A model for Brock Purdy’s next contract, Deebo Samuel clarity and more: Kawakami Mailbag, Part 2

It’s rookie minicamp and OTAs month in the Bay Area sports universe! Yes, May’s feeling a bit slower than usual in these parts with the Warriors’ season already doused, the Sharks long gone, the Giants not exactly percolating and the A’s showing signs of life but still (theoretically) on their way to Las Vegas by way of Sacramento by way of many discarded fans.

We’ll all make due, mostly with 49ers talk, at least at the start of Part 2 of my May mailbag, which also will get into the Giants, John Fisher, the Sharks and Bay FC. Part 1 was all Warriors.

As usual, questions have been edited for length and clarity. Also, I tried to pick at least one question among a cluster on the same topic.

Here we go …

Given Brock Purdy’s background and the “fact” that his stats are padded by his situation and weapons, let’s say vs. a guy like Trevor Lawrence, is there any chance the Niners can get him to take less on his inevitable mega-deal?Conor M.

There’s a chance that anything could happen at any time. That being said, I think the NFL’s bizarrely convoluted salary mechanics have led to some general fuzziness about what Purdy would want or could feasibly get when he’s allowed to negotiate for a new deal in 2025. And even what the actual context is for all of this. Thanks for the weirdness, NFL!

But the general question is important. Coming off a major elbow injury, Purdy was one of the top quarterbacks in the league last year by any statistical measure, so if he duplicates or even improves on that performance in 2024, would the 49ers automatically have to pay him at the top of the market, somewhere from $50-55 million a year, right alongside Joe Burrow, Justin Herbert and Lamar Jackson?

My answer is: Unless Purdy is the unanimous NFL MVP and wins the Super Bowl in February, I think he’s more likely to follow the path of another young, well-grounded QB who wasn’t drafted in the first round but experienced enormous early success … and then got a new deal that pays a huge amount of money but also fits within the construct of the team’s long-term payroll plans.

That’d be the Philadelphia Eagles’ Jalen Hurts, who wasn’t Mr. Irrelevant like Purdy but was the 53rd pick in 2020, ended up as the Eagles’ starter in 2021 and then led them to a Super Bowl loss (to guess who: the Kansas City Chiefs) the next season.

In April 2023, just months after that Super Bowl trip, Hurts signed a five-year, $255 million contract — $51 million per year, but that average is puffed up by some tacked-on salaries at the back end that aren’t fully guaranteed and will be either wiped away or replaced by a new deal. In real terms, Hurts got $179.3 million guaranteed over four years, an average of $44.8 million. That’s the number I’d circle for Purdy and the 49ers when the negotiations start next year.

Also, just like the 49ers usually do with their big deals, Hurts’ cap hits were kept low early in the deal with some fancy CBA tricks — he had a $6.1 million cap hit last year and is at $13.6 million this year. But the Eagles’ deal with Hurts underlines two things: 1) the Eagles were banking on Hurts’ long-term staying power; 2) Hurts knew that his deal would be dwarfed almost instantly by Burrow and others and didn’t care about the QB salary rankings.

I think at 24, going into his second full season as a starter, Purdy’s value is unquestionable and it’s similar to what Hurts brings to the Eagles. They’re stabilizers. They’re foundational. I think you can say that neither is the ideal QB model and that both are helped by the vast array of talent around them, but you can’t think of their respective teams flourishing without them.

I think if the Eagles didn’t have Hurts, they’d have more than $44.8 million worth of problems trying to replace him. I think if the 49ers didn’t have Purdy … no, Kyle Shanahan, John Lynch and Jed York don’t want to think about life without Purdy. They’ll have to pay what it takes to sign him next year, but I also think there is a reasonable number out there for a winning QB who fits the system perfectly, and I think the Eagles and Hurts have signaled what it is.

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Purdy seemed to struggle throwing the ball in wet conditions last year. How big of a concern is this for the 49ers going forward? — Erik B.

He definitely struggled in Cleveland last year and didn’t look all the way comfortable at other times when the air was wet and the football got slippery. But Purdy definitely-definitely-definitely doesn’t like talking about this too much. Neither does Shanahan. That could mean they’re very worried about this and have no answer, or, more likely, they both think it’s not that big of a deal. There were other bad things going in that Cleveland game, and Purdy also looked just fine in the final drive that set up a potential game-winning field goal that Jake Moody missed.

So I don’t think the 49ers are going to do much of anything to specifically address this, or they at least won’t announce anything. This is one of those things that probably isn’t a huge issue … until the 49ers face pouring rain in some huge game. And then we’ll see what happens.

If the Niners extend Brandon Aiyuk this offseason, doesn’t that signal to Deebo Samuel he’s gone after this year? — Jack W.

I think a lot of things over the last few years have signaled that Deebo isn’t likely to be a 49er beyond 2024, and yes, a presumed giant new deal for Aiyuk would be the latest indication. It’s extremely unlikely that the 49ers will want two receivers near the top of the market while also having the top-paid running back (Christian McCaffrey) and offensive lineman (Trent Williams) and fourth-highest-paid tight end (George Kittle).

But really, the structure of Deebo’s contract extension before the 2022 season set this all up and all sides knew it was being set up. That three-year, $73.5 million deal gave the 49ers a relatively inexpensive “out” after the 2024 season. It’s not like they were keeping it secret from Deebo when the deal was done. It was all pretty much in the open. We’re seeing the results now.

With all the trade talks, do you think Deebo will take it easy next season since it is probably his last with the 49ers? What would be a good over/under for the number of games he plays in 2024?Rno R.

No, I think Shanahan and Lynch are betting that putting Deebo into what’s essentially a contract year will motivate him to have the best season possible, which would put himself in the best possible negotiating position next summer. The same way he did in 2021 leading into the 2022 negotiations.

It’s possible that Shanahan and Lynch are wrong about this. But I suspect that they’re right.

Why has it been so hard to find a complementary tight end to match with Kittle? Sean M.

I understand the point, because the 49ers have tried a lot of people at that spot and we can guess that Shanahan would love to draw up all kinds of fancy stuff with two pass-catching tight ends. But how many teams really have two dangerous TEs? Not many. They’re hard to find and keep.

And I do like to point out that the 49ers sort of use Jauan Jennings like a second TE. If the 49ers had another TE catching threat, that’d reduce Jennings’ playing time. And I think Jennings should play as much as possible.

Has the current version of the Niners peaked?Sb I.

Maybe? But if you’re going to say that, what NFC team is for sure better than the 49ers right now? Detroit? I don’t know if I’ll believe that until I see the Lions beat the 49ers in a do-or-die situation. Green Bay? Same answer. Dallas? Nope. Philadelphia? The Eagles need to answer some questions there.

If the 49ers are the best team in the NFC on paper going into the 2024 season, I’m not going to write them off on anything. They have some aging players. They had to discard Arik Armstead for cap purposes. I’m not sure about the right side of the offensive line, and I don’t know why they didn’t really address it heavily this offseason. But the last time they played an NFC team, they won the conference championship. And the last time they played at all, they held a lead on the Chiefs … until the final play of the Super Bowl.

The 49ers also have a 24-year-old QB who should keep giving them chances to do this, maybe for another 10 years. Maybe the roster won’t be as loaded as it was last season, but when you have a top QB, you always have a chance to keep building and keep taking a shot at titles.

Are the 49ers destined for a two-timeline dilemma better, worse or the same as the Warriors?The Gigante !.

Well, I know what Shanahan and Lynch would say: They’ve won zero titles vs. the Warriors’ four championships in this era, so that’s a worse situation than anything going on with the Warriors over the last decade. Can’t argue that one.

But I think the 49ers have a much younger core than the Warriors, from Purdy to Nick Bosa to Aiyuk to Fred Warner to McCaffrey. They’ve had a few shots to cash in on all this talent and they haven’t done it yet. They may never. The Warriors did it consistently and at a higher level, but they’re also a little more worn out than the 49ers are right now.

Kyle Shanahan

Have the 49ers peaked? Maybe, but despite the Super Bowl near-misses, Kyle Shanahan’s squad still looks like the class of the NFC. (Ezra Shaw / Getty Images)

How long does Shanahan have to win it all with the Niners? Will B.

Here’s the list of all the current NFL coaches who’ve won at least one Super Bowl:

Andy Reid (3 titles)

Mike Tomlin (1)

Sean Payton (1)

Mike McCarthy (1)

John Harbaugh (1)

Doug Pederson (1)

Sean McVay (1)

That’s it. Seven guys. If you can’t believe any coach is good unless he’s won a Super Bowl, there are 25 guys working now who fail your test. And Tomlin has gone 15 seasons since winning his title. It’s been 14 years since Payton won his, 13 for McCarthy. Harbaugh has gone 12. It isn’t easy, folks. Reid went a long time before he won his first Super Bowl and now he apparently can’t be stopped, but it’s not easy.

Yes, Shanahan is going to have to win a title for his time with the 49ers to be considered a total success. Yes, that’s the reality that every NFL coach faces, especially working for this franchise. But there’s no countdown clock for Shanahan. He just has to keep giving the 49ers a shot at winning a title. If he doesn’t do that, this will come to an end quickly. But it shouldn’t come to an end until he stops doing that.|

What are the biggest obstacles for this iteration of the 49ers returning to the mountaintop? Alvin C.

Reid. Patrick Mahomes. And Steve Spagnuolo.

Sometimes (a coach’s) message and I guess style of doing things gets monotonous with their team. Do you get any sense at all that Kyle S. is (getting) monotonous to the 49er players?Roy T.

The 49ers just went 12-5, were the NFC’s top seed and got to the Super Bowl and led the Super Bowl in overtime. If that’s a sign of coaching monotony then at least 30 other teams are in some trouble, too.

Could Shanahan’s message wear out over time? Sure. It could happen to any coach. But Reid, Harbaugh, Tomlin and others have kept things running for a lot of years, and I don’t see why Shanahan can’t be one of those guys.

How did the “loss” of Adam Peters affect the 49ers draft process/result? Was this loss any more significant that any other front-office loss in recent history (Martin Mayhew, Ran Carthon, etc.)?Alex J.

Though the departure of Peters — Lynch’s first hire on the personnel side back in 2017 — was a big storyline leading up to the draft, Lynch didn’t exactly love when I asked how things worked without Peters during the draft. I think Lynch’s answer was abrupt mostly because it was a big storyline and maybe he and Shanahan were a little tired of it.

Obviously, things had to change a little without Peters and with player personnel directors Tariq Ahmad and R.J. Gillen each taking on additional responsibilities this year. It seemed to go smoothly, though we’ll see how this draft class stacks up over the next few years. Note: It’s not like the draft classes under Peters all were perfect. But there were big hits, particularly in the later rounds, and I don’t know if that was all Peters or not. We’ll see how the Washington Commanders do under Peters and how the 49ers do without him.

But Lynch didn’t want to play that up, not even as a tribute to his long-time right-hand man. It gets like that sometimes, even among executives who work together a long time before one of them leaves to run his own shop. They get a little competitive. And maybe Lynch and his current staffers want to underline that Peters was important but wasn’t the whole personnel show with the 49ers.

The Niners seem to have two defensive coaches with different titles, Nick Sorensen, the defensive coordinator, and Brandon Staley, the assistant head coach, which seems weird. Does having two defensive coaches seem fraught, and is there an example of this working?Michael M.

Speaking of blunt answers during the draft … Shanahan didn’t love a question about Staley’s potential influence on the 49ers’ defensive selections. This is probably another example of Shanahan and Lynch not loving all the media discussion of their staff changes and shooting down any overreaching discourse about the changes.

But the 49ers have brought this on themselves by hiring somebody as famous as Staley and then not explaining what his job’s really going to be and how he’s going to work with Sorensen, who is a much more anonymous figure to outsiders. Of course we’re going to wonder how this all works and we’re going to speculate about the things we know that Staley’s done through his career. Sorensen right now is a blank canvas. He’s scheduled to speak to the media for the first time as DC later this week. It’ll be good for everybody when he starts filling in that canvas.

Brandon Staley

The 49ers haven’t said much about new assistant head coach Brandon Staley’s role. He was a defensive coach before taking the L.A. Chargers’ head job in 2021. (Katelyn Mulcahy / Getty Images)

During free agency and the draft, do you think that the 49ers gave enough priority to upgrading the O-line, especially in pass protection, which has been a weakness?David M.

No, I don’t think the 49ers have done enough over the last few years to give themselves good options on the right side of the offensive line. I still can’t believe they didn’t draft a tackle with one of their three third-round picks last year. But this administration is full of particularly tough graders on offensive linemen; if they don’t like a prospect, they don’t want any part of him. They won’t draft a development guy just for his raw tools.

The Shanahan system asks for very specific things in an OT — fluidity, speed in short bursts, quick thinking — and if the 49ers don’t see it, they don’t draft the OT. Which means they end up not selecting many OTs. Or actually any over the last three drafts. The last pure OT they drafted was Jaylon Moore as a fifth-rounder in 2021.

I understand the pickiness. I also think the 49ers could stand to be a little less finicky, especially as they contemplate the post-Trent Williams era. Because the only thing worse than stocking your roster with mediocre OTs is to run out of them completely.

Can anyone explain to me what Roger Craig has done to not be elected into the Pro Football Hall of Fame? Four Super Bowls, first 1,000/1,000 guy in league history (and there’s only three to this date), on the team of the ’80’s, a bunch of Pro Bowls…Greg T.

No argument here. Craig should be in the HOF, if you ask me or pretty much anybody who played with or against him or coached him or against him.

I thought maybe McCaffrey’s arrival in red and gold might toss a bigger spotlight on a previous running back who won a ton of big games and gained thousands of yards both running and receiving … but so far, no.

The last week or two of Giants baseball has been borderline unwatchable. Is this a sign that the issues with the team over the last two seasons weren’t as much tied to Gabe Kapler as they are to some other flaw in the organization? (Not blaming anyone, simply asking.) Luke V.

I certainly don’t think the last two seasons were Kapler’s fault. Not at all. I believe he was the wrong guy for this season, and the Giants agreed, but I sure didn’t think that everything was fixed once Bob Melvin was installed in the dugout.

There are certainly recurring problems — because Farhan Zaidi’s front office has been unable to produce good hitters from the farm system, Zaidi’s had to sign free agents to try to provide offensive pop, and sometimes that just doesn’t work. As in: all of last season and so far through this season, too.

I still think this year’s team is better than last year’s because the starting rotation is strong enough to carry them all season. They should win 82-85 games. If Matt Chapman, Jorge Soler and Mike Yastrzemski start hitting, they might win more than that and get a wild-card berth.

But until Zaidi figures out how to fill his roster with good young position players or acquires a great one via trade or free agency, it’s probably going to be like this every year. Which is not a fun thing for Giants fans to realize.

How do you assess the job Zaidi has done so far? On the one hand, the Giants have some potentially exciting arms coming, and they could be used in trades to acquire the type of position players the farm system has been unable to produce. On the other hand, it’s Year 6 and the system hasn’t produced a ton of value since he took over.Aaron M.

Yes. All of this. Yes. I think Zaidi has done a lot of good things that the Giants needed. I understand the process. The rotation looks like it could be good for a while and will only get better when Alex Cobb and Robbie Ray are back and Blake Snell is 100 percent. But if the farm system can’t produce hitters, the whole thing is on shaky ground.

Within the Giants organization do you have the sense that this is the year that Farhan has to produce or will he be held accountable? If it is, what would success or failure look like?Michael M.

I actually think Zaidi was held accountable in some ways at the end of last season. He met with chairman Greg Johnson and agreed that some things had to change. He needed to acquire more interesting players. Get away from all the platoons. Be more visible and accessible.

Fans might not think that’s enough and nothing matters more than the wins and losses, but I think Zaidi agreed to those suggestions and also solidified his standing by landing Melvin, which definitely wouldn’t have happened unless Melvin and Zaidi trusted each other so much.

I think the Giants need to end with a better record than last year’s 79-83 or Zaidi could be under some major scrutiny again. But I think they’ll meet that low bar. And then they’ll need to be true winners by 2025 — with multiple dangerous hitters in the lineup every day and 90 wins on the horizon — for the Zaidi era to continue into 2026.

IMG 0595 scaled

In the two-plus seasons after a 107-win campaign, Farhan Zaidi’s Giants have struggled. They’ll need to show some improvement soon. (Suzanna Mitchell / San Francisco Giants / Getty Images)

Why do you think Farhan didn’t make a play for Luis Arráez? Surely the Giants could’ve offered equally enticing prospects if not better. Jung Hoo Lee, Arráez and Michael Conforto to lead off a game would be pretty awesome.Peter T.

Giants fans might not want to hear this right now, but I’m fairly certain that Zaidi would rather have Thairo Estrada (for his power, his defense and his additional year of contract control) over Arráez.

In 10 years, where are the A’s playing? I’d put Las Vegas at 40 percent, Sacramento at 35 and Oakland at 25. Dan B.

Those odds sound about right, but with John Fisher, any weird thing is possible. I’ll say this: If NBC Sports Bay Area wants the A’s in Sacramento permanently, which seems very possible, I’d tilt those percentages up to 40-45.

What will it take for the other MLB owners to force John Fisher to sell the Oakland Athletics? Jedi K.

Owners really don’t like taking teams away from even the worst owners, mostly because they don’t want a precedent set for others to gang up and do it to them. But if Fisher messes it up in Las Vegas, like he messed up in Oakland multiple times and Fremont and San Jose, I think there will be a few owners who start to talk about how they can force some kind of end game.

Will Oakland get an MLB expansion team?Erich H.

If the A’s end up in Sacramento, almost certainly not. Even if the A’s end up outside of Northern California, it’s very unlikely there’d be any expansion into Oakland anytime soon with Charlotte, Nashville, Montreal and Portland all lined up.

Will you come check out Bay FC?Eric M.

Yes, absolutely. I’ve talked to several people who’ve gone to games this year and they all say it’s a great experience.

How do you balance being very direct with your reporting (good/non-good) with maintaining relationships with high-level executives and owners? Andrew R.

In my experience, asking direct questions and writing very direct things actually helps to form solid relationships with owners, coaches, star players and top executives. Here’s a secret: The thing they hate most about the media is getting criticized or mischaracterized out of the blue by somebody they don’t know and haven’t met and who has never shown up for a practice or presser.

I always make sure to ask questions (as anybody who watches live Warriors or 49ers pressers knows). I also try to get to know owners/execs/coaches/players as people, at least as much as possible. Marcus Thompson is better at this than I am, but I also try to make them laugh a time or two. Even if we have different goals and at times can be very annoyed with each other, owners/coaches/players and media members are in the same spaces and chewing over the same games and trades and signings. This is a shared experience, and some of it is funny in a way that only people going through it together can know.

And if they feel like you’ve tried to understand what they’re doing, they generally will keep talking to you even after you’ve said or written something they really didn’t like.

Also, have you written about your relationship with Buddy Ryan anywhere?Andrew R.

I wrote about this when Buddy died. Eight years later, I’ll summarize: He was the first coach I covered and his reputation was as this big, bad meany. But we clicked for some reason — hey, he liked that I asked a lot of questions and showed up for everything — and he absolutely is part of the reason that at 22 I knew I could and would want to do this job for a long time. You want to write about large personalities who try to do large things. Sports has a lot of them, but they’re not everywhere. And in my first real job, I got to write about Buddy.

It’s a touch hokey of me, but I was wondering who your favorite Niner/Warrior has been to cover from a personality standpoint? Patrick Willis and Stephen Curry maybe?Business T.

Curry for sure. And Draymond Green. And Andrew Bogut.

Among the 49ers, I’d say Trent Williams and Alex Smith.

GettyImages 1880763394

It’s a new era for the Sharks as they scored the No. 1 pick in the NHL Draft and the right to select top prospect Macklin Celebrini. (Bjorn Larsson Rosvall / TT News Agency / AFP via Getty Images)

Is there any reason Hasso Plattner never bothers showing face as the owner of the Sharks? Seems like he’s never even in San Jose. Jason S.

Maybe Plattner will start showing up now that they’ve got the No. 1 pick and will draft Macklin Celebrini? I mean, if the owner starts actually showing that he cares, maybe that’s a sign that we all can start caring about the Sharks again, too. I think Celebrini might be good enough to get all of that rolling, and that’s good. The Sharks deserve some good things to happen after a long, long dark spell.

Favorite sandwich in San Francisco?Peter S.

Quick list: Classic French Dip at The Grove, Lobster Roll at Leo’s Oyster Bar, Lobster Roll from Sam’s Chowder Mobile, Crispy Fried Chicken at Marlowe.

Sandwiches that I’ve heard a lot about and am very eager to try: Porchetta at the Roli Roti popup at the Ferry Building, Crispy Pork Belly at Chuck’s Takeaway.

What local places have you tried that your guests recommend that you are now a big fan of?Kris M.

I got away from the restaurant recommendations on my podcast when the pandemic hit, but I’ve gotten back to that question a little bit recently. I always love the answers.

To pick an answer for this question: Burma Superstar (locations in San Francisco, Oakland and Alameda) is a Billy Beane favorite and though I’d been there before he mentioned it, after hearing him talk about this place, I had to go back. A few times. Tea Leaf Salad forever.



Kawakami Mailbag, Part 1: Can the Warriors get Kevin Durant or LeBron?

(Top photo of Brock Purdy: Ezra Shaw / Getty Images)

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