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NFL free agency rumors: 49ers connected to Mike Mitchell, Nolan Carroll, Antoine Bethea

The 49ers have reportedly shown interest in a pair of defensive backs. We take a look at Mike Mitchell and Nolan Carroll, along with some Panthers and Dolphins blogger thoughts.

Ronald Martinez

The opening of free agency likely means the San Francisco 49ers will be doing some re-tooling of their secondary. Donte Whitner is reportedly set to sign a contract with the Cleveland Browns as soon as free agency opens. Tarell Brown is also hitting the market, and Carlos Rogers likely to be released soon. This has the 49ers already reportedly kicking the tires on some impending free agents.

On Monday, Bill Williamson tweeted that he could confirm the 49ers were "among teams that are showing interest" in Miami Dolphins free agent cornerback Nolan Carroll. I spoke with Kevin from The Phinsider to get a few thoughts on Carroll:

Carroll's time in Miami has been one of frustration for Dolphins fans.  He's always had talent, but he can get beat badly as well.  Last year was obviously his best year, and shows that he can be a very good cornerback in the NFL.  He's needed time to develop, and finally started to come into his own when he was thrown into the fire as the starter with the injuries to Dimitri Patterson last year.  Carroll is incredibly fast, but seems to try to rely on that speed sometimes, which means he is chasing the receiver.

He's still rough, and he's going to make some mistakes, but he is clearly going to be an asset to whichever team he joins - which I hope ends up being a team that has a dolphin on the side of its helmet, but that's just me.  Some Dolphins fans are going to tell you that it's good riddance because they remember the rough start to a career for the son of the former Florida Lieutenant Governor, but he really has developed, and, while there's still room for more growth, as a second or third cornerback, he's going to fit perfectly.

Earlier today, Matt Barrows reported the 49ers had called about Carolina Panthers free agent safety Mike Mitchell. He played free safety this past season, but it sounds like his frame could suit him for work at strong safety. I spoke with James from Cat Scratch Reader to get his thoughts on Mitchell:

Mike Mitchell is an interesting player because we're still trying to work out where his success came from in 2013. There's a good chance he was a product of being inside a system that allowed him to flourish, but there's more to it that just that.

Mitchell is aggressive, sometimes to his own detriment. He plays hard and with confidence, which will sometimes leave you scratching your head wondering why he didn't just sensibly wrap up a tackle rather than go for the knock out hit.

Ultimately he's a utility guy. I don't believe he's a long-term starting option, but an excellent gap filler. An organization that needs a couple of years will gain a player who won't win games for you, or really lose them. Sure he'll give up a bad penalty here or there, but he'll follow it up with a key pass breakup or a wow play that makes you forget the dumb mistake earlier.

These two strike me as potential under-the-radar the guys who could be in the 49ers wheelhouse. They would not seem to be the kinds of players that will command big contracts, but they could step in and fill a role right away. The 49ers likely will look for safety and cornerback help in the draft, but guys like Mitchell and Carroll could potentially fill in while the young guys develop. And if potential draft picks were able to step in sooner than expected, neither guy would be a cap crusher.

Fooch's Update: Matt Barrows dropped this tweet in just a moment ago:

I have to think the 49ers will kick the tires on a lot of safety options, so we'll see how this one ends up playing out. I could see a veteran added, but I think the team has to consider their options in the draft to get younger at strong safety.