Kyle Juszczyk was one of the first players to put his faith in the vision of John Lynch and Kyle Shanahan. The fullback was one of seven names to sign with the San Francisco 49ers on the first day of free agency a year ago.
It was a bit of a leap of faith. The 49ers were coming off of a 2-14 season, and San Francisco's new regime had only been in place for a few months. And yet, Juszczyk turned down other opportunities – even one that would have been more lucrative – to take his talents to the Bay Area.
"This place had a draw to it," Juszczyk said on the latest 49ers Studios Podcast. "I saw it last season, and now it's way more clear this offseason."
A five-game winning streak to close the 2017 season and subsequent contract extension for Jimmy Garoppolo has the 49ers arrow pointing up. Juszczyk could feel the improved national sentiment earlier in February at the Pro Bowl.
"Almost every guy immediately brought up how hot we ended the season – how impressed everyone was by the team and by Jimmy," said the two-time Pro Bowl fullback. "You can tell that people around the league are noticing."
There's less than a month until the start of free agency on March 14. Even after Garoppolo's mega deal, the 49ers still have around $74 million in cap space (third-most in the NFL). That means Lynch still has all the necessary resources to add a few significant pieces to the roster.
Juszczyk suggested that it shouldn't be hard to attract players to San Francisco.
"You can see the momentum it's given us and the energy that it's given this team," he said. "It's made this place a destination for free agents. Like John (Lynch) said, 'It's 75 degrees, sunny and we've got a quarterback, why wouldn't you want to be here?'"
The day after Garoppolo signed his new contract, he told KNBR that players from around the NFL had already begun texting him. Guys were eager to express their interest in joining forces with the quarterback.
Juszczyk said he's experienced similar conversations, both in Orlando at the Pro Bowl and over text messages.
"I talked to multiple guys who said they were talking to their agents because they want to be here," he said. "I talked to guys at the Pro Bowl. I've talked to former teammates. This is a place where people want to be."
San Francisco isn't likely to break the bank. That has never been EVP of football operations Paraag Marathe's preferred strategy in free agency. But that doesn't mean the 49ers won't be serious contenders for specific players to help the team win in 2018.
Quick update: NFL.com has named San Francisco as the top free agent destination for the 2018 offseason.