Continuing the theme of getting to know some of the best fits in free agency for the San Francisco 49ers, we move onto the NFC North today. There’s no reason to believe general manager John Lynch won’t continue to be aggressive come March when free agency kicks off. Unlike the NFC South, the North division has a couple of starters the Niners could use.
Vikings- S Anthony Harris
Quietly, Harris was one of the best safeties in the NFL this season. Minnesota and San Francisco had two of the best safety duos in the NFL. Harris flew under the radar, but he won’t next month. Harris led the NFL in interceptions with six, primarily playing the deep free safety role. He did not give up a touchdown all season. He only missed three tackles all season as well. If you’re going to go after safety, Harris is your guy. He was good a season ago, but now that his stats have caught up to his play, the price tag may not be worth it for Lynch and company.
Those that cover the Vikings believe Harris is a possible franchise tag candidate. Harris is valued at $13.8 million a season by Spotrac. That seems like a lot, but we’re talking about one of the best players at his position. If Jimmie Ward gets offered big money and the team isn’t sold on Tarvarius Moore, Harris would be a seamless transition as he has the same type of aggressiveness has Ward coming up from his free safety spot and even better ball skills that allow him to make plays.
Bears- S HaHa Clinton-Dix
This a name that has been tied to the 49ers. That’s usually the case during this time of year. Fans would rather have a big name like Clinton-Dix, than a superior player like Harris. Honestly, I’d rather roll with Moore and let him develop than pay Clinton-Dix. He’s not a bad player, but there isn’t anything he does significantly better than what Tarvarius projects to do in extended action.
Clinton-Dix missed a tackle 16% of the time. Harris missed a tackle 9% of the time, which was the same number as Ward. In fairness to HaHa, he’d have plenty of opportunities to make plays with the Niners pass-rush, and he would cost half of what you’d pay Harris. Valuation is a big part of each free agency decision. Him not being good as Ward or Harris isn’t a slight, because those two are top-five at their position.
Packers- RB Tyler Ervin
There isn’t anyone on Green Bay that I’d feel comfortable investing in. Brian Bulaga would be great, but the 49ers are set at offensive tackle. There are too many question marks with the other free agents, or they wouldn’t be a great fit. Allen Lazard is intriguing at receiver, but the 49ers have plenty of underneath threats. They need someone that can take the top off of a defense. That’s not Lazard’s game. Which brings us to 26-year-old “running back” Tyler Ervin. He’s more of an offensive weapon, gadget guy that can return kicks.
The 49ers need to upgrade their return game. The 49ers had the second-best starting field position in the NFL last season. Richie James was eighth in punt returns at eight yards and 12th in kick return average at 21.4. James had issues toward the end of the season on punts, though. Let’s be honest; the defense is the reason the offense had such good field position all season. Being second shouldn’t prevent the 49ers from upgrading in their return game. Also, James should be more involved on offense, but that’s an entirely different topic. Ervin averaged 23.3 yards per kick return and 7.2 as a punt returner. He’s speedy and showed his skills with the ball in his hands late in the year with Green Bay. If the team wants to hit the reset button at running back, Ervin would be a great receiving threat in this offense that won’t cost much at all.
Lions- DT Mike Daniels
The theme has been consistent when I play the role of Lynch. I’m getting DeForest Buckner help, so he doesn’t have to play 70-80% of the time, and I’m also getting insurance for D.J. Jones. It’s going to be a veteran that has “been there done that,” so Mike Daniels—former Hawkeye—would be a great fit on this team. Daniels is 31-years-old and could be a part-time player for the 49ers. Injuries have slowed the production of a guy that was once one of the top three-techniques in the NFL. Daniels shouldn’t cost more than $5 million a season.
This is more of a character/leadership signing. Daniels is a jokester, but also a hard worker that demands respect. He’s someone who Buckner and Jones could lean on for info, as well as Arik Armstead. Daniels is a perfect fit for the 49ers locker room.