San Francisco 49ers: What’s next for NFC champions in 2020?

Kyle Shanahan’s talented team came up short in Super Bowl LIV. So what does the immediate future hold for the San Francisco 49ers?

Heartbreaking for sure. The San Francisco 49ers were in search of their first NFL title since 1994 and a record-tying sixth Super Bowl title. And the NFC champions led by Kyle Shanahan (whose father was the offensive coordinator of that 1994 club) owned a 20-10 fourth-quarter lead over the Kansas City Chiefs.

But the Niners would not score another point on Super Sunday. Meanwhile, Andy Reid‘s club responded when 21 straight and a 10-point advantage turned into an 11-point setback with the Lombardi Trophy in reach but just out of their grasp.

Now the team is in the process of picking up the pieces and looking ahead to what they can rectify in order to get that sixth Super Bowl title.

So What’s Next?

In terms of potential free agents, the Niners have three key members of their team that could test the market if so allowed. One is veteran safety Jimmie Ward, who has had problems throughout his career staying healthy.

Another is 2015 first-round pick Arik Armstead, who comes off a season in which he led the club with a career-high 10 sacks. Then there’s wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders, who the franchise was able to obtain via trade with the Denver Broncos last October. They gave up their share of draft choices and the one-time member of the Pittsburgh Steelers responded in a big way.

But no doubt general manager John Lynch would like to retain his services for at least one more year given what he meant for quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo.

Biggest Offseason Concern?

The San Francisco defense made a lot of progress from 2018 to this past campaign. After setting dubious NFL records for fewest interceptions (2) and fewest takeaways (7) in a season, the club picked off 12 passes and came up with 27 turnovers.

But while Robert Saleh’s unit allowed the fewest total yards per game and the least passing yards in the league, the Niners were a mediocre 17th in the league against the run. That’s an area that must get better if Shanahan and company don’t want more teams to take advantage of that shortcoming in 2020.

Next: 2020 NFL Free Agency: Early predictions for top 25 players

It’s worth noting that a year ago, the New England Patriots captured a Lombardi Trophy just one season after losing in Super Bowl LII. So can the San Francisco 49ers turn that trick? The last NFC team to go to back-to-back Super Bowls were Pete Carroll’s Seattle Seahawks (won XLVIII, lost XLIX).

The franchise has some things to tighten up. But it’s a squad primarily built through the draft and one with a lot of young talent.

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