The San Francisco 49ers have money to spend and holes to fill when 2019 NFL free agency begins, but it’s educated guess-work at best right now who the team is actually planning on targeting. That being said, we can couple needs with available players to consider the possibilities.
Last month, The Athletic’s Sheil Kapadia put together a list of the top 50 free agents this year. On Thursday, Kapadia matched up each player with a team after updating the list to remove re-signed players like Brandon Graham and Donovan Smith. The predictions resulted in three players headed to the 49ers. They included wide receiver Tyrell Williams, safety LaMarcus Joyner, and edge rusher Bruce Irvin.
WR Tyrell Williams
Kapadia: “Despite a lack of talent at receiver and injuries at quarterback, Kyle Shanahan still found a way to scheme up explosive plays last year — 10.52 percent of the 49ers’ pass plays produced gains of 20 yards or more. That put them at sixth-best in the league. But San Francisco still needs to upgrade at wide receiver. Williams has been a big-play threat with 13 catches of 40-plus yards over the last three seasons, which is tied for fifth-most in the NFL. He doesn’t need to be a true No. 1 receiver but can give Jimmy Garoppolo another weapon. This is, of course, assuming the 49ers don’t end up trading for Odell Beckham Jr.”
Thoughts: We’ve heard plenty of rumors about Antonio Brown and Odell Beckham Jr, but free agency seems the more likely opportunity to add a veteran receiver. If Brown and Beckham don’t end up going anywhere, Williams could be one of the biggest beneficiaries. Golden Tate and Randall Cobb should have a sizable market as well, but 27-year old Williams could be the guy who gets a big money deal based on the combination of potential and production.
S LaMarcus Joyner
Kapadia: “The 49ers’ defense ranked 27th against the pass last season. There’s been some buzz about them going after Earl Thomas, but if they can’t land him, Joyner offers a fine alternative to fill their hole at free safety.”
Thoughts: We’ve heard plenty about Earl Thomas, and Eric Weddle is on the market as well. I’d be curious what the market ends up like for Joyner compared to a bigger name like Thomas. Joyner ranked eighth in coverage snaps per reception at Pro Football Focus, and 55th out of 86 safeties in run stop percentage.
Edge rusher Bruce Irvin
Kapadia: “Irvin produced 6.5 sacks and 13 QB hits last year, splitting his time between Oakland and Atlanta. He produced a sack or QB hit on 8.3 percent of his pass-rush opportunities. That was the ninth-best mark among the 174 players who had at least 200 pass-rush snaps last season. The 49ers may look to add one of the bigger-name pass rushers, but if they prioritize other positions, Irvin is a less expensive option for edge help.”
Thoughts: The 49ers badly need to improve their pass rush. Brandon Graham seemed like a solid veteran option before he re-signed with the Eagles. If the 49ers grabbed a guy like Irvin, it would seemingly further foreshadow plans to go after a pass rusher in the draft. The question will be if they go after an Irvin or a likely more expensive Trey Flowers.
How would you grade this 3-person free agency haul?
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