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11 available free agents that could interest the 49ers

Cap space may be a problem

Baltimore Ravens Training Camp Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images

While we wait for the quarterback dominos to fall, there is still a crazy amount of talent available in the free agency pool. Unfortunately, the 49ers are short on cap space as they sit at $9.1 million per Over the Cap. Of course, that number could change once they move you-know-who.

The 49ers could use help along the offensive line, at wide receiver, and there’s a hole at safety. You could make an argument for the addition of an edge rusher, too. So let’s take a look at a few players who could help.

EDGE

Arden Key
Melvin Ingram
Jerry Hughes

Re-signing Key feels like a no-brainer for the Niners. Key finished the season on a high note with 6.5 sacks and eight tackles for loss. He seemed like a player who was coming into his own down the stretch. At 25, Key hasn’t come close to reaching his ceiling.

San Francisco is relatively young at the position. Adding veterans like Ingram and Hughes gives the team proven pass rushers who can win both inside and out.

Ingram helped rejuvenate a Chiefs pass rush down the stretch last season. Their defense took off once they signed Ingram. Hughes is on the wrong side of 30 but had 21 QB hits last season and is still more than capable as a pass rusher.

Safety

Jaquiski Tartt
Tyrann Mathieu
Kareem Jackson

The safety market has been relatively quiet outside of Marcus Williams. The Niners should bring Tartt back, but that door might be closed.

Mathieu is a versatile leader, but I got the sense that he’s lost a step and spent time last year making enough “business decisions” when it came time to tackle. He’s a popular name, but I listed him here to say he’s not the player many think he is. I’d pass on the honey badger.

Jackson might be the best fit for the 49ers as he has experience in the slot and can play deep. Jackson will be 34 in April, but the Niners could use a veteran on the back-end as opposed to relying on Talanoa Hufanga.

Wide receiver

Ray-Ray McCloud
JuJu Smith-Schuster
Marquez Valdes-Scantling

The Athletic’s Matt Barrows said the 49ers are among a handful of teams making a run at Steelers WR Ray-Ray McCloud. However, I’d be surprised if the 49ers spend big on a wideout in free agency, although Kyle Shanahan is sure to be intrigued by Julio Jones on the open market.

JuJu is an ideal fit for the Niners, though I’m not sure how much he’ll command. Still, only 25; coming off a season where he only played five games could mean Smith-Schuster could be signed for cheap. He’s known as a player who can create after the catch and is an above-average blocker. My issue is I don’t know how much better he makes the 49ers on offense. Perhaps a better way to put it is what would JuJu do that Jauan Jennings couldn’t?

Valdes-Scantling is the field stretcher the Niners could use. He’s been linked to San Francisco all month. He’s inconsistent when it comes to catching the ball, but his big-play ability is undeniable.

Offensive line

Bradley Bozeman
Riley Reiff

Bozeman has played guard and center in the NFL. At 27, he could be the future at center. The former Alabama lineman was second in the NFL in pass-block win-rate among all centers. He finished 2021 with a block rate of only 1.2% and has allowed four total sacks in the previous two seasons.

I worry about depending on multiple youngsters along the offensive line with Trey Lance under center. Bozeman gives the team versatility experience and is a good player.

Rieff is another veteran who could serve as the Niners swing tackle or a replacement for Mike McGlinchey while recovering from injury. Reiff, 33, had a rough go at it against the 49ers in Week 14. But he only allowed four sacks on the season, is a fit from a zone-scheme, and, again, is experienced.