The San Francisco 49ers were incredibly busy this offseason, signing 20+ free agents, and they continue bringing in players for workouts. New general manager John Lynch and head coach Kyle Shanahan are bringing in as much new talent as they can find to upgrade a 2-14 roster.
It became quickly apparent the team was looking for some familiarity with their acquisitions. Brian Hoyer, Pierre Garçon, Logan Paulsen, Malcolm Smith, and Earl Mitchell were among those with some connection to the coaching staff. As the team looks to make drastic changes on both sides of the ball, having familiarity can be helpful in implementing said changes.
Having familiarity also decreases the risk to some extent that comes in free agency. Building through the draft and being able to extend those players is an ideal system, but given the 49ers whiffs on a lot of draft picks, the rebuilding process requires free agent additions to build out a roster that might take some basic steps forward in 2017.
49ers chief negotiator Paraag Marathe discussed the team’s free agency philosophy during the “State of the Franchise” event Wednesday evening. He talked about the team having a ton of cap space, and plans to use their cap dollars. At the same time, he said that while the team can continue to be aggressive, they also need to maintain flexibility in their contracts.
Marathe has always been a fan of building through the draft. He has previously discussed the idea of paying wholesale prices vs. the retail prices you pay in free agency. The 49ers have struggled in recent drafts to build out their roster, which means they are not getting value for their wholesale dollars.
And so, that leaves them needing free agency help this offseason. A team cannot just blow a ton of money and hope for the best. Here’s what Marathe had to say about the issue of free agency aggressiveness vs. cap flexibility.
Just to give you guys a little bit of context for that, we signed 25 players, UFAs this offseason, in free agency, which was most in the league. Our previous four years combined, we signed 23 guys total. So, just an example of being aggressive for what you want to go get. But, you gotta stay flexible. And so for us, we still, over the next two years have the most cap room in the entire NFL. We have $22 million more than the No. 2 team in the league. And $60 million more than the average.
We’ve established, got the players in place for Kyle and John, but we’re set up to be flexible enough to go get more players, or sign our own players when we get into free agency in the future. Because everyone knows free agency is a risky business. But, what we did is we got players that had a lot of familiarity, either with Kyle [Shanahan] or with Robert [Saleh] or with Richard [Hightower], our special teams and our defensive coordinator. Or we signed guys to flexible contracts, just to make sure that we are set up for the future. The simplest way to say it is we’re gonna be aggressive, but we’re gonna maintain flexibility.