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Golden Nuggets: How different is the NFC West after the first few days of free agency?

Your daily San Francisco 49ers links for Saturday, March 20, 2021

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San Francisco 49ers v Los Angeles Rams Photo by Harry How/Getty Images

There was a flurry of free-agent signings Friday evening. Dontae Johnson, albeit for what’s a minimum contract, was signed before a trio of starters from the 49ers secondary. There are great players available that figure to get a lot of money on the market. Kenny Golladay is a name that comes to mind. I imagine former Bears cornerback Kyle Fuller will make double-digit millions soon enough.

The 100 best available NFL free agents remaining in 2021 - PFF

28. EDGE ALDON SMITH

Smith’s return to the NFL is a miraculous comeback story after a four-year absence from 2016-19. While he hasn’t quite been the superstar he was with the 49ers, he’s still generated a 70.0 pass-rush grade while playing at least 40 snaps in every game so far in 2020 — a testament to his conditioning. He’s been moved all over the defensive front, and his 50 pressures tell a better story than his four sacks, as he was a solid pass-rusher in his return to the NFL.

Contract Analysis: Arguably the most impressive aspect of Smith’s return was that he did not sign a veteran minimum contract, negotiating a deal with a maximum value of $2 million in Dallas. At 31 years old, Smith has proven to just be a different type of human, and one final payday as a veteran will be a great end to his story.

Prediction: Two years, $15 million ($7.5M APY): $10 million total guaranteed, $8 million fully guaranteed at signing.

Samson Ebukam says Kendrick Bourne ‘salty’ two won’t be 49ers teammates - JLC

“He was low-key salty,” Ebukam said with a smile. “He was like, ’Damn, when I’m leaving, you’re coming.’ He was definitely happy for me saying ‘It’s definitely going to fit your energy and just who you are.’ It’s kind of unfortunate that we missed each other right here.”

While Ebukam might be missing his former teammate, he revealed that joining the likes of Nick Bosa, Arik Armstead and Javon Kinlaw influenced his decision to sign with the 49ers.

“It was huge,” Ebukam said. “Just to play across from them, how they play, and what I’ve seen on film, that’s something that I definitely want to play next to. It will motivate me to make sure I’m always on my toes.”

Free agent OL Lane Taylor visiting 49ers for medical check - Packers Wire

Taylor tore his ACL against the Minnesota Vikings in the season opener and missed the final 15 games of the year. He’s played in just three total games over the last two seasons due to injuries. In 2019, he tore his biceps during practice and missed 14 games.

The Packers restructured Taylor’s contract before the 2020 season, and he used the second opportunity to win a job as the starting guard during training camp. A knee injury after 63 snaps in Week 1 ended his comeback season.

He turns 32 in November. Taylor has started 50 games for the Packers since the 2015 season, including three straight seasons as the team’s starting left guard.

If the 49ers don’t sign him, Taylor could still be a candidate to return to Green Bay as experienced depth for the interior of the offensive line.

2021 NFL free agency grades: 49ers receive top marks but had few misses - Maiocco

Grade: D

Quarterback Mitchell Trubisky and wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders were available for, apparently, low costs. The 49ers chose either to not pursue them or could not convince them this was the spot for them.

Trubisky signed with the Buffalo Bills on a one-year, $2.5 million contract. There is no reason the 49ers could not have matched or exceeded that price if they were serious about upgrading their backup quarterback position. Instead, the 49ers are now engaged in conversations with Joe Flacco.

Sanders also signed with the Bills on a one-year, $4.625 contract. The 49ers could have structured a deal to save some salary-cap dollars. Sanders would have been a nice fit as a No. 3 receiver in support of Deebo Samuel and Brandon Aiyuk.

Finding Running Back Depth in the 2021 Draft - 49ers Gold Mine

Javian Hawkins, University of Louisville

With undrafted free agents, the key is finding traits that translate to success in a particular scheme. All of these players will have issues, whether it be size, strength, production, or injury history. However, players with issues can succeed if a scheme is in place for them to take advantage of their strengths.

Hawkins, for instance, is elite in space. He has the speed, agility, and vision to navigate the field with the best of the class. He was a dynamic player who could contribute both as a running back and a returner. His issue is his size and lack of contact balance. He has trouble maintaining balance as holes close, and won’t be likely to break many tackles where the defender lays two hands on him. With a scheme that can get a player in space, though, you simply need a player to find that space and speed through it. Hawkins can be that guy.

Report: Seahawks to bring back RB Chris Carson - Field Gulls

So, Chris Carson is coming back. And for the fans who have been clamoring for the Seahawks to get aggressive and take advantage of a salary cap that is set to increase dramatically in 2023 and beyond, this is an interesting development.

Basically, Carson will be back for the next two seasons and he’ll be able to hit free agency again before turning 30, and the Seahawks finally got aggressive and dipped into future cap years in order to make it happen.

2021 NFL Free Agency: Best remaining fits for the Arizona Cardinals

Tier 1 Free Agents

Adoree’ Jackson, CB - Maybe the best corner on the market, Jackson has played well and could be a great fit for the team as the new leader in the cornerback room.

Richard Sherman, CB - The Cardinals desperately need cornerback help and Sherman can still play in the right scheme.

How different is NFC West after 3 days of free agency?

The Rams have not added any outside free agents, but have seen three defensive starters land in new locations and must also replace their longtime longsnapper and number two tight end. The replacements for Johnson, Brockers, and Ebukam could all come in-house. In regards to Hill, a corner might need to be signed.

Obviously, the Rams did trade for a new starting quarterback and even if that happened at the end of January, it shouldn’t be left out of the equation that solves what the team has done so far this year. The LA Rams added Matthew Stafford this year.

Josh Reynolds, Austin Blythe remain unsigned.