Over the last few weeks, we went over one free agent from each team the San Francisco 49ers should be interested in. We went through each division if you missed it. The NFC East, NFC West, NFC North, AFC South, AFC West, AFC North, and AFC East. The closer we get to free agency, the less it feels like the 49ers are going to make a splash. Ideally, they re-sign their big named free agents and add one veteran, while crushing the draft. It’s never that easy, and it likely won’t be this year. Here are four free agents that I hope the 49ers sign. This isn’t the four best free agents available, or five pipe dreams; these are players that I believe are great fits for the 49ers scheme. These will be at positions of need as well. If you don’t see a position of need, I have the Niners addressing said position in the Draft.
DT Timmy Jernigan
With Sheldon Day and Earl Mitchell set to become unrestricted free agents, the 49ers will need to find a competent backup that can give starters DeForest Buckner and D.J. Jones a breather. Defensive tackle is one of the toughest positions for rookies to come in and play right away, so expecting to be able to plug in a rookie wouldn’t be ideal for San Francisco. Jernigan would add much-needed beef inside, and he could help mentor Jones and Buckner. Jernigan is a smart, cheap option.
CB Bradley Roby
I’ve been going back and forth with the idea of signing a veteran cornerback or free safety. Ultimately, I think the missed plays down the stretch lead John Lynch to add a veteran cornerback. Roby isn’t a “splash,” but he’s as close to a splash as we’ll get in free agency. Roby is aggressive and can get takeaways. He is one of the better cornerbacks in the NFL at reading the quarterbacks’ eyes in zone coverage, which is exactly what San Francisco needs. Signing Roby for anything under $10 million would be a steal, and it’s bound to happen. Let’s compare Roby’s numbers to the 49ers starters this season. While you’re looking at these, it’s important to know that Houston was 31st in pressure rate this season, while San Francisco was second.
As it turns out, Sherman was pretty good last season. That YAC number is silly. Roby would challenge Moseley’s success rate number will likely having better production on the ball with his style of play. I’m a big Moseley fan, but with a Super Bowl window being so small, Roby is a proven commodity in the league.
Joe Thuney OG
Thuney has predominately played left guard in the NFL during his four seasons with the New England Patriots. At North Carolina state, Thuney played both tackle and guard spots—so it should be a seamless transition to play right guard. This signing only happens if Kyle Shanahan and the offensive staff isn’t ready to anoint Daniel Brunskill as a starter. Thuney has been good every season since he’s been in the NFL. A solid run blocker and an even better pass protector. He allowed one sack and four quarterback hits all season. It gets better. Thuney didn’t commit a penalty in 2019. He’ll be a cheaper option than Brandon Scherff, and at 27-years old, he gives the 49ers offensive line a starter for the foreseeable future. As much as I love Roby, Thuney is the best player that’s been mentioned so far.
Leonard Williams DL
In this scenario, the 49ers placed the franchise tag on Arik Armstead and traded him. More on that later, but it’s a scenario that we should be aware of. If a trade does happen, the Niners will be scrambling to find someone that gives them what Armstead did, which won’t be easy. The closest thing in the free agency market is Willams, who can also play inside and out. Signing Williams, who is projected to make around $8 million a season, would save the 49ers roughly $10 million a year and allow them to sign other quality players. Williams never quite lived up to where he was drafted, but in a stacked defense like the 49ers, the former USC Trojan could flourish. Williams played well down the stretch for the Giants. In eight games, Williams finished with 31 total pressures and 11 stops. That’s playing next to a bunch of nobody’s, which is the opposite of what San Francisco has to offer. If you’re looking for a replacement, this is your guy, John.