No rest for 'grieving' 49ers as attention turns to offseason

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SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- As the 2019 San Francisco 49ers wrapped up their final team meeting -- a session that was scheduled to last 15 minutes but went an hour-plus -- they took time to remember all the good that happened in their run to Super Bowl LIV.

Coach Kyle Shanahan and general manager John Lynch entered that meeting aware that the team was going to need time to pick up the pieces after coughing up a 10-point, fourth-quarter lead to the Kansas City Chiefs. They also knew that there was nothing they could say that would make their team forget that pain.

What the Niners call their "grieving" period had only just begun. But the reality is that the NFL and its fast-approaching offseason stops for no one, not even teams that play for the Lombardi Trophy.

"I am proud as can be of how our team handled everything, how I did, how John did, how everyone did," Shanahan said. "Now, we can deal with whatever because we're proud of how we handled it. If I wasn't proud of that, then the stuff would be very hard on me. That's what's cool when you get in these moments and you can feel all this, it makes you stronger. That is a cool feeling. Not to mention how hard grieving the loss of a Super Bowl is. We'll start that process."

It's not the only process that the 49ers must begin. In fact, they've already started on work that the rest of the league, save for the Chiefs, has been chipping away at for weeks or months, in the case of some teams.

In the past two seasons, the Niners have been out of the playoff mix before December, leaving plenty of time to look ahead. That's not the case this year, though it's a trade-off the Niners hope to make an annual tradition. While Lynch and his staff have been scouting possible free-agent additions and college prospects for months, Shanahan and his staff have devoted all of their time to forging game plans and studying opponents.

With the wounds of the Chiefs loss still fresh and thoughts of what could have been not far from their minds, Shanahan and Lynch have had to turn the page quickly to figure out what they can do to keep key components of the current team together and what additions and subtractions need to be made to take the final step.

So, how does a grieving leadership group turn the page?

"Just a lot of communication," Lynch said. "I think the good thing with Kyle and I, we're always talking. His focus has had to be on the season. And so, he trusts that our group is doing a lot of the legwork so we can present it to him. We continue to have conversations. He's already in position that he knows a lot of the issues and now we've just got to really fine-tune it and see exactly how we want to approach things. That's kind of how I would characterize it."

Even in the midst of the playoff run, Lynch and members of his staff attended the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Alabama. Considering that Shanahan and his staff coached the South team in 2019, it served as a reminder of how far the 49ers had come. The team was also represented at other collegiate all star games.

Next week, the Niners will join the rest of the football world at the NFL scouting combine, which runs from Feb. 23-March 2. There, Shanahan & Co. will get their first chance to meet and interview the top college prospects. That could also serve as a starting point for potential trade discussions involving San Francisco's first-round pick, No. 31 overall.

The Niners currently don't have picks in Rounds 2-4, and it stands to reason they'd be open to moving out of the first round in order to accumulate middle-round selections.

While in Indianapolis, the Niners will also see the window open for using the franchise and/or transition tags on Feb. 25. Defensive lineman Arik Armstead is a candidate for a tag, though the cost of the one-year tender might be prohibitive. There will be discussions about re-signing unrestricted free agents such as free safety Jimmie Ward and receiver Emmanuel Sanders, as well as extensions for building blocks, such as defensive tackle DeForest Buckner and tight end George Kittle, who are on the last year of their rookie contracts.

Upon returning from the combine, free agency and the new league year begin March 18, with the two-day early negotiating period starting March 16. The NFL draft is set for April 23-25 in Las Vegas.

And, as Shanahan reminded his team before parting ways for the offseason, they were then only 68 days away from the start of the offseason program, set to begin April 20 for teams with returning coaches.

The Niners hope that by the time that all happens, they will have completed the grieving process and turned their disappointment into motivation.