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The Athletic predicts landing spots for 49ers free agents and signing of Damarious Randall

Mar 11, 2020 at 1:53 PM--

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Sheil Kapadia of The Athletic went through the exercise of trying to predict landing spots for the NFL's top upcoming crop of free agents — 100 of them, in fact. Three of San Francisco's impending free agents made the list, and Kapadia doesn't envision any of them playing with the 49ers in 2020.

The first is Arik Armstead, who is a candidate to be franchise tagged. The deadline to do so is on Monday morning, just before NFL teams can begin negotiations with the representatives of impending free agents.

Kapadia predicts that the 49ers will indeed tag Armstead, and then trade the defensive end to the Cleveland Browns, possibly in exchange for a second-round pick. San Francisco is currently without a draft selection between rounds one and five, and could certainly use some more offseason equity. But would the team be willing to part with its sack leader from this past season?

"Arik's an excellent player. He had an excellent year," general manager John Lynch said last month. "I think everything is on the table. We want to find a way to keep him and make him a part of the Niners for a long time."

The Browns have two former 49ers coaches on their defensive staff. They are Joe Woods, the team's defensive coordinator, and Chris Kiffin, its defensive line coach. So there is some familiarity with Armstead, who had 10 regular-season sacks and two postseason sacks this past season.

If the 49ers cannot secure a second-rounder in exchange for Armstead, Kapadia throws out another name that could be part of a potential deal — Odell Beckham Jr.

"I'm just spitballing here," Kapadia admits, "but the Browns adding Armstead's versatility to their defensive line makes sense."

The mention of Beckham is interesting because the 49ers could lose wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders, whom they traded for in October, to free agency. Where does Kapadia envision the veteran wideout landing? With the New England Patriots. That would make sense if New England can somehow convince quarterback Tom Brady to return.

"[Sanders is] the type of smart, savvy vet who Brady will be able to trust," wrote Kapadia.

The other 49ers free agent on the list is safety Jimmie Ward, who Kapadia also envisions landing with the Browns because of the coaching connection there.

Those are three losses, but what about potential gains? Kapadia has San Francisco replacing Ward with Browns safety Damarious Randall, who the writer notes is a good tackler and versatile player.

Randall, 27, registered 61 combined tackles, 2.5 sacks, and six passes defensed through 11 starts with the Browns in 2019. That followed a 2018 campaign where the safety saw a career-high in tackles (72) and tied a career-high in interceptions (four).

It is worth noting that Ward is listed by The Athletic as the 53rd-best available impending free agent while Randall comes in at No. 85.

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