We’ve cycled through a good portion of the divisions in the NFL. Now it’s time to talk AFC South. These are exercises to get you familiar with possible names the San Francisco 49ers may be interested in once free agency kicks off next month. Let’s kick things off with the team that made the AFC Championship.
Titans - DT Austin Johnson
One of the more fascinating free agents is Derrick Henry. Nobody wants to pay a running back big money on his second contract. History shows it’s a bad idea. I’d say there’s about a 1.7% chance Henry is a 49er, but it’s interesting either way. Cornerback Logan Ryan is a popular name that I’ve seen Twitter link to the 49ers. Ryan is a zone cornerback that can’t run. Hard pass.
That leaves defensive tackle Austin Johnson or quarterback Marcus Mariota. The former Oregon quarterback is only 26-years old, and Kyle Shanahan could look at Mariota as a gadget type of player. Mariota lacks the aggressiveness/gunslinger mentality to cut it as a starter—which is a reason I think Jimmy Garoppolo can be successful. By default, that leaves Johnson, who is another run-stopping 315-pound interior lineman that doesn’t offer much as a pass rusher, but can give you 15-25 quality snaps as a run defender. Most importantly, Johnson could be signed for the minimum.
RB Carl CB Bradley Roby
Houston doesn’t have a general manager, which is amazing to me. Roby signed a one-year deal with Houston for $10 million in 2019. That was after rejecting a deal from the 49ers. I’m not sure if Roby will cost $10 million again, but if there is a cornerback that fits what the 49ers want to do, it’s Roby. He does a nice job of reading the quarterback in off coverage and has the man coverage and ball skills you want on obvious passing downs. Roby finished with eight pass breakups and two interceptions in 2019, but he had double-digit breakups in the two seasons before. In San Francisco’s defense, Roby would have a career year. Sign me up.
Colts- TE Eric Ebron
The free agents for Indianapolis don’t really match up well with what the 49ers need. George Kittle is expected to be extended, but what about his backup? Ross Dwelley is an EFRA and in the last year of his deal. Levine Toilolo is an unrestricted free agent as well. Ebron will probably get more money in free agency than San Francisco is willing to pay. Still, if the goal is to surround Jimmy Garoppolo with as many weapons as he continues to develop, Ebron is intriguing. Shanahan would much rather play with two tight ends than four wide receivers. His average went down with Jacoby Brissett at quarterback, but that changes in a Shanahan offense. Depending on how the team plans to use Jalen Hurd, Ebron could be an option.
Jaguars- We’ll be fine, thanks
The notable Jacksonville free agents are all going to get franchise level money. Yanick Ngakoue is a stud. He would bring what Dee Ford brought to the defense. Ngakoue is also going to get in the neighborhood of $17.1 million. If you’re going to pay a player that much money, make it a player like Armstead that can have an impact at two positions.