When the San Francisco 49ers made sweeping changes this offseason, they did so knowing this wasn't going to be an overnight turnaround.
General manager John Lynch and coach Kyle Shanahan got six-year deals partly as acknowledgement of that fact. Even though they made a flurry of moves to bolster the roster, they still passed on trying to force finding a franchise quarterback and opted instead to sign a bridge starter in Brian Hoyer. This season will lay the foundation as they hope to find their quarterback next offseason and potentially begin adding playmakers around him.
How long do you think it will take for the 49ers' rebuild to work and for them to contend for the division again?
Josh Weinfuss, ESPN Arizona Cardinals reporter: The Niners’ turnaround is going to take some time. Their personnel moves and commitment to rebuilding their roster were impressive this offseason, but it won’t be translate into a winner in 2017. Five, six or seven wins might even be a stretch. It’ll take at least three seasons for them to compete in the division again. They’re young, and that comes with its own learning curve. And they don’t have a quarterback of the future -- yet. Once they find a quarterback who can be the offensive foundation for years to come, then San Francisco could turn the corner and become a competitive team in the West again. That may take another draft or two, or even another free-agent class or two. It’ll certainly take time.
Alden Gonzalez, ESPN Los Angeles Rams reporter: There’s a reason Lynch and Shanahan were brought in on six-year contracts. This is going to take some time. The 49ers went 2-14 in Chip Kelly’s first and only season as coach then completely retooled, using nearly $80 million in salary-cap space to address what became a barren roster. The Niners improved an offense that finished last in the NFL in passing yards mostly through free agency, adding a couple of quarterbacks, led by Hoyer, and a handful of pass-catchers, headlined by Pierre Garcon. They then addressed a defense that was by far the league’s worst last year through a savvy draft that netted Solomon Thomas and Reuben Foster at the top. But there are still holes throughout the roster. And the Niners aren’t going to be a legitimate contender until they find their quarterback of the future. The 2018 draft class looks good at quarterback. And if that doesn’t work out, Shanahan can always take a stab at trading for old friend Kirk Cousins. Patience is key, though. FPI projects a 5-11 record for the 49ers in 2017 and gives them a 3 percent chance of making the playoffs. This will take at least three years.
Sheil Kapadia, ESPN Seattle Seahawks reporter: It’s difficult to see the 49ers competing for the division before 2019 -- at the earliest. Lynch and Shanahan have inherited a massive rebuilding project, and until they find a long-term solution at quarterback, it’ll be tough to take them seriously as contenders. We have seen what Shanahan can do when he has talent to work with offensively, but this season will offer a test on some of the limitations of coaching and scheme. If the 49ers are able to come up with a solution at quarterback next offseason, that could make up for other areas of weakness on the roster and speed up their rebuild.