Solving for The Greatest Need

Pro Football Focus (PFF) the other day published a report which identified the greatest need of each of the 32 NFL teams. That report validated what I had been arguing now for almost a month. That the 49ers greatest need is not pass rush but is actually in the secondary and the report identified specifically the safety position. That probably came as a shock to those who have been clamoring for a pass rusher and more pointedly, an edge rusher, in total disregard for facts that were presented to them showing greater needs. But facts can't be dismissed or shrugged off as so many edge worshipers do. PFF had also ranked the 49ers secondary dead last in the NFL. In a word: Vindication.

It's not that there isn't a need for a better pass rush. The 49ers pass rush was ranked 19th by the same organization at the beginning of the season. It's not that 19th is so great. It isn't after spending 3 first round picks from 2015-2017 and still ending up 19th. But it just isn't the greatest need.

In my humble opinion, the 49ers really have 3 options in addressing the greatest need safety issue.

Option #1: Go to free agency and buy an experienced safety. In a thoughtful analysis by 49erFanSince1950, he identified two potential acquisitions through FA, Earl Thomas from Seattle or Clinton-Dix from Washington to which I agree. However, Thomas' current salary is $10M per year while Clinton-Dix's first contract after completing his rookie contract is estimated to be a 5 year deal at $50M total. Again, this would be $10M a year salary cap hit for either of these guys.

Option #2: Move Richard Sherman to free safety and backfill the cornerback position with high round draft pick (1st or 2nd round). Sherman has expressed an interest in finishing his career at the safety position.

Option #3: Draft a free safety. Deionte Thompson is the first round or Juan Thornhill in the second round.

If the Niners decide to go the draft, then I suspect they will have to use non-first round pick for either options #2 or #3 above. I do believe and predict that Nick Bosa will be available to them at 2nd overall because I believe Arizona will draft Murray. But if this does happen, it won't be done out of it being the greatest need. It will be done because Shanahan and Lynch are opportunists. They have already shown this to be true with the failed Khalil Mack trade. They'll take him because they can and there is a general need, not because it's the greatest need.

In thinking about this post, I was recalling the 49ers best safety IMO, Ronnie Lott, the 10 time Pro Bowler and Hall of Famer. He was draft #8 overall by the Niners in 1981 as a defensive back for four years. During his 5th year, he transitions to the strong safety position. The Niners went 6-10 in the 1980 season under Bill Walsh and it seems as though the secondary was identified as a problem then too. The 49ers defense was ranked 26th out of 28 teams that year and their pass defense was ranked 27th, with only the Cleveland Browns being worse.

They fixed their secondary problem in 1981 through the draft it appears. Not only did they select Lott with the 8th overall pick, but they also used picks in the 2nd, 3rd, and 5th rounds to select defensive backs. It paid off. The Niners went 13-3 that year and won the SuperBowl against the Bengals, 26-21.

This is a FanPost and does not necessarily reflect the views of Niners Nation's writers or editors. It does reflect the views of this particular fan though, which is as important as the views of Niners Nation's writers or editors.