Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports


49ers Mailbag: Free agency edition

Al Sacco
Feb 5, 2019 at 8:21 AM0


The NFL offseason can seem endless, especially if you're a fan of a team that looks primed to take a big jump in the standings the following year. This was the case for the San Francisco 49ers in 2018, as each long month that passed seemed to get the Faithful closer to what appeared to be a promising campaign. That all ended though on a September afternoon in Kansas City, when franchise quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo took an awkward step which resulted in an ACL injury that derailed the season before it ever really got started. Now? Well, we get to do it all over again as the drawn-out wait is once again upon us. First up in the journey is free agency, and there's a lot of speculation and curiosity about what will happen, which is plain to see in this edition of the mailbag.

Q: If the 49ers fail to get (Antonio) Brown, who else can you see us targeting? (@KingTiny81)

A: Brown will be the elephant in the room until his situation is resolved, but I'm just not sure it's a move the 49ers would pursue. Does it make the team better? Absolutely. However, Brown will be 31-years old and is due to make $40 million the next two seasons. The age is a factor here, as it's just not reasonable to think any receiver can sustain what he's done in his prime years well into his 30s. This is especially true for Brown who's averaged an insane 114/1,524/11 since 2013.

If I'm right, and San Francisco does pass on Brown, there might be a few names that make sense on the free agent market. The first is Tyrell Williams, who has the size the Niners need (6-foot-4), and already has a 1,000 yard season under his belt with the Los Angeles Chargers. Devin Funchess never lived up to being a second-round draft pick in Carolina, but the former Panther could be an ideal buy low candidate if Kyle Shanahan feels he could be coached up. Other names to watch are Donte Moncrief and Kevin White, both of who should both be affordable after disappointing starts to their careers.

Q: Dante Fowler seems like the popular edge guy, but how about Shaq Barrett? And could we go for a second guy in Za'Darius Smith? (@ThatOsCruz)

A: I remember being on a conference call with Shanahan right after final roster cuts were announced prior to the start of the 2018 season, and someone asked him who would be the team's primary edge defenders. His response worried me, as he started to name multiple players who would get a shot. DeForest Buckner, Arik Armstead, Solomon Thomas, Cassius Marsh, Ronald Blair, etc. were all going to get an opportunity. After hearing that, it was pretty obvious to me that even the coaching staff had no idea who could actually provide consistent pressure off the edge.

That simply can't happen again.

The 49ers will absolutely address edge in the draft, and most likely very early on. Whether it's Nick Bosa, Josh Allen or someone else, it's safe to say at least one foundational piece will be taken to help the pass rush. But San Francisco needs more than just one guy, which is why getting players who can contribute at that spot in free agency is also paramount. There can't be any Jeremiah Attaochu's this offseason.

It's highly unlikely that DeMarcus Lawrence, Dee Ford, Frank Clark, or Jadeveon Clowney will see the open market, but names like Fowler, Barrett, Smith, Brandon Graham and Anthony Barr could very well be available. It all depends on who the 49ers value, and if they feel the price tag is fair.

An additional name to keep an eye on is Ezekial Ansah. Martin Mayhew, who was recently promoted to vice president of player personnel, drafted Ansah during his time as general manager with the Detroit Lions and knows him well. Also, new defensive line coach Kris Kocurek coached Ansah from 2013-17. After an injury-riddled 2018, it remains to be seen what the market might be, but the familiar faces by the bay could make San Francisco and enticing option for Ansah.

Q: Until Robbie Gould is signed they shouldn't worry about any other player. He will be the difference between wins and losses next year. Ask the Chicago Bears how important he is. (@velocb)

A: This is more of a statement than a question but you get the point. Matt Barrows reported that the 49ers and Gould appeared to be far apart in negotiations, so a return doesn't look to be anywhere close. Gould was the 18th highest paid kicker in 2018 at $2 million. Stephen Gostkowski of the New England Patriots made the most at $4.3 million. Overall, six kickers made $4 million or more and 12 made $3 million or more. That's not a big difference in money amongst kickers, so it would be interesting to see where both sides were coming from.

At the end of the day though, this may be about more than money for Gould. His family is still in Chicago and his love affair with the city is well known. Maybe Robbie just wants to go home. If that's the case, regardless of what the final offer is, the Niners might be looking for a new kicker.

Q: Earl Thomas? (@Erslan1935)

A. In 2018 the 49ers intercepted two passes. Seriously. That was the lowest total for any team in a 16-game season. While pass rush issues may have had something to do with that, the fact is San Francisco still needs playmakers in the secondary. Adding Thomas would immediately remedy the issue, as he had more interceptions in four games (three) than the entire Niners team.

Despite coming off a broken leg, Thomas looks like he'll be at full strength next season, and could change the entire dynamic of the defense. Not only would he provide that much needed playmaking ability, but having a veteran like him would also go a long way in solving the communications problems that have plagued Robert Saleh's unit all too often.

Now, at 30-years old, Thomas isn't exactly a candidate for a long-term deal, but the 49ers have the cap space to pay him big bucks the next two seasons, and that could tip the scales if there's a bidding war for his services.

Q: Who are the top FA on YOUR list we should pursue. Any position and any players. (@zalifar79)

A: I'd like to throw out a bunch of names here, but to be honest I'm just not sure how active John Lynch and company will be. I mean, what was the last big splash the 49ers have made? Justin Smith? Nate Clements? What the 49ers usually do in free agency is sign second-tier guys to team friendly deals, and overpay for non-premier positions. What do I mean by non-premier? Take the Kyle Juszczyk contract for example. Juszczyk signed a 4-year $21 million deal in 2017, and while that's a big contract for a fullback, $5 million annually is nothing in the grand scheme of things.

I do think Thomas will be a target and they'll definitely look into edge rushers, I'm just not sure how high they're willing to go. I wish I could be more optimistic, I just have to see it to believe it. It all depends on how much pressure this regime feels to win now. In a perfect world, the players I would want the 49ers to seriously look into would be Thomas, Williams, Baltimore Ravens linebacker C.J. Mosley and multiple pass rushers.
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.


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