Round Table: How can the 49ers win the offseason?

Feb 23, 2018 at 11:42 AM1


The San Francisco 49ers secured their franchise quarterback when they signed Jimmy Garoppolo to a five-year, $137.5 million deal. Now, general manager John Lynch and company need to build around their offensive centerpiece while also solidifying the defense.

We asked some of the 49ers Webzone writers what the 49ers can do in free agency and the draft to make Lynch's second offseason a success. What positions would they prioritize in free agency and the draft? Who is their No. 1 free agent target on offense or defense?

Note: Since we started gathering answers from our writers, some reports have surfaced regarding players (some named below) potentially receiving franchise tags from their respective teams.

Stewart Cockrell


It's almost as if the San Francisco 49ers hit some kind of lottery this offseason. Or at least have the potential to hit one. They trade an extra second round pick for a potential franchise quarterback, have at worst the 10th pick in the draft, and even after having to give Jimmy G the biggest contract in history, the 49ers are sitting on over $70 million in cap space. To top it all off, the 49ers have eight other draft picks to work with.

While the 49ers are poised to make noise in 2018, are they really one or two players away from being a legit contender? I'm not sure that is the case. It seems like the hardest positions to really hit on in the draft are receiver and defensive back. I think these two positions are the ones the 49ers should focus on in free agency. It seems to me there will be a least a few players on the market that would be an upgrade over some of the players on the team or at least give a new dynamic to the current core of players.

The 49ers should use the draft to continue to improve the offensive line and pass rush and to keep building depth across the team. Unless something crazy happens and Saquon Barkley falls to the 49ers at nine or 10, the 49ers will look to revamp the running back group with Hyde likely leaving in free agency. It's hard to think about draft strategy when you don't know what holes are going to be filled during free agency.

Ideally, a successful offseason would be the 49ers bringing in a mid- to top-tier free agent defensive back or wide receiver (or both) in the likes of Allen Robinson and/or Trumaine Johnson or Kyle Fuller. Also, the 49ers would be smart to continue to extend pieces of their existing team with new deals for DeForest Buckner, Jaquiski Tartt, and Trent Brown. Using a strategy much like they did with Jimmy G and front-loading the cap hits to this year would be smart as well.

John Croston


In free agency, I would look to bolster either the pass rush or the cornerback positions, as a true pass rusher and a corner to plug in next to Ahkello Witherspoon are holding a good defense back from becoming elite. At pass rush, Demarcus Lawrence and Ezekiel Ansah are worth a look. Kyle Fuller, Trumaine Johnson, and Bashaud Breeland would be good fits for the corner. Ultimately, my number one free agent target – assuming he does not get the franchise tag – would be Demarcus Lawrence. If I had to pick a pass rushing stud over a shutdown corner, I would choose the former every time.

In the draft, depending on how free agency works out, I would like to see the team take a "best player available" stance. If that means trading down to garner more picks, so be it. Guard and wide receiver would be my focus area if I were the general manager. For this to have been a successful offseason, the 49ers should have maximized their ability to pass the ball and be able to shut down the passing game of their opponents. That formula equals a return to the playoffs for the 49ers.

Jesse Dumas


In free agency, I believe the 49ers should target a cornerback that can step in and isolate the receiver on that side of the field. Drafting a guy would likely mean some hard-learning time that wouldn't provide an immediate upgrade. In the draft, linebackers, linebackers, linebackers. Without knowing what's happening with Reuben Foster in the short- or long-term, and the lack of talent at all three spots, getting guys to plug in and start learning Saleh's system will be essential.

Locking down your franchise quarterback at a number that the team can live with that also puts pressure on other teams in the Conference who have to re-sign their guys (Falcons, Packers, Saints) makes this offseason successful no matter what else happens. However, the pending issues with Foster have the potential to put a damper on the excitement the 49ers may be feeling in anticipation of the 2018 season. Free agency also has the potential to be very exciting, and I don't really see a way they can slip up so significantly that this won't also be a positive for them going into OTA's, etc.

Carlos Hyde would be my top free agent target on offense. Looking through the depth chart for next season, there are not many places outside of the guard positions that need immediate injections of talent providing the team stays healthy. But another season with Hyde as the lead runner, I think, could be dynamic with the return of Pierre Garcon and the continued emergence of Marquise Goodwin.

On defense, I like adding a pure No. 1 cornerback like Trumaine Johnson or Malcolm Butler. Johnson doesn't have the question marks surrounding him that Butler does after having been benched for the Super Bowl. He would immediately make the defense better, especially in the pass rush.

My blatant homer wish would be Franklin Delano Gore. I will never miss an opportunity to lobby for his swan-song return. I don't care if it makes sense or not.

Alex Pedregon


It's no secret that the 49ers have to come out of the free agency period with a starting corner and a starting defensive end (Leo) and securing both would absolutely qualify as a wildly successful offseason.

Trumaine Johnson seems an ideal cornerback target given his size, scheme fit, and the fact that it weakens a divisional opponent, but someone like Philip Gaines or Pierre Desir could serve as veteran placeholders while a rookie corner develops. Ezekiel "Ziggy" Ansah also seems like an obvious choice for the Leo position, but Alex Okafor on a two-year "prove it" deal coming off the injury could be a more cost-effective option.

Also, the 49ers should target a relatively low-cost, high-upside wide receiver like Taylor Gabriel, Donte Moncrief, Jordan Matthews, or Cody Latimer for depth.

Addressing these obvious needs via free agency would give the team a ton of options in the first round of the draft, enabling them to move up or down to target a high-impact prospect or stockpile picks for next year.

Justin Wong


If I'm spending big time money in free agency, it's got to be in the trenches after making the full investment on Jimmy Garoppolo. Daniel Kilgore got a nice extension, but I'm hoping to land an interior lineman like Andrew Norwell. Conversely, defensive backs typically take longer to develop through the NFL draft, and I wouldn't mind paying a premium for a physical cornerback like Trumaine Johnson or Vontae Davis.

It's very unlikely the 49ers can land an edge rusher in free agency; most teams place the franchise tag at this position. I would prioritize linebacker and edge rusher in the early rounds of the draft and get value at running back and offensive linemen later.

The 49ers need to load up with pass catchers--especially in the red zone. Garoppolo was excellent driving the offense down the field but couldn't punch it in inside the 20. The good news is that Garoppolo's resurgence seems to have excited a lot of prospective free agents who would love to catch passes from the 49ers' quarterback. If the 49ers can find a big X-receiver target to complement Pierre Garcon, that would be awesome. With plenty of cap room, Lynch is in a primetime position to really bolster 49ers' offensive skill positions.

Finding a big receiving target and an explosive pass rusher are top priorities. While both players are likely to be retained by their respective teams, I would be thrilled if the 49ers were to somehow land Jaguars' receiver Allen Robinson and Cowboys' edge rusher Demarcus Lawrence. Robinson is coming off an ACL injury and could go elsewhere if the Jaguars choose to retain cheaper options like Allen Hurns and Marqise Lee. Lawrence is coming off a career-high 14.5-sack season but has struggled to stay on the field with injuries and off-the-field issues.

Anwar Jamison


In free agency and the draft, I would prioritize cornerback, outside pass rusher, guard, inside linebacker, and wide receiver -- in that order. The needs at cornerback, pass rusher, and guard are glaring and obvious. As opposed to the 49ers spending top dollar on a big-ticket cornerback, I would like to see the team bring in two quality corners to compete for a starting position. The free agent class is littered with quality cornerbacks. Akhello Witherspoon improved as the season went on, but competition can bring out the best in anyone. Three quality corners competing for the top two spots would ensure a nice starting duo and additional depth.

I don't believe the team needs to add a potential starter at wide receiver, just depth, preferably depth with height. I believe that the No. 1 receiver everyone covets is on the team now in Pierre Garcon. There are only about five to seven genuinely elite receivers in the league, and Garcon is as good as anyone not in that group.

After having to carry the load for the second half of the season, Marquise Goodwin proved he is a complete receiver and much more than a one-trick pony. With Garcon returning to shoulder the lion's share of the burden, Goodwin should be even better. With Trent Taylor in the slot and the Kendrick Bourne poised to compete, a quality wide receiver or two should make a nice group after the competition shakes out.

With the amount of cap money, draft picks and momentum the 49ers have, this can only be considered a successful offseason if they get high-quality starters at each position where they have glaring needs. My No. 1 free agent target would be Carolina Panthers guard Andrew Norwell. He was voted first-team All-Pro last year and is only 26 years old.
The views within this article are those of the writer and, while just as important, are not necessarily those of the site as a whole.


1 Comment

  • PJ9ER
    My dream acquisitions in the aggressively prudent vein. Norwell, Tru Johnson, Jordan Matthews and Okafor. Draft a linebacker, Guard, and RB in the early rounds.
    Feb 23, 2018 at 9:31 PM
    2

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