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7 potential free agents the 49ers should sign at cornerback and center

Plus, a look at the updated draft picks

Dallas Cowboys v Tampa Bay Buccaneers Photo by Julio Aguilar/Getty Images

The 49ers will have nine draft picks in this year’s NFL Draft. Three of those picks are by way of compensatory picks, and one is thanks to the Jonas Griffith trade a year ago. The three compensatory picks in the seventh round were due to the losses of C.J. Beathard, Kerry Hyder, and Solomon Thomas:

  • Round 2, Overall Pick 61
  • Round 3, Overall Pick 93
  • Round 3 (compensatory pick for Mike McDaniel)
  • Round 4, Overall Pick 133
  • Round 5, Overall Pick 172
  • Round 6, Overall Pick 186 (from Denver Broncos for Griffith)
  • Round 7 (comp pick)
  • Round 7 (comp pick)
  • Round 7 (comp pick)

If you’re wondering why the team didn't receive any additional picks for losing Kendrick Bourne or Ahkello Witherspoon in free agency, it’s because that was offset by the signings of Samson Ebukam and Alex Mack last offseason.

Two biggest offseason needs - CB, IOL

Cornerback

Ambry Thomas grew up in a hurry during the final month of the season. The 49ers couldn’t have been happier with his development. In the NFC Championship, the Rams picked on Thomas late.

I thought Thomas being in position was a positive. Remember, he didn’t play football at Michigan in 2020. A year later, he’s guarding one of the best wideouts in the NFL a quarter away from the Super Bowl.

I won’t go as far as saying Thomas earned the right to start next season, but he put his name in the mix. He ended up starting nine games, and got better as the season went along. Thomas was “fine,” but he shouldn’t prevent the Niners from adding a cornerback.

Emmanuel Moseley is under contract for one more season. Moseley allowed a completion percentage of only 47% this past season. He was equally as impressive as a tackler, which allowed DeMeco Ryans to run more coverages. Moseley did miss six games, though. He also missed four games in 2020.

K’Waun Williams and Jason Verrett are unrestricted free agents. Moseley has a year left on his contract. The best teams in the NFL think ahead a year and don’t wait until desperation time to address a position.

In the 49ers case, this offseason is a bit of both as far as cornerback goes. The good news is drafting a cornerback early isn’t the only way to address the position. My dream scenario involves signing J.C. Jackson.

And while that is a pipedream, Jackson was an undrafted free agent. Tampa Bay’s Carlton Davis is another cornerback in free agency. He was the second to last selection in the second round of the 2018 draft.

San Francisco needs to find players who can run, cover, and tackle. It’s that simple. Ryans has a pretty straightforward scheme and he needs cornerbacks who are aggressive. Here are a few names to keep an eye on in free agency:

Jackson
Davis
Charvarius Ward
Donte Jackson

Those are four cornerbacks in their 20s. All of whom would fit with what the 49ers want to do defensively. I haven’t watched any cornerbacks in the draft yet so I don’t want to lie to you or throw out any names just yet.

Offensive line

We’ve already broken down the 49ers offensive line as far as who stays and who goes last week.

Alex Mack will be 37 by the time the season starts. It’s not a foregone conclusion that he returns. Based on Mack’s play down the stretch, I’d move on. Now, that doesn’t mean I’d push all of my chips into the draft and hope to come away with a Creed Humphrey-caliber type of prospect. That’s not realistic.

The 49ers should continue to go the veteran route at center, knowing the attention to detail and responsibility the position requires in a Kyle Shanahan-led offense — which becomes even more critical with a rookie quarterback.

Here are a few potential replacements:

Ryan Jensen (31)
Bradley Bozeman (27)
Ben Jones (32)

Bozeman is interesting as he’s played left guard and center and has started 48 games in the previous 3 seasons. This past year was the first time he’s played center in the NFL. Bozeman allowed two sacks with a blown block rate of just 1.2. For reference Mack’s blown block rate was 1.7 and he’s ten years older.

Jones will be 32 once the season starts. He allowed one sack on the season. Jones has missed one start since 2012. Pairing a veteran center with a rookie QB seems like a no-brainer.

San Francisco should also look for a younger interior offensive lineman. Jaylon Moore could have a future at guard. Shanahan said as much before the season. But injuries forced the team’s hand and Moore had to play tackle.

You could allow Moore, Aaron Banks, and Daniel Brunskill to win the right guard position.