Suddenly, Levi’s Stadium is looking like Shangri-La.
Just one season after the 49ers were in disarray after letting go of head coach Chip Kelly and general manager Trent Baalke following a 2-14 season, the franchise has transformed into a hot commodity.
As the NFL veteran free-agent signing period approaches, people around the NFL are looking at the Niners as a franchise on the rise.
This week, in fact, Adam Schein of NFL.com ranked the 49ers No. 1 on his list of non-2017 playoff teams that are the most desirable landing spots for free agents this spring. Schein points to the leadership tandem of head coach Kyle Shanahan and GM John Lynch, young quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, plenty of salary-cap space and the team’s location, facilities and franchise history as ingredients in a winning recipe.
Schein wrote that when Lynch said recently that he wanted to turn his franchise into a a place where everyone would like to play, he was right.
"Jimmy G is a franchise quarterback — he's a pied piper, and thus, worth every single penny," wrote Schein. At the end of November, San Francisco was 1-10, playing out the string and eyeing a top slot in the 2018 NFL Draft. Enter Garoppolo, and the 49ers ran off five straight wins to finish the season, averaging 28.8 points per game in the process.
"In a Week 16 showdown with Jacksonville, Jimmy G and Co. shredded the Jaguars' vaunted defense for a 44-33 win. Suddenly, San Francisco became the most buzzworthy 6-10 team in memory. Garoppolo completely invigorated one of the league’s most storied franchises — and he did it with a supporting cast that left much to be desired."
Schein predicts the 49ers will add some key pieces in free agency to bolster that cast. Wrote Schein: "Free agents, especially on offense, should flock to the beautiful city by the bay."
Lynch of course wants to primarily build through the draft. But he said he wants to be "aggressively prudent" in pursuing key free agents he and Shanahan believe can be difference makers.