Brad Barr-USA TODAY Sports

Brad Barr-USA TODAY Sports



Over the past few years, the San Francisco 49ers have had a difficult time attracting free agents. If an available player had other options, he was unlikely to choose the 49ers. For years, the organization's instability has deterred players from taking a risk with the 49ers. With the hiring of head coach Kyle Shanahan and general manager John Lynch, the 49ers hope to change the culture of the franchise and, for the first time in years, free agents appear to be noticing.

The 49ers have already signed two free agents and the official free agency period hasn't even started yet. CB K'Waun Williams did not play in 2016 and the team's newest addition, DT Earl Mitchell, was released by the Miami Dolphins as a cap casualty. Because neither was on an NFL roster, they were free to immediately sign with any team despite the official start of free agency not occurring until March 9.

The interesting aspect of the two signings is that each had interest and offers from other teams and they still chose to sign with the 49ers. It is enough to make fans hopeful that the 49ers will once again be attractive enough of a destination to entice even more talent to join.

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On Saturday, Mitchell joined a conference call with Bay Area media. Grant Cohn of the Press Democrat was good enough to provide a transcript of the conversation. You can also listen to the audio below.



"Right off the bat I could tell it was a first-class organization," Mitchell said. "They treated me with a lot of respect. I was happy to be here because there are a lot of familiar faces that have helped me with my career. So I was really excited to be there, and I had a great time when I was there."

One of the familiar faces who he mentioned was 49ers defensive line coach Jeff Zgonina, who was an assistant defensive line coach in Houston during Mitchell's final season with the Texans (2013). Another was defensive quality control coach DeMeco Ryans, a former NFL linebacker, who played with Mitchell for two seasons (2010-2011) with the Texans.

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"They have DeMeco Ryans on the staff, which was big for me also because I know the type of player he is, I know how smart of a person he is," Mitchell said. "And just the fact that we played together. I can tell they're building a family-type environment there. That's something I wanted to be a part of with Coach Shanahan and everyone else that's part of their staff."

"A man of high character, [Mitchell] represents everything we want to be as a football team," Lynch said via a statement issued by the team. "Earl is a tone-setter who plays the game with a tremendous passion and the effort necessary to win in this league. We believe those qualities are contagious and will help to make our team stronger."

It would appear that things are headed in the right direction for the 49ers. The official start to free agency and the draft still lies ahead, but the new regime appears to already be chipping away at the rebuild of the roster.