Thu Feb 6 3:49pm ET
By JOSH DUBOW
AP Pro Football Writer
San Francisco 49ers general manager John Lynch watches his team warm up before the NFL Super Bowl 54 football against the Kansas City Chiefs Sunday, Feb. 2, 2020, in Miami. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)
San Francisco 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo speaks to reporters at the team's NFL football training facility in Santa Clara, Calif., Wednesday, Feb. 5, 2020. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)
San Francisco 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan speaks during a news conference after the NFL Super Bowl 54 football game against the Kansas City Chiefs Sunday, Feb. 2, 2020, in Miami Gardens, Fla. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)
SANTA CLARA, Calif. (AP) Coach Kyle Shanahan knows the criticism is floating around because of all the messages asking if he's OK after the San Francisco 49ers collapsed in the fourth quarter of a Super Bowl loss to Kansas City.
There are questions about time management and play calls, the performance of quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo and why the defense couldn't come up with a big stop when needed.
But Shanahan insulates himself from all of that and believes in his decisions and players even if the team ended up losing 31-20 after leading by 10 points in the fourth quarter.
''I don't feel it's intense blow-back, I'm not on Twitter and whatever all that stuff is,'' Shanahan said Thursday. ''I would never do that to myself anyway. I've lost the Super Bowl before, I've been a part of a bigger lead that was lost, so I'm very well aware of what goes with that. I also am not a good liar. How you guys hear me talk is exactly how I feel. I'm really upset about the loss because it's hard to get there. I personally thought we had the best team in the NFL this year. We weren't. We've got to deal with that.''
Now the Niners must begin the long process of getting back this far so Shanahan can be part of the one team that ends a season happy after winning a championship.
Only three teams have bounced back from the disappointment of a loss in the title game to win it all the following year, with Dallas and Miami doing it in back-to-back seasons in 1971-72 and then the New England Patriots again in 2018.
Eight other Super Bowl losers returned to the game the next season only to lose again, including Buffalo three times. But 15 of the past 33 teams that lost in the Super Bowl failed to even make it back to the playoffs the following year, including the Los Angeles Rams this past season.
''We do believe we're different,'' general manager John Lynch said. ''There's not many teams that go from four wins to 13 and dominate an NFC in the playoffs and get there. We believe this team is different. We believe we're capable of doing that.''
The offseason will feature big decisions about whether the Niners can bring back key free agents like defensive lineman Arik Armstead, receiver Emmanuel Sanders and safety Jimmie Ward.
All expressed interest in returning but keeping everybody will be difficult under the salary cap, especially with players like All Pro tight end George Kittle and defensive tackle DeForest Buckner up for extensions soon.
San Francisco won't have nearly as much leeway to add big pieces like they have the past few offseasons when they've brought in high-priced players like cornerback Richard Sherman, defensive end Dee Ford, linebacker Kwon Alexander and fullback Kyle Juszczyk.
''Those days aren't happening anymore,'' Lynch said. ''We can't go to the grocery store and say I'll have that, I'll have that, I'll have that. It is more like, I'll have that, but I might have to put that back. There are trade offs. It's tightening up, but we knew that all along.''
But before the Niners can move on to next season, they still have to get over the pain of losing the Super Bowl this year. Shanahan has experience dealing with a painful Super Bowl loss, having been offensive coordinator in Atlanta when the Falcons blew a 28-3 lead to New England before losing in overtime three years ago.
Shanahan quickly moved on after that defeat, taking over as head coach in San Francisco just days later. He has said repeatedly that there was only one play call he regretted in that loss to the Patriots -- a pass on second-and-11 that led to a sack that knocked the Falcons out of field goal range.
He has no regrets about any of his play calls against the Chiefs, including the decision not to use a timeout after stopping Kansas City on third down with just less than two minutes left in the first half.
The Niners got the ball back at their 20 with 59 seconds left instead, about 40 seconds less than if they had used a timeout. A first down run ran even more time off the clock and San Francisco ended up with no points after an offensive pass interference call on Kittle negated a big gain.
''I was as confident in what we did in that situation as anything we've done all year,'' Shanahan said. ''I mean that strongly. That's something you work at for two weeks studying that team, what they're capable of doing. You're not going to give the ball back to them no matter what in that situation.''
Shanahan also said he remains confident in Garoppolo, who completed just 3 of 11 passes in the final quarter in a disappointing ending to his first full season as a starter after missing most of last season with a torn ACL.
He missed some open receivers, including Sanders on a deep pass that could have put San Francisco back ahead in the final two minutes.
''I think Jimmy is one of the main reasons we got to the Super Bowl. I think he overcame a lot,'' Shanahan said. ''I can't tell you how much I loved coaching the guy as a player and as a person this year.''
The Kansas City Chiefs agreed to an undisclosed deal with tight end Ricky Seals-Jones on Friday, according to a source. Seals-Jones played in 14 games (three starts) and caught just 14 passes for 229 yards, but he did score a career-high four touchdowns in his lone season with the Browns last year. It was disappointing that he wasn't able to do more, especially with David Njoku missing a big chunk of the year with an injury. In Kansas City, he'll be a little-used backup tight end behind stud Travis Kelce. If Kelce were to miss any time with an injury, however, Seals-Jones could have some TE2 appeal for fantasy owners.
Houston Texans safety Justin Reid said he has spoken to head coach Bill O'Brien about his brother, free-agent Eric Reid. O'Brien was positive about Eric Reid, but it's unclear if the Texans will actually sign him. The 28-year-old was the 18th overall pick of the 49ers in the 2013 draft and made the Pro Bowl in his rookie season. He spent the last two years in Carolina, recording a career-high 130 tackles (97 solo), seven tackles for loss, five QB hits, six passes defensed, one forced fumble and two fumble recoveries in 16 games. Reid has 11 career interceptions in his seven seasons in the NFL. Houston needs as much help as they can get in the secondary.
Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Christian Kirk, the former second-round pick out of Texas A&M in 2018, knows that the addition of stud wideout DeAndre Hopkins will mean that opposing defenses will focus less on him. Kirk missed the final three games of 2019 due to injury and finished with 68 catches for 709 yards and three touchdowns. He should see a lot more single coverage, but the fact remains that he'll see fewer consistent targets with both Hopkins and Larry Fitzgerald demanding looks from quarterback Kyler Murray. The 23-year-old could have some big games if teams focus all their attention on Nuk, but Kirk's fantasy stock is down entering the 2020 season.
Chicago Bears general manager Ryan Pace said that quarterbacks Mitch Trubisky and Nick Foles will be in an open competition in training camp this summer. The Bears were expected to bring in someone to compete with Trubisky under center, so they decided to acquire Foles from the Jaguars. Foles has experience working with all of Chicago's offensive coaches, so it seems like it could be his job to lose after Trubisky regressed in 2019. The Bears also remain non-committal on whether they'll pick up Trubisky's 2021 option. Neither QB will be much more than a midrange QB2 if they win the job, but Foles, a former Super Bowl MVP, would be a little more intriguing for wide receiver Allen Robinson.
The Kansas City Chiefs and wide receiver Sammy Watkins agreed to a restructured contract that will keep him with the team for at least another season. It will lower his salary cap number and he can earn a maximum of $16 million in 2020, according to a source. The one-year deal has a base salary of $9 million, and the move creates $5 million in cap space for the Chiefs. Watkins had 52 catches for 673 yards and three touchdowns in 14 games in the regular season, but he came on once again in the postseason on the way to a Super Bowl championship. The 26-year-old has just one 1,000-yard receiving season in his six years in the league after being the fourth overall pick of the Bills in 2014. Watkins can have some big games in KC's offense, but they'll be few and far between.
The Las Vegas Raiders signed safety Damarious Randall to a one-year deal worth up to $3.25 million, according to a source. It comes just after a deal for cornerback Eli Apple fell apart. Randall, a first-round pick by the Packers in 2015, had the first 2.5 sacks of his career for the Browns in 11 games last year, also recording 61 tackles (45 solo) and three QB hits. The 2019 season was the only one in his five years that he didn't record an interception, as Randall has 14 career picks in 65 games (56 starts). He'll help shore up the secondary alongside Johnathan Abram in Las Vegas.
According to a source, there's "not a chance in hell" that the New England Patriots trade wide receiver Julian Edelman. Edelman does carry a salary cap hit of $9.6 million in 2020, but he's too important to the team's passing game, especially given their lack of depth and with quarterback Tom Brady no longer in town. The veteran receiver was targeted 153 times in 2019 and caught 100 passes for the second time in his career. With Brady gone -- he'll likely have Jarrett Stidham under center this season -- Edelman's fantasy appeal certainly won't be as strong, and he'll also be 34 next month. But he'll still be useful in PPR leagues and could even come at a nice value. However, he won't be as much of a PPR lock as he's been in the past as Brady's favorite aerial weapon.
The Las Vegas Raiders and cornerback Eli Apple were unable to finalize a contract, according to sources. Apple will remain a free agent and will go back on the open market. The former 10th overall pick by the Giants in the 2016 draft hasn't lived up to his draft pedigree in his four years in the league with New York and New Orleans, but another team will likely be willing to take a chance on him at a low cost. The 24-year-old has just three interceptions in his career and totaled 58 tackles (53 solo), four passes defensed and one forced fumble in 15 games for the Saints in 2019.
The New York Jets are interested in free-agent defensive end Jadeveon Clowney now that his asking price has dropped a bit on the open market. Clowney has found a cold market for his services, likely because of the lack of physicals due to the coronavirus and his extensive injury history, but at this point he's in no rush to pick a team. He's willing to wait until he gets the deal that he's seeking as the best pass-rusher available in free agency this late in the game. The Seahawks are interested in bringing him back at the right price, and the Titans have also shown interest. Clowney has never had a double-digit sack season in his career and is an injury risk, but there's no denying that he still has an impact in defending both the run and the pass when he's healthy. This one could drag on.
Houston Texans left tackle Laremy Tunsil said on NFL Live that he wants to become the league's highest-paid offensive lineman. "Im not going to talk numbers, as Im going to keep that between me and the club. I am looking to be the highest-paid lineman, of course. I worked my butt off to be in that position and hopefully we can make that happen," Tunsil said. The 25-year-old first-round pick of the Dolphins in 2016 was acquired from Miami along with receiver Kenny Stills last year for two first-round picks and a second-rounder. He's an elite left tackle that should easily wind up making around $20 million per season on a long-term deal with the Texans. His presence on the blind side for years to come will be excellent news for quarterback Deshaun Watson.
Pittsburgh Steelers tight end Eric Ebron (ankle) said he's still not fully recovered from an ankle injury that held him to just 11 games in 2019. Ebron had to have his ankle examined and "cleaned out" by an independent doctor near his home in Houston because of league restrictions keeping players from visiting other organizations during the coronavirus pandemic. The 26-year-old has yet to be examined by the Steelers medical personnel. "If the season started today, I dont think Id be able to 100% perform. But we dont play today," Ebron said. He was a disappointment last year as a TE1 after setting career highs in catches (66), yards (750) and touchdowns (13) in 2018. The 10th overall pick by the Lions in 2014 must get healthy first, but he'll also be competing for targets with Vance McDonald, which will hurt his overall fantasy ceiling in his new home.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers re-signed quarterback Blaine Gabbert to an undisclosed one-year deal on Thursday, according to a source. Gabbert will serve as the backup to Tom Brady in 2020. The 30-year-old former 10th overall pick of the Jaguars in 2011 will help Brady learn head coach Bruce Arians' system. He didn't see the field at all in 2019, but Gabbert has played in 56 games (48 starts) in his eight years in the NFL with stops in Jacksonville, San Francisco, Arizona and Tennessee. You can obviously ignore Gabbert in all fantasy leagues, and he'd merely be a low-end QB2 option in Tampa if Brady were to get hurt and miss any time.
Cleveland Browns head coach Kevin Stefanski said that offensive tackle Jack Conklin will stay at right tackle in Cleveland. The Browns added Conklin in free agency as they look to improve a dreadful offensive line from a season ago. The eighth overall pick by the Titans in the 2016 draft was a first-team All-Pro in his rookie season and has been one of the better right tackles in the league in his four seasons. The 25-year-old has started all 57 games he's played in and has played in a full 16-game season in three of his four years in the league. Conklin will help bring stability to the right side of the Browns line, but they'll need help elsewhere.
Tennessee Titans running back Derrick Henry signed his $10.2 million franchise tender on Thursday, but the two sides are still committed to working on a long-term contract extension before the deadline on July 15. Henry led the NFL with 1,540 rushing yards on 303 carries last season, and he was tied for the league lead with Aaron Jones with 16 rushing scores. His 25 receptions left a lot to be desired in PPR leagues, but there's no denying that Henry is the bell-cow running back in one of the most run-heavy offenses in the league. It makes the 26-year-old one of the most desirable RB1 picks for fantasy owners early in drafts.
Free-agent linebacker Markus Golden is the only player on the open market that had double-digit sacks in 2019. Golden recorded 10 sacks in 16 games last year and was sixth in the league with 27 quarterback hits while being tied for 14th with 13 tackles for a loss. He was believed to be asking for $10 million per season, according to a source, but he won't be getting that now. It's unlikely that New York will re-sign Golden after already adding Kyle Fackrell for one year and $4.6 million. The Giants are likely to add a low-priced veteran later on as they look to boost their pass rush. Golden earned $3.75 million last year and made another $1 million for reaching 10 sacks. The 29-year-old had a good season in 2019, but fantasy owners in IDP leagues shouldn't be expecting a repeat necessarily.
New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton said that the uniqueness of quarterback Taysom Hill's role requires the team to have a third quarterback active on game days, and that won't change in 2020 with Teddy Bridgewater now in Carolina. The Saints are likely to look for the best quarterback (rookie or a veteran) that is available to be the No. 3 behind Drew Brees and Hill. New Orleans thinks highly of Hill as the heir apparent to Brees, but he's attempted just 13 passes the last two seasons, including just six attempts despite Brees missing extended time in 2019 with a finger injury. The 29-year-old gadget player won't have any lasting fantasy significance in redraft leagues unless Brees gets injured again or retires.
Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa (hip) said on Wednesday that his surgically repaired hip is fully healed and that he could play in a game at full strength right now. I feel 100 percent, Tagovailoa said in an exclusive interview with NFL Network. I feel like if there was a game today, I'd be able to go out and perform the same way I was able to perform in previous years. I feel as mobile as possible. I feel 100 percent. His agent, Chris Cabott, said that Tagovailoa's doctors have cleared him without restrictions. Tagovailoa is expected to be one of the top picks in this year's draft and the second QB selected after LSU's Joe Burrow, who is expected to go first overall. Tua hasn't said which teams he's met with virtually. The left-handed thrower has some injury risks, but he's extremely accurate and athletic and could be starting games in 2020 for whichever team selects him.
Free-agent LB Markus Golden is unlikely to return to the New York Giants because he's asking for too much money, according to a source. Golden is believed to be asking for north of $10 million per year.
Fantasy Spin: If Golden is classified as a defensive lineman, he rates as a midrange DL1 option in IDP leagues. He had 72 total tackles and 9.5 sacks last year. He's a flex option at linebacker wherever he lands.
Updating previous reports, Dallas Cowboys LB Aldon Smith will have a $2 million base salary and can earn $2 million more in sack incentives.