Good morning folks, and a happy Thursday to you. With the combine and franchise tag deadline in the immediate rear-view, we now have the opening of free agency looming on the horizon. Next Monday, March 11th, the “legal tampering” period will begin, when teams have a short window to contact and negotiate contracts with the certified representatives of free agents. On Wednesday, March 13th, free agency will officially open.
Currently, most of the headlines dominating the 49ers media are centered around possible trades for Odell Beckham Jr. or Antonio Brown, narratives which have grown legs, likely due to the high-profile nature of the players and not much else. Of course, there’s also a major movement for signing former Seahawks all-world safety Earl Thomas, which, in all fairness, makes an enormous amount of sense. By now, I’m sure we’re all expertly versed in the prevailing narrative surrounding a possible Thomas signing - reunite him with Richard Sherman, back up the Brinks truck, “boo Cowboys” and such.
There had also been a fair amount of discussion about possibly luring edge rushers DeMarcus Lawrence or Dee Ford to San Francisco, but recent franchise tags have put the kibosh on both of those ideas. Should the 49ers look to make a big splash in the free agent edge rusher market, the options are limited to a short deal with 30-year old DE Ziggy Ansah (who has numerous connections to current 49ers front office and coaching personnel), or engage in an arms race for Trey Flowers. I wouldn’t be against the latter option, but ultimately, I believe he is going to end up atop a bidding war with a mega-deal in hand.
Most 49ers fans would agree, the teams major needs remain at edge rusher, wide receiver, and safety. With plus draft capital in hand, there seems to be reason to believe that at least one of these positions should be filled by the end of day 2 of the draft, if not more. Unfortunately, however, the 49ers remain a team with several minor weaknesses, and I’m strongly in favor of looking to build a quality foundation through exploring other options.
Tevin Coleman, RB, Atlanta Falcons
Coleman has had an up-and-down career thus far. When he was in a position to work alongside a presumed starter, he shone as a home run threat, both on the ground and through the air. Success never really materialized for him, however, when he was given the opportunity to act as the lead back after Devonta Freeman went down with an injury. Considering that our presumed lead back is returning from a torn ACL, and his backup is made of glass, adding another quality back to the committee might be a lifesaver later in the season. Furthermore, his familiarity with Kyle Shanahan’s system increases his value by my estimation.
Anthony Barr, LB, Minnesota Vikings
Barr has had a very solid career with the Vikings thus far. He’s bound to collect a few sacks per season and can be relied on for occasional coverage duties, but absolutely shines as a run stopper. The 49ers have an empty cupboard at SAM backer, and Barr would be an ideal solution to that problem. An annual Pro Bowler, Barr will likely command a respectable contract should he decide to move on from Minnesota, but completing a deal with him would infuse much-needed versatility and stability in a severely under-performing defensive unit.
Danny Shelton, NT, New England Patriots
I’ve got as much faith in DJ Jones as the next guy, but it couldn’t hurt to bring in a young, talented, experienced player. Shelton is a prototypical lane-clogging nose tackle, who can likely be had for a similar amount to what the team expected to pay Earl Mitchell. The 49ers allowed the fifth most rushing first downs in 2018, and adding another quality interior run defender would likely help regress that figure to the mean, at the very least.
49ers Mailbag | Biderman, Sac Bee
Combine buzz | Maiocco, NBC Sports Bay Area
Terrell Owens believes in Jimmy Garoppolo | Chan, NBC Sports Bay Area
Nick Bosa goes into detail about his core injury | Maiocco, NBC Sports Bay Area
Is Montez Sweat an option? | Chan, NBC Sports Bay Area