Mon Feb 3 12:18pm ET
By JOSH DUBOW
AP Pro Football Writer
San Francisco 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo (10) reacts after turning the ball over on downs during the second half of the NFL Super Bowl 54 football game against the Kansas City Chiefs Sunday, Feb. 2, 2020, in Miami Gardens, Fla. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)
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)
San Francisco 49ers' Emmanuel Sanders sits on the bench during the second half of the NFL Super Bowl 54 football game against the Kansas City Chiefs Sunday, Feb. 2, 2020, in Miami Gardens, Fla. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)
San Francisco 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo walks to the sideline during the second half of the NFL Super Bowl 54 football game against the Kansas City Chiefs Sunday, Feb. 2, 2020, in Miami Gardens, Fla. (AP Photo/Matt York)
MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. (AP) The San Francisco 49ers' remarkable turnaround ended up just a few minutes shy of a Super Bowl title.
After becoming only the third team to go to the Super Bowl a year after winning four or fewer games, the 49ers stumbled at the end and lost 31-20 to the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday night.
''It was a great season,'' linebacker Fred Warner said. ''I can't take anything away from what we've done. To go 4-12 and then go to the Super Bowl and have a chance to win in it, it's one of those things that will hurt for a while. I'm going to do everything in my power to make sure we're better.''
The Niners (15-4) were poised to join the 1999 St. Louis Rams as the only teams to win a Super Bowl a year after going 4-12. Instead, they join the 1988 Bengals as a four-win team that came so close to a championship a year later but faltered at the end.
In this same stadium 21 years ago, Joe Montana and San Francisco drove past Cincinnati for the winning score in a 20-16 victory. The collapse for this version of the Niners was on both sides of the ball. The offense fell apart in the fourth quarter and the defense got burned for big plays by Patrick Mahomes that turned a 20-10 lead into a 31-20 loss in the blink of an eye in a crushing loss.
''You could see it in the guys eyes in there. It means something to guys,'' quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo said. ''That means you've got guys that care about what they're doing, guys who care about each other. We're a young team and we've got a very bright future. We've got to take this in stride and remember this feeling and let it fuel us in the offseason.''
Garoppolo's first full season as a starter had ups and downs. He led the team to 13 wins in the regular season with four fourth-quarter comebacks and three games with at least four TD passes. But he also showed a propensity for baffling mistakes. His 18 turnovers in the regular season were the most of any player in the postseason, and then he threw two interceptions in the Super Bowl.
A big reason for optimism for the Niners was the play of their top two picks in the 2019 draft. No. 2 overall pick Nick Bosa became a dominant defensive end, makinbg nine sacks in the regular season and four more in the playoffs on the way to winning AP Defensive Rookie of the Year.
Second-round receiver Deebo Samuel showed he has the ability to be a star, excelling as a runner, receiver and blocker. He set a Super Bowl record for receivers with 53 yards rushing against the Chiefs and also had five catches for 39 yards. His physical play sets the tone for the Niners.
One of the feel-good stories of the season was the play of running back Raheem Mostert, the former special teams standout who proved he can be a No. 1 back after being cut by six teams. He led the team with 772 yards rushing in the regular season and then had 220 yards and four TDs in the NFC title game against Green Bay.
He ran for 58 yards and a TD in the Super Bowl and should get a chance for more work next season.
The Niners will have some difficult decisions when it comes to free agency this offseason with several key players set to hit the open market next month. The three biggest potential unrestricted free agents are defensive lineman Arik Armstead, who had a breakthrough season with 10 sacks; safety Jimmie Ward, who was a key part of the league's stingiest pass defense; and receiver Emmanuel Sanders, who sparked the passing game after his midseason addition.
San Francisco also can give extensions to key players like tight end George Kittle and defensive tackle DeForest Buckner, which might not leave much money left for other free agents.
HOW TO GET IT RIGHT
The Niners won't have to improve much to contend again next season. Many of the key pieces are in place from a team that won 13 games in the regular season and made it to the Super Bowl.
San Francisco could use help at cornerback across from Richard Sherman and will need another top receiver if Sanders leaves in free agency.
The Kansas City Chiefs have had contract talks with defensive tackle Chris Jones, but there haven't been any offers up to this point. The Chiefs will also be trying to work out a long-term extension with Super Bowl MVP Patrick Mahomes, but that is unlikely to happen until sometime after the draft. The Chiefs placed the franchise tag on Jones earlier this offseason, but they'll have until July 15 to figure out an extension. The 25-year-old made the Pro Bowl for the first time in 2019, registering nine sacks, 36 tackles (23 solo), eight tackles for loss and 20 QB hits. Jones has become an essential inside presence on KC's defensive line and has 33 sacks in his four seasons in the league.
The Cleveland Browns have shown interest in free-agent defensive end Jadeveon Clowney, and some people around the league think that Cleveland has gotten closer with Clowney than other suitors. Clowney was originally seeking around $20 million per season, but his market has been cold and he hasn't received the offer that he wants in order to re-sign with the Seahawks. The Titans and Jets have also been interested, but the pass-rushers price might have to drop some more in order for him to strike a deal. The 27-year-old isn't in a rush to sign at this point. The oft-injured former first overall pick in 2014 by the Texans is a risk/reward in both real life and in IDP leagues.
Free-agent wide receiver Antonio Brown was charged with felony burglary conveyance, misdemeanor battery and misdemeanor criminal mischief charges for an alleged January assault that resulted in the former All-Pro's arrest. The misdemeanor battery charge states that Brown was "actually and intentionally striking" a delivery truck driver against his will. It's possible the state of Florida will offer him the chance to work out a plea deal. The NFL opened an investigation of Brown in the fall when his former trainer Britney Taylor accused him of rape and sexual assault in a civil lawsuit. No matter what transpires with Brown's charges, he's expected to be punished by the NFL, and it remains to be seen if any team will give him another chance in 2020 or beyond.
Cleveland Browns wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. (core injury) is progressing well in his rehab, according to head coach Kevin Stefanski. In regards to both Beckham and Jarvis Landry's respective rehabs from offseason surgery, Stefanski told reporters, Both those guys are exactly where they need to be in terms of rehab progression." Beckham had surgery to repair a core muscle injury in late January but appears to be in no danger of missing games once the 2020 season kicks off. After a down year, Beckham needs to be treated as a WR2 with upside in fantasy drafts.
Cleveland Browns wide receiver Jarvis Landry (hip) is on track in his rehab, according to coach Kevin Stefanski. Landry had surgery to repair the labrum in his hip back in February with the expectation he would need 6-8 months to recover. Speaking of both Landry and Odell Beckham Jr., Stefanski stated, "Both those guys are exactly where they need to be in terms of rehab progression." Landry can be tentatively penciled in for the start of the NFL season but he is likely to miss most of training camp. When active, Landry can be treated as a rock-solid WR2 in all formats.
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.