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2017 NFL free agency preview: What needs do the 49ers invest in before the NFL Draft?

Time to break down some of the pertinent positions of need heading into free agency.

The NFL free agency tampering period gets going at 9 a.m. PT today, which means the recent spate rumors will turn into a flood over the next 48 hours. Then, at 1 p.m. PT on Thursday, deals will be executed and cash and cap space will be flying every which way.

The San Francisco 49ers head into free agency with a whole host of issues, but a lot of cap space to start turning things around. They are in the early stages of the rebuilding process, but they have enough cap space to make some big splash moves. It will come down to balancing the future with the next year or two.

As the tampering period prepares to get underway, I thought I would take a look at some of the notable positions, list some of the better options available, and then offer some thoughts on what might work best.

This is not a complete list, because realistically we could look at every single position. However, a position like running back I see the 49ers more likely to invest significant draft capital over a free agency addition. They will likely sign a veteran, but I don’t think it will be a particularly big signing. Others will point to cornerback. The 49ers might kick the tires, but with one of the deepest cornerback classes in recent memory, coupled with the existing solid enough depth chart, I don’t think spending on a big name cornerback will happen.


The 49ers have no quarterbacks on their roster, so it is safe to say they miiiiiiight look to add one or two in free agency. The team is almost assured of drafting at least one quarterback, but they’ll sign one or two veterans, and probably also add a UDFA or two to fill out the depth chart.

Top options

Kirk Cousins (trade)
Jimmy Garoppolo (trade)
Tony Romo (trade)
Jay Cutler (trade)
Tyrod Taylor (TBD)
Mike Glennon (FA)
Colin Kaepernick (FA)
Brian Hoyer (FA)
Matt Schaub (FA)

Predictions: I’ll stick with the slow play. The 49ers sign Brian Hoyer and Matt Schaub, then draft a quarterback, and add a UDFA as well. Kirk Cousins could be in the picture in 2018, but I don’t think they give up the assets that Washington will want.

Wide Receiver

The 49ers are releasing Torrey Smith, and aside from Jeremy Kerley have almost no proven options on the roster.

Top options

Alshon Jeffery
Terrelle Pryor
DeSean Jackson
Pierre Garcon
Kenny Britt
Brandon Marshall
Kenny Stills

Predictions: I think this will end up being the splash position. I am personally not sold on Jeffery as worth the kind of investment it would take, but with room to wiggle, I get wanting to get aggressive. I would prefer the team sign Pryor or Garcon. I think Pryor is a guy you can risk building around, while Garcon is a guy who is a solid bridge to add some stability to the position. I don’t think they sign both players, but considering the current state of the position, it would not be the most shocking development.

Offensive Guard

Zane Beadles is just not a long-term answer. Joshua Garnett was entirely too inconsistent, but I think even with a new coaching staff, he gets an opportunity to prove himself in year two. He won’t get a ton of chances if he does not shine in year two, but he’s not going anywhere for the time being.

Top options

Kevin Zeitler
T.J. Lang
Larry Warford
Ronald Leary
Chance Warmack
D.J. Fluker

Predictions: It is possible we see a splash here with Zeitler, although Warford was originally drafted by current 49ers senior personnel executive Martin Mayhew. Andrew Tiller is on the market, but I’m not sure if the staff is comfortable with him in less power and more zone.

Edge Rusher

The 49ers currently have Aaron Lynch, Ahmad Brooks, and maybe Tank Carradine as Leo options. Suffice to say, the 49ers are going to be looking to improve what they can get off the edge.

Top options

Nick Perry
Jabaal Sheard
John Simon
DeMarcus Ware
Charles Johnson

Predictions: Sheard might be the “sexiest” option here. There are some high quality pass rushers after Myles Garrett in the 2017 NFL Draft, and I think the 49ers look there for a long-term option.


The team extended Ray-Ray Armstrong late last year, and expects NaVorro Bowman back from Achilles surgery. Beyond that, there are a lot of questions as the team transitions from their 3-4 to 4-3. Ahmad Brooks and Aaron Lynch could get looks at OLB in the 4-3, but they also are likely to compete for edge rusher work.

Top options

Dont’a Hightower
Zach Brown
Gerald Hodges
Keenan Robinson
Josh Bynes

Predictions: This is a hard position to figure out. The 49ers have a need, but I honestly don’t know what direction they go. Bringing Hodges back would be a safe play, but I think he ends up with a better starting opportunity elsewhere. A lot of this depends on what they do with Ahmad Brooks, and what the coaching staff thinks of Ray-Ray Armstrong.