The 49ers had one goal entering the 2020 offseason.
That goal was to retain as much of their roster as they could. Coming off a Super Bowl appearance, there wasn't really much pushback on that idea. The 49ers were vastly better than almost every team in the league, so running it back with nearly the same squad was brilliant.
However, that same squad didn't give the 49ers much last season. They missed the playoffs and finished dead last in the NFC West with a 6-10 record. Injuries were the lasting theme for 2020, but so was the fact that the 49ers were too entrenched into their own players. Rather than look for potential upgrades, they wanted to keep their guys together. And that just might be a goal of theirs again this offseason as free agency nears.
So should the 49ers continue to retain their own players?
It wasn't a bad idea last offseason, but it is now time for the 49ers to install some new blood into the team. A handful of their key free agents are going to cost a pretty penny, so even if they wanted to utilize the same method as last year, they really aren't in a position to do so. And last year, they wanted to keep as many players together so badly that they used DeForest Buckner essentially as their sacrificial lamb.
That trade looked wise considering the freed up salary cap space and the draft capital garnered. But really the 49ers regressed in 2020 from that trade. Jimmie Ward is a solid safety, but he isn't going to make game changing turnovers. Safeties generally aren't that type of a player. And Arik Armstead proved that he is a player that needs a strong supporting cast to optimize his impact.
So yes, the 49ers need to start looking outside of the organization for help, especially with their current salary cap space. It is just impossible to try to keep everyone together and this year there isn't a player they can trade to free up more space to make it happen. Unless, of course, they are able to trade Jimmy Garoppolo. I just don't believe that will occur until the draft if it does happen.
The 49ers' comfort zone is to always retain their own players, but it is now time for them to step out of it. They need to figure out a way to make more outside talent fit their team and it may just be from a mindset standpoint with them.
If you look at other consistent successful teams, they just have a handful of core players they retain, not an abundance of them. Kyle Shanahan and John Lynch need to check their personal biases at the door, especially Shanahan. They have their core already of George Kittle, Nick Bosa, Brandon Aiyuk, and presumably Fred Warner. Every other player/area is open to replacement.
If the 49ers can start to do that this offseason, then they will start blowing teams out of the water again like in 2019.