Sergio Estrada-USA TODAY Sports

Sergio Estrada-USA TODAY Sports


After Missing out on the Top Safeties, What’s the New Plan for the 49ers?

Mar 13, 2019 at 12:30 PM



With the news this morning that Earl Thomas signed a big money contract with the Baltimore Ravens, that means that the 49ers missed out on signing a top tier safety in what was a highly talented free agency class.

Earl Thomas joins Landon Collins, Tyrann Mathieu, Lamarcus Joyner, Adrian Amos, and Eric Weddle on the list of top free agent safeties that the 49ers missed out on. Now, what was a stacked free agency class is narrowed down to Ha Ha Clinton-Dix and Tre Boston as the top remaining safeties.

So where should the 49ers shift their focus to now? Before we discuss where the 49ers should shift their focus in free agency, let's take a look at what they did do.

Last night, John Lynch made an aggressive move to solidify the 49ers' biggest need by trading for an elite edge rusher in Dee Ford. You can read all about the Ford trade and how he significantly helps fill a glaring need for the defense by checking our my peers' articles. Lynch also made Kwon Alexander the highest paid inside linebacker in the league, replacing the void that Reuben Foster left when the team released him following his constant accusations of domestic violence.

Now despite the team making two big signings to help solidify the defense, the team still has plenty of needs and can't sit back for the rest of free agency. Lynch has done a great job solidifying the front seven of the defense, but outside of Richard Sherman, the secondary still needs work.

The 49ers should still be in the market for a corner to play opposite of Sherman and a ball hawk safety to protect Sherman over the top. Obviously, the draft is a clear path to improving one, if not both of those positions. But that would require having Lynch find some impact players in the middle rounds because their first round pick is nearly a lock to address the other side of the defensive line with Nick Bosa or Josh Allen.

Outside of the secondary issues, the 49ers have some offensive positions they could also improve. We saw that Lynch and Shanahan were clearly interested in improving the receiving group by being heavily involved in the Antonio Brown and Odell Beckham Jr. trades.

Well, unfortunately, the cost proved too steep for the 49ers, and now they're left with an underperforming, yet a promising group of Marquise Goodwin, Dante Pettis, Trent Taylor, Kendrick Bourne, and Richie James. So yes, Shanahan and Lynch should be in the market for adding a veteran receiver to go along with the secondary.

So what are the 49ers options, what's left in the free agency market that fills these needs? In my opinion, it's pretty evident that after not trading the 36th overall pick for AB or OBJ, they will use that pick to address one of these three positions of need.

That could mean trading back into the first round to draft one of the top corners. Greedy Williams, Trayvon Mullen, and Deandre Baker are corners who fit the mold Robert Saleh likes and should be within trade range. Or they could wait and see if one of the top safeties, Taylor Rapp or Jonathan Abraham, falls to the second round.

But in terms of free agency options. I narrow the list to Ha-Ha Clinton Dix (S), Tre Boston (S), Ronald Darby (CB), Kareem Jackson (CB/S), Jimmie Ward (DB).

I don't believe this wide receiver free agency class fits the bill for the type of dynamic receiver Shanahan needs to elevate the offense. The 49ers have plenty of sub-six foot receivers on their roster, and outside of Kelvin Benjamin, Michael Floyd, Jordan Matthews, and Jermaine Kearse, this market doesn't really have a standout option to replace Pierre Garçon. I'd much rather address this need via the draft or another trade.

The remaining secondary options are all still available for a reason. Clinton Dix, 26, is the most consistent of the safeties available, yet hasn't really shown any breakout potential in his first five seasons. Boston, 26, has really found his place in the league this past two seasons with the Chargers and Cardinals collecting eight interceptions and 17 pass breakups. Darby, 25, is the biggest wild card as he's struggled to stay healthy the past two seasons, only playing 17 games. However, we did see how good of a corner he could be helping the Eagles win the Super Bowl in 2017. The same could be said about Ward, 27, who the 49ers have already said they were interested in bringing back. Jackson, 30, is the oldest of the group and is going down the career path of Charles Woodson by playing more safety last season for the Texans.

A good way for Lynch to tie a bow on the start of the 2019 season would be by signing one of Clinton Dix or Tre Boston. I love that Tre Boston had confidence in himself by signing a one-year deal last offseason with the Cardinals. He's proven that he's a viable NFL safety and should come at a discount compared to Clinton Dix. It's disappointing that the 49ers couldn't come out of free agency with one of the top safeties, but either player would be a good discounted consolation prize.

After the way free agency has shaken out the best course of action for John Lynch is to sign one of the aforementioned safeties, trade up or use the 36th pick to draft a corner, and look for a receiver in the middle rounds or potentially explore trading some late round draft equity for an established receiver (AJ Green).
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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