Heading into 2019 the 49ers' top priority is to get better in all phases as I'm sure a repeat of 2018 is not something they want. The 2019 NFL free agency period is one of the first chances to do just that.

Relying on free agents to take your team to the next level, especially after a four-win season, is not a team's best option as proper drafting and development of younger players is what will ultimately help sustain success for a franchise. But you shouldn't underestimate the importance of what a few good free agent signings can do for a team.

They can bring in a veteran presence to an otherwise young team. The 49ers' own Richard Sherman is the perfect example of just that. They can show younger players how to be professionals in their day-to-day duties, helping along that development process.

As the start of the 2019 league year is on the horizon, let's take a look at the top five free agents who the 49ers should keep their eyes on.

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1. DeMarcus Lawrence, Dallas Cowboys, EDGE:

A name that will likely be at the forefront of all free agent discussions. Lawrence will be the top name until proven otherwise. The 49ers' major weakness in the previous two seasons under head coach Kyle Shanahan has been the pass rush. It's been almost non-existent as they have finished in the bottom half of the league in sacks both years.

Lawrence would certainly change things in San Francisco and would do so in a hurry. Don't let the drop in sacks from 2017 to 2018 (14.5 to 10.5) fool you. Lawrence has been one of the very best pass rushers in the league over the last two seasons.


Now it's likely that Dallas will do everything it can to keep a player of this magnitude and sign him to a long-term deal. Nonetheless, with some other big names that it has to sign and Lawrence likely wanting top dollar it's certainly a possibility he tests free agency. As long as it's a possibility the 49ers should be doing their due diligence.

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2. Jadeveon Clowney, Houston Texans, EDGE:

Clowney is another top name in the EDGE department who is scheduled to be a free agent. Clowney finished the 2018 season with nine sacks, making it the second year in a row he has hit that mark. He also put in his best year as a pro in 2018, according to Pro Football Focus.


Clowney will be entering his sixth season but is only 25 years old and has quite a bit of football left in the tank and could certainly change the face of the 49ers defensive line. The 49ers won't be able to take Clowney away easily though as the Texans will have the option to utilize the franchise tag on him if they see fit.

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3. Dee Ford, Kansas City Chiefs, EDGE:

Are you starting to see a trend here? The 49ers need EDGE help badly and will not only have to draft well in this department but will have to also likely hit on a free agent if they want to get to the next level.

The Chiefs' Dee Ford can be that guy. Ford finished the 2018 season with 13 sacks and put in a career year, according to Pro Football Focus.


He also was graded as the top pass rusher in the 2018 postseason with a 92.3. It seemed that it all just clicked for Ford in 2018. He was dominant throughout the year and would fit nicely into the 49ers' scheme.

The Chiefs can also utilize the franchise tag but with the recent firing of their defensive coordinator Bob Sutton, a new coordinator may not see him as a fit and the Chiefs could let him test free agency. If that happens, expect the 49ers to go all in.

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4. Earl Thomas, Seattle Seahawks, Safety:

The 49ers have been down this road before. An All-Pro 29-year-old defensive back coming off a season-ending injury on a contract year in which he has publicly shown his displeasure with his current team. Sound familiar? Richard Sherman was in that boat and so is Earl Thomas.

The 49ers needed CB help then (still do) and need safety help now after being decimated by injuries. Adding another All-Pro talent to the backfield just seems like a no brainer at this point.

Thomas is not going back to the Seahawks, this much we know, and his buddy Richard should be in his ear saying, "we play the Seahawks twice a year". He still is playing at a high level, is under 30 and won't be asking for top dollar.

This just makes too much sense and if you asked me to put money on who the 49ers will likely get from this list, I'd put it all on Thomas. Make it happen 49ers.

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5. Golden Tate, Philadelphia Eagles, WR:

The lone offensive player on this list, Tate has been one of the most consistent receivers in the NFL since he entered. Although the 49ers' true receiver need is on the outside, which isn't where Tate lines up. Tate's consistent play, veteran presence and ability to break tackles can't be overlooked.


Even playing for two different teams with different systems in 2018, Tate still managed to put up nearly 800 yards and four touchdowns while averaging over 10 yards per reception. In a Shanahan offense, I think those numbers could elevate by a large margin. He wouldn't be a long-term solution being that he is already 30 years old but he would fill the "Pierre Garçon" roll in a much better fashion for less money.

Tate should be on the 49ers' list, as Shanahan could work wonders with a consistent veteran receiver near the end of his career.

Honorable Mentions:

Dante Folwer Jr., Los Angeles Rams, EDGE
Ronald Darby, Philadelphia Eagles, CB