I was wondering today: What free agents will actually be worthy of the 49ers' large amount of cap space?
I've seen reports of cap space of $70-$100 million, depending on variables like cuts (Kap, Ahmad Brooks, etc.).
Let me start by saying, the 49ers' cap space situation is AWESOME.
But when I hear people automatically think that we can translate that amount into bringing in young, talented, near-elite players, I am much more skeptical, no matter who the GM is going to be.
That's because of the player pool, in my opinion.
All-Pros just aren't out there waiting around to be signed to big dollars. Teams are getting better at locking their own players up to deals, or just franchising them, especially at the more affordable positions. Everyone is getting better at managing their cap space (well, maybe not the Saints and Jets).
Here's my simplistic explanation.
1. The franchise tag.
The franchise tag will take the best-of-the-best free agents off the table to begin with.
So I did a quick Google search of possible franchise-taggable free agents.
These guys have almost 0% chance of getting to market:
--Le'Veon Bell, RB (no explanation needed)
--Chandler Jones, LB (they didn't trade for him to let him leave)
--Jamie Collins, LB (same as Jones; plus Cleveland can afford his tag easily)
--AJ Bouye, CB (emerging player, only age 25)
Strong candidates for a tag:
--Donta Hightower, LB (Pats can afford an expensive contract after jettisoning guys like Jamie Collins)
--Kirk Cousins, QB (even if he doesn't get the tag, it's unclear if 49ers would pursue)
--Eric Berry, S (tag is much cheaper for safeties than corners)
--Alshon Jeffery, WR (injury prone anyway; don't think 49ers would take that risk)
--Kawaan Short, DT
--Melvin Ingram, OLB
--Jason Pierre-Paul, DE
--Trumaine Johnson, CB
2. The 49ers are not one player away (or two, or three, you get the picture).
On the NFL Trade Rumors website's list of the top-30 NFL free agents, only 2 will be age 25 next season. Only 3 more are age 26.
The rest will be 27 years or older.
Because the 49ers are not looking for one or two players to push them over the edge, it wouldn't make sense to overspend on aging veteran options, so I think it'd be pertinent to eliminate most of the over-age-30 options.
Aging offensive players that would not be a good fit in this scenario would be guys like: LeGarette Blount, Marty Bennett, DeSean Jackson, Pierre Garcon, Anquan Boldin, Andrew Whitworth, Vincent Jackson, Danny Woodhead, Vernon Davis (ha!).
Aging defenders not a good fit might be: Calais Campbell (not a position of need, either), Julius Peppers, Lawrence Timmons, etc.
3. Many top free agents aren't at a 49ers' position of need.
Before you laugh, I do think the 49ers have some positions where they don't have a big need (maybe a need anyway, but not a huge glaring need).
One strength is defensive end, based on what defense they run next year. The 49ers spent high draft picks on Armstead and Bucker as 3-4 ends. In a 3-4, with Armstead and Bucker at end, DE is not a huge need. In a 4-3, where Aaron Lynch would become a part of the defensive line, too, again DE wouldn't appear to be a huge need.
That would take guys like Jason Pierre-Paul, Mario Addison, Charles Johnson, out of the mix for big 49er dollars.
Second, I think OG is a strength.
Assuming Josh Garnett takes over at one of the guard spots, and the 49ers will have Andrew Tiller and Zane Beadles signed for 2017 to perhaps platoon with another rookie via the draft.
That would take of the board another wave of near-elite guards: Kevin Zietler, TJ Lang, Larry Warford, and Ron Leary.
Safety also could be viewed as a position of "above average" if Jimmie Ward is considered a FS in the new regime, although perhaps average if we're only talking about Eric Reid and Q Tartt.
So it may not make sense to throw a huge contract at Tony Jefferson or Eric Berry.
None of this accounts for the draft or re-signing of the 49ers own players, so obviously the new regime will have plenty of work to do.
After going through Steps 1-3 above, the biggest names left on the top-30 free agent list thus would be:
--Nick Perry, GB OLB (will be 27)
--Logan Ryan, NE CB (will be 26)
--Dontari Poe, KC DT (will be 27)
--Terrelle Pryor, CLE WR (will be 28)
--Rick Wagner, BALT OT (will be 27)
--Mo Claiborne, DAL CB (will be 27)
Other guys not on the list, but might be possibilities, are WRs Kenny Britt, Robert Woods, Kendall Wright, and Kenny Stills (none are legitimate No. 1 guys), CBs Stephon Gilmore and Prince Amukamara, RBs Eddie Lacy and Latavius Murray, DTs Nick Fairley, Bennie Logan, and Brandon Williams, and DE William Gholston.
While lots of these guys are above average players, none are a cinch to be or become elite.
Which brings me back to the point, who will the 49ers spend their cap money on?
What do y'all think?