49ers mailbag: Will Garoppolo’s return with an extension? Sherman says farewell?

After praising Jimmy Garoppolo’s sterling record, study habits and market-rate salary, coach Kyle Shanahan concluded Monday’s media session with a touch of his dry humor.

“Any more Jimmy, free agency questions?” Shanahan asked in deadpan fashion over video conference. “One more week. But then I’ll be on vacation guys, sorry.”

Ah, but the 49ers Faithful do have more questions. Don’t worry, coach, I’m here to answer them in this Week 16 mailbag from my Instagram and Twitter help lines:

Is Jimmy going to play? (@huizar_11)

On Sunday? It would be “shocking” if he gets medical clearance, to use Shanahan’s word. Will Garoppolo play for the 49ers in 2021? “Yes, I do believe Jimmy’s going to be our quarterback next year,” Shanahan said.

Jimmy G extension? (@danny947)

That thought-bubble resurfaced in my head as Shanahan repeatedly defended Garoppolo’s market-rate salary, at $24 million in each of his contract’s remaining two years. “It’s not like it’s something ridiculous or anything like that, so we can work all that out,” Shanahan said. Work what out? An extension, making it more of a cap-friendly rate in a cost-conscious 2021? I haven’t heard from Garoppolo’s agents but it wouldn’t be surprising after hearing Shanahan sing Jimmy G’s praises, yet again.

Ahkello Witherspoon tends to shine at the end of every season. Do you think we will re-sign him? (@jaaaames036)

Aside from a pick-6 in the 2019 opener, perhaps the best play in four seasons came Saturday, when his end zone interception preserved an upset of the Arizona Cardinals. Still, I suspect Witherspoon cashes in elsewhere in free agency, even after Shanahan praised how Witherspoon’s hard work and upstanding attitude got him out of this season’s doghouse.

Did Kerry Hyder Jr. play himself out of our cap space? (@jslader33)

With a career-high 8 1/2 sacks, Hyder certainly outplayed his current price tag ($1.5 million). The 49ers would be wise to retain him. Just don’t spend too much on someone entering his 30s. As for their limited cap space, I’m leery of it, more so in that we don’t know for sure how tight it will be, especially if more room is created via a 17th game.

If the team declines Robbie Gould’s (2021) option, would he still play on Sunday? (@ninerscentral_)

I’d bet Gould would not want to forfeit a $255,882 game check, and he’d actually be pretty excited about entering 2021 free agency. Remember, he requested a trade prior to hammering out his contract before the 2019 season. Game-winning kicks like last month’s over the Rams should entice the 49ers, who otherwise may reconsider after Saturday’s three missed kicks that jeopardized their win over Arizona.

Has Richard Sherman quit on this team? (@j.m.p.9)

As insulting as that question is to his 10-year legacy, I get it. Look at it this way, however: his season-long calf injury still pains him, and him sitting with Garoppolo in a suite frees up playing time for the younger cornerbacks to improve their free agency stock like they did last game. I’m Sherman is not happy about missing the playoffs for only the fourth time of his career but not to the blasphemous point he’d abandon ship.

Even after he’s said it would take a miracle for the cap-stapped 49ers to re-sign him, I wonder if that is more gamesmanship on behalf of a player acting as his own agent, and same goes when he tweets back to fans’ farewells.

If you had final say in the draft, are you going interior O-line or cornerback? (@MoeTovar)

I wouldn’t use a first-round pick on either position, nor do I anticipate the 49ers shifting their roster-building philosophy, unless they’re convinced Caleb Farley or Patrick Surtain II is a Hall of Fame-caliber cornerback.

Do you see the 49ers moving on from Dee Ford due to health concerns? (@flacidpidgeons)

That is the way it’s looking. When Ford reported neck and back pains after the opener, that was a red flag, seeing as such issues can be career enders. So far, they’ve been a season ender. But Robert Saleh told me last week that Ford has been an uplifting presence with the 49ers at their Arizona digs, so perhaps the 49ers rework his 2021 salary like they did Jerick McKinnon’s for this year (or perhaps Saleh is thinking as a future head coach who wants Ford with him).

What do the 49ers have to do to upgrade the QB2 spot going into 2021? (@jdlohse)

The No. 1 thing is to make sure QB1 (Garoppolo) is fully healthy and hopefully more durable. I can see Shanahan drafting a potential successor, more so than adding an experienced starter. As Shanahan said Monday: “Do you want to go get a starter as a backup quarterback? Then you’ve just got to decide if you want to spend the majority of your salary cap on your first and your second-string quarterbacks.”