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Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports


Realistic targets for the 49ers in free agency

Rohan Chakravarthi
Mar 14, 2022 at 1:41 PM--


The NFL's legal tampering period began on Monday, which essentially is the time where teams miraculously come to terms with free agents within a matter of minutes.

The San Francisco 49ers, still awaiting a potential Jimmy Garoppolo trade, should be in the mix for a number of key players as they look to acquire depth at multiple positions.

While there are certainly the big-name players that fans may wish to acquire, such as New England cornerback J.C. Jackson, let's evaluate some realistic options at every position that San Francisco can target.

Quarterback


This is merely a formality. The 49ers signed their backup quarterback when they guaranteed Nate Sudfeld $2 million on his one-year, $3 million deal earlier this week. With Jimmy Garoppolo on the move, Sudfeld should be the backup to Trey Lance in 2022.

Running Back


The 49ers heavily value the running back position, hence why the team drafted two backs to add to a loaded room last offseason.

Potential targets include Raheem Mostert, J.D. McKissic, Wayne Gallman, Marlon Mack, Matt Breida, and Tarik Cohen.

Mostert is coming off an injury-ravaged 2021 season, but has been extremely productive as a 49er, averaging 5.7 yards per carry over his six-year career with San Francisco.

McKissic would serve as the pass-catching weapon that San Francisco has desired from the running back group on third downs since Kyle Shanahan arrived in the Bay.

Gallman signed with the team last off-season and could be a valuable pass-protector, as well as an efficient runner in the 49ers system.

Mack and Cohen are relatively young and could look to San Francisco to jumpstart their careers again after an injury-ravaged 2021 season, while Breida has familiarity with the system and possesses elite speed.

The 49ers could stick with their strong group and potentially address the position in the draft as well, rather than divert more resources while currently being financially strapped.

Wide Receiver


Currently, the 49ers have Deebo Samuel and Brandon Aiyuk as their starting options, with Jauan Jennings expected back after being tendered as an exclusive-rights free agent.

Potential targets include Marquez Valdes-Scantling, Will Fuller, Jakeem Grant, Kalif Raymond, Ray-Ray McCloud, and DaeSean Hamilton.

Valdes-Scantling is an athletic freak, possessing burner speed as a bigger-bodied receiver at 6'4 and also serving as a solid run-blocker, which is what San Francisco prefers from their receivers.

Fuller is an above-average receiver when healthy, and could be cheap following a shortened 2021 season on a one-year deal who could be the perfect burner for Trey Lance.

Grant is the ideal Shanahan special-teamer, possessing receiver capabilities, but also return capability, saving San Francisco a roster spot for special teams should they acquire him.

Raymond had a productive 2021 season with the Detroit Lions, racking up 576 yards and four touchdowns. At only 27 years-old he'd be a good fit in the slot for San Francisco and should come relatively cheap.

Additionally, San Francisco has been linked to both McCloud and Hamilton, per ESPN's Jeremy Fowler, making them intriguing candidates for the roster.

Tight End


The 49ers have long searched for a tight end to pair with George Kittle, going from Jordan Reed to Ross Dwelley to Charlie Woerner, and haven't gotten consistent production yet.

Potential targets include Evan Engram, O.J. Howard, Robert Tonyan, Ricky Seals-Jones, Gerald Everrett, and Hayden Hurst.

Engram is one of the youngest tight ends on the market and has produced to an extent in New York, catching 46 passes for 408 yards and three touchdowns last season, but is primed for a change of scenery. Pairing him alongside Kittle could untap that remaining potential.

Howard, similar to Engram, seems to have some untapped potential as well, having been in a positional battle with Rob Gronkowski and Cameron Brate in Tampa Bay. Still relatively young, he could be a nice pass-catching option for Trey Lance in 2022.

Tonyan has been productive in Green Bay, although it diminished to an extent last season. He's also friends with George Kittle, which could sway him to San Francisco.

Jones had a quietly-good year with the Commanders last year, stepping up for the injured Logan Thomas and catching 30 passes for 271 yards. With good two-way versatility, similar to Gerlad Everrett, he could rotate well with George Kittle in the passing game.

Hurst has fallen out in Atlanta, despite the Falcons trading a second-round pick for him, as Kyle Pitts is the team's tight end of the future. He could jumpstart his career again in the 49ers offense and get the chance to play with Kittle.

However, tight ends may be too expensive on the market, given that Zach Ertz got in excess of $10 million per year from the Arizona Cardinals and David Njoku is primed for a deal in that price range as well.(Update: Seattle Seahawks tight end Will Dissly received $8 million per year annually as well.)

Offensive Line


With Laken Tomlinson gone to the New York Jets, the 49ers are going to have depth concerns along the offensive line, with unproven commodities at both guard positions, an aging Alex Mack, and right tackle Mike McGlinchey coming off a major injury.

Potential targets at tackle include Morgan Moses, David Quessenberry, Dennis Kelly, Tom Compton and Bobby Massie.

The 49ers are expected to look for a potential veteran tackle, not necessarily a starter, but rather a depth piece, to push Mike McGlinchey as he returns from a torn quadriceps tendon injury, which all five of the above options provide.

Potential targets at guard include Jon Feliciano, Trai Turner, James Daniels, Austin Corbett, Laurent Duvernay-Tardif, and Billy Price.

At guard, with Aaron Banks likely slotted in between Trent Williams and Alex Mack at left guard, the 49ers could look towards free agency to solve their hole at right guard, which would then return Daniel Brunskill, a restricted free agent, to the role of swing tackle.

Defensive Line


The 49ers could see significant turnover on their defensive line, with D.J. Jones, Arden Key, Jordan Willis, and Kentavious Street all hitting free agency.

Potential targets at defensive end include Dante Fowler Jr., Jerry Hughes, Ryan Kerrigan, Stephen Weatherly, Jordan Willis, and Solomon Thomas.

While defensive end could be a place where the 49ers splurge, it's seeming more likely that they'll address the position in the draft and go after a mid-tier cornerback with their available cap space. So, rather than spend on the available defensive ends, the 49ers could look for veterans on cheap deals, with players like Fowler Jr. being reclamation projects, similar to what they did last offseason.

Potential targets at defensive tackle include Tim Settle, Tyquan Lewis, Kentavious Street, and Jarran Reed.

At defensive tackle, the 49ers could look for a cheap option to compete with Javon Kinlaw as a depth piece, which Settle, Street, and Reed provide. Lewis gives the 49ers inside/outside versatility with his 280-pound frame, making him an intriguing candidate to be signed as well.

Linebacker


Bobby Wagner has been the big-name free agent floated around the 49ers, but it seems highly unrealistic, given his probable price range and the 49ers' current linebacker group.

Rather than upgrade the position, it appears San Francisco is primed to bring back their group from 2021, having already re-signed Demetrius Flanagan-Fowles, with Azeez Al-Shaair and Marcell Harris expected back as well.

Cornerback


The 49ers are expected to address the cornerback position in free agency, targeting a mid-tier free agent as one of their top priorities, especially with just Emmanuel Moseley, Ambry Thomas, and Deommodore Lenoir on the roster.

Potential targets at outside cornerback include Stephon Gilmore, Jason Verrett, Donte Jackson, Charvarius Ward, Casey Heyward, Rasul Douglas, and A.J. Bouye.

Gilmore would obviously be the cream of the crop, being the third-best free agent cornerback on the market behind J.C. Jackson and Carlton Davis, but could take a team-friendly deal to compete with San Francisco, with an annual value in the $12-15 million range. He'd be a great fit in the locker room, with his game being similar to Ambry Thomas', which would help the second-year pro develop as a cornerback.

Heyward is a seamless fit in San Francisco's scheme, excelling in zone coverage with the Raiders in 2021, and should be a cheaper option compared to Gilmore.

Jackson provides slot/outside flexibility and is entering his prime, making him a good pairing alongside San Francisco's young group, although it appears that they're looking towards veterans more.

Bouye, Douglas, and Ward fit the veteran bill, with the former likely coming cheap and the latter being linked to the 49ers already, per ESPN's Jeremy Fowler.

Potential targets in the slot include Desmond King, Bryce Callahan, Steven Nelson, and K'Waun Williams.

King is just 27 years old and provides the 49ers with a potential returner alongside his skills as a slot cornerback, which would be great value for the 49ers at a cheap cost.

Callahan, Nelson, and Williams are all good veteran options that could look towards a cornerback-friendly scheme like San Francisco's and contend for a championship prior to hitting free agency in 2023.

Safety


The 49ers currently have one vacancy in their starting safety rotation, as veteran Jaquiski Tartt is expected to hit the open market with the hopes of commanding a higher salary than the team-friendly deal he signed in 2021.

Potential targets include Terrell Edmunds, Justin Reid, Jordan Whitehead, Anthony Harris, Xavier Woods, Keanu Neal, and Tartt.

Should the 49ers not splurge on a cornerback, they could target a safety, given the amount of high-caliber safeties in this free agency class.

Justin Reid and Jordan Whitehead would be phenomenal additions on long-term deals, with both approaching their primes and potentially commanding lower salaries with the number of safeties in this free agent class, including the likes of Tyrann Mathieu, Marcus Williams, and Marcus Maye.

Neal and Terrell Edmunds have played in the box primarily and could play a role similar to Jaquiski Tartt if brought in, with a safety rotation utilizing each player's strengths.

Woods and Harris would be good additions, with the former being a younger option, while Tartt could also be brought back if he doesn't find a market for the second-straight offseason.
The opinions within this article are those of the writer and, while just as important, are not necessarily those of the site as a whole.



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