Unfortunately, it is time to talk about off-season plans for the 49ers. Reloading a team with high-end talent at premium positions and Super Bowl aspirations will be tricky. The NFL draft will surely be a source of reinforcements beginning in the third round.
What about free agency? With the impending extension of Nick Bosa and the cap increase, the 49ers will have to continue to manipulate the salary cap.
Here are three possible impact targets for the 49ers:
Daron Payne - DT
The 49ers had a tough time generating consistent pressure inside. Daron Payne had a career year in his contract year, posting 12 sacks and 40 tackles. Payne finished 12th in the NFL in pass rush win rate (12.7%), lined up primarily as a defensive tackle. Given his high-end play in 2022 and his age, Payne is in the mix for a big payday. At 6-foot-3 and 320 pounds, Payne is an absolute force on the inside.
Payne played in all 18 games in 2022 and had at least three pressures in ten games. Paired next to Arik Armstead could be a deadly combination for this defense. The question will be, can the 49ers make the numbers work?
Zach Allen - DE
Yes, another defensive lineman. The 49ers have built in the trenches and need more consistent help from their edge players to help Nick Bosa. Drake Jackson is still developing, and Samson Ebukam has had some solid moments, but Allen can generate pressure and defend the run well.
Six sacks and 35 total pressures will suffice, but his contributions against the run and versatility across the defensive line are the attraction. In 13 games, Allen had 21 defensive stops and missed only 5.1 percent of his tackles. If defensive line coach Kris Kocurek sticks around, this is a high-upside, solid floor addition.
James Bradberry - CB
Assuming Jimmie Ward and Emmanuel Moseley have played their final snaps as 49ers, Bradberry makes sense on a short one-or-two-year deal. Deommodore Lenoir had a solid playoff showing, but adding Bradberry could move Lenoir into the slot. Bradberry and Mooney Ward would be a prime outside cover corner duo.
Last season, Bradberry signed a one-year deal with the Philadelphia Eagles. Bradberry’s age won’t make a long-term deal likely, but he is still highly productive. His season in 2022 earned him a second-team all-pro selection. Being on the other side of 30 is a concern, but Bradberry is still effective.