, USA; San Francisco 49ers tight end George Kittle (85) celebrates with center Daniel Kilgore (67), offensive guard Laken Tomlinson (75), quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo (10) after a touchdown against the Jacksonville Jaguars during the third quarter at Levi’s Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

Up until a few days ago George Kittle was ranked as my No. 3 tight end in dynasty leagues, behind only Travis Kelce and Zach Ertz. I felt good about this ranking — Ertz, though three years older, is the more established name and the more productive player last year, coming off of a historically great 2018 season. Here’s an impressive stat on Ertz: last year, he was Philadelphia’s first read on 31% of the team’s passing attempts — only DeAndre Hopkins (39%), Michael Thomas (36%), and Julio Jones (32%) ranked higher.

So yes, I felt good about this ranking up until only a few days ago — when, in a dynasty startup draft of my own, I took Kittle over Ertz. Ertz has some red flags — sophomore tight end Dallas Goedert (a personal favorite) is waiting in the wings, and there’s now more target competition in Philadelphia, following the arrival of DeSean Jackson, but more than anything, it was Kittle’s drool-inducing, statistically great sophomore season that forced me to adjust my rankings.

Kittle was phenomenal last season, leading all tight ends in PFF grade and PFF receiving grade. He also led all tight ends in receiving yards (1,377), yards per route run (2.83), yards after the catch (873), yards after the catch per reception (9.9), and missed tackles forced (17).

Not only was he the league’s best tight end in all these stats last year but, in almost every case, these numbers were historically great. Last year, Kittle set the record for most receiving yards by a tight end in NFL history. His yards per route run was the best of the PFF era (since 2007), and best by 11% over the previous record year (Rob Gronkowski, 2014 — though Kelce also broke Gronkowski’s mark in 2018). His 873 yards after the catch in 2018 was also a PFF-era record and by 217 more (and 28% better) than the next-closest season (Gronkowski, 2011). His 9.9 yards after the catch per reception in 2018 also made a new record.

Perhaps most impressively, Kittle did this while catching passes from three different quarterbacks, all of whom graded below average and ranked below average in passer rating last year. Although Kittle was just the ninth tight end drafted in 2017, it was just as obvious to us that that was a mistake then as it is to everyone now. In 2016, PFF’s Josh Liskiewitz called Kittle the best all-around tight end in college football.

Earlier this offseason, I tried to show just how top-heavy the tight end position has become for fantasy. The top-three tight ends were more productive in 2018 than ever before, while nearly everyone else (positionally) hit all-decade lows. You’d think the tight end position would be entering a period of crisis, with names like Gronkowski and Greg Olsen seriously contemplating retirement. However, I think we’re going to be in good hands.

Kelce is now the unanimous No. 1, Kittle is an ascendant superstar following a sophomore-year breakout, and, clearly, I like Ertz as well. Hunter Henry – another young tight end I love – will be returning from a year-long injury absence. However, if there’s a tight end most likely to breakout this year, in the same way Kittle broke out last year, I’d bet it’s O.J. Howard.

Kittle was our highest-graded tight end, but Howard ranked right behind him. Kittle’s 2.83 yards per route run ranked best of the PFF era, but Howard’s 2.26 YPRR ranked second-best last year and 15th-best of the PFF-era. Howard averaged 12.0 yards per target last year, which ranked third-best of 429 qualifying tight end seasons in the PFF-era (behind only Gronkowski in 2016 and Antonio Gates in 2010). He also ranked tied for fifth in fantasy points per game (12.1), despite splitting time with Cameron Brate. At age 24, he should be considered a top breakout candidate for 2019, as our Daniel Kelley argued here.

Jimmy Garoppolo Jersey

SANTA CLARA — One day after the 49ers ended their disappointing 2018 season with a 4-12 record, quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo spoke about his rehab from a torn ACL.

“It feels good,” Garoppolo said Monday. “Obviously there are some things that we’re limited with. The side-to-side lateral stuff is still questionable, but I’m happy where I’m at now.”

Garoppolo has had running back Jerick McKinnon as a rehabilitation partner throughout the season, both having torn ACLs. McKinnon is a few weeks ahead of Garoppolo, and the QB jokingly said he’s been trying to catch up to his running back.

They both agree it’s been nice to have each other throughout the process. Before they were allowed on the field during games, they were up in the coaches booth together. The duo also has watched film together, and Garoppolo said they’re already on the same page with what they see.

Once he started standing on the sideline unable to play, though, Garoppolo admitted it was an odd experience.

“You don’t know how to act or react,” Garoppolo said, “and then once you get onto the field, that 5, 10 minutes before the game is the hardest part because you get all your juices flowing and you’re excited. You try to find the silver lining in everything, but it was tough. I’m not going to lie.”

Garoppolo tried to take advantage of being as involved as possible during game days, as well as in as many meetings as his schedule would allow. He wore a headset during games, running through plays as if he was on the field. While the 49ers struggled during the season, he was proud of the mettle they showed.

“There’s a lot of fight,” Garoppolo said. “We have a good locker room. Going through a season like we just went through, it’s tough. You can get a lot of guys who start pointing fingers and stuff like that, but whether it was offense or defense or special teams, everyone stayed locked in and stayed the course. It’s good to see that.”

A few other NFL quarterbacks made their way back onto the field after ACL surgeries this season. Garoppolo has taken note of the progress of both DeShaun Watson and Carson Wentz.

“ACL, it’s a little different for a quarterback. We’re not moving around as much as a normal football player I guess. It sounds bad saying that,” Garoppolo said, laughing a little, “but you know what I mean. It’s encouraging seeing those guys.”

Garoppolo really just can’t wait to get back to his usual routine and move on to 2019.

[RELATED: Sherman believes young 49ers will learn from 2018]

“Getting out on the field,” he said. “It’s been a while. It’s that feeling of getting out there with the guys and being in the huddle. Just little things like that. You miss a full season of it, you realize how much you really appreciate it when you do have it.”

The progress of the 49ers’ younger players as the season progressed has Garoppolo looking forward for things to come.

“I think there was ups and downs throughout the whole thing like any season,” he said. “But I think we’re going in the right direction. That’s the encouraging thing. You see young guys coming along and really finding their own way in the NFL and that’s exciting stuff. It will be a fun offseason.”

SANTA CLARA — One day after the 49ers ended their disappointing 2018 season with a 4-12 record, quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo spoke about his rehab from a torn ACL.

“It feels good,” Garoppolo said Monday. “Obviously there are some things that we’re limited with. The side-to-side lateral stuff is still questionable, but I’m happy where I’m at now.” 

Garoppolo has had running back Jerick McKinnon as a rehabilitation partner throughout the season, both having torn ACLs. McKinnon is a few weeks ahead of Garoppolo, and the QB jokingly said he’s been trying to catch up to his running back.

They both agree it’s been nice to have each other throughout the process. Before they were allowed on the field during games, they were up in the coaches booth together. The duo also has watched film together, and Garoppolo said they’re already on the same page with what they see. 

Once he started standing on the sideline unable to play, though, Garoppolo admitted it was an odd experience.

“You don’t know how to act or react,” Garoppolo said, “and then once you get onto the field, that 5, 10 minutes before the game is the hardest part because you get all your juices flowing and you’re excited. You try to find the silver lining in everything, but it was tough. I’m not going to lie.” 

Garoppolo tried to take advantage of being as involved as possible during game days, as well as in as many meetings as his schedule would allow. He wore a headset during games, running through plays as if he was on the field. While the 49ers struggled during the season, he was proud of the mettle they showed. 

“There’s a lot of fight,” Garoppolo said. “We have a good locker room. Going through a season like we just went through, it’s tough. You can get a lot of guys who start pointing fingers and stuff like that, but whether it was offense or defense or special teams, everyone stayed locked in and stayed the course. It’s good to see that.” 

A few other NFL quarterbacks made their way back onto the field after ACL surgeries this season. Garoppolo has taken note of the progress of both DeShaun Watson and Carson Wentz. 

“ACL, it’s a little different for a quarterback. We’re not moving around as much as a normal football player I guess. It sounds bad saying that,” Garoppolo said, laughing a little, “but you know what I mean. It’s encouraging seeing those guys.” 

Garoppolo really just can’t wait to get back to his usual routine and move on to 2019. 

“Getting out on the field,” he said. “It’s been a while. It’s that feeling of getting out there with the guys and being in the huddle. Just little things like that. You miss a full season of it, you realize how much you really appreciate it when you do have it.” 

The progress of the 49ers’ younger players as the season progressed has Garoppolo looking forward for things to come. 

“I think there was ups and downs throughout the whole thing like any season,” he said. “But I think we’re going in the right direction. That’s the encouraging thing. You see young guys coming along and really finding their own way in the NFL and that’s exciting stuff. It will be a fun offseason.”