With the legal tampering period officially kicking off today, there will soon be a flurry of announcements as teams agree to deals with the group of free agents set to hit the market at the start of the new league year on Wednesday.
I put together a list of the five most important positions for the 49ers to address during free agency, and included my reasoning for each spot on the list. Without further ado, number five...
The 49ers really like Drake Jackson, and they have the reigning defensive player of the year at the other edge spot. Because of this, it wouldn’t be surprising if they decide not to make a big splash at the position by bringing in a big-name free agent.
The most important thing to address here will be reinforcing depth, with Charles Omenihu, Samson Ebukam, and Jordan Willis all scheduled to be unrestricted free agents. All three played a pivotal role in the 49ers edge rotation last year, and finding replacements at an affordable rate should be among the 49ers front offices’ biggest priorities this offseason.
4. Right tackle
Mike McGlinchey appears to have all but priced himself out of the 49ers budget going forward, and his potential departure leaves a big hole to fill on the right side of the 49ers offensive line.
The placement on the list might come as a surprise, but that has more to do with the quality of players at the position who are available in the draft. There are a handful of players who the 49ers could take on day two that have the potential to step in from day one and be a starting caliber player at the position.
With Emmanuel Moseley set to hit free agency, there is a bit of uncertainty about what exactly his market will look like coming off an ACL tear last season. When healthy, Moseley is one of the better number two corners in the league, and he was playing at a level that should net him a considerable pay day as long as there are no issues with his recovery timetable.
Deommodore Lenoir’s impressive play down the stretch might ease the urgency the 49ers have to be aggressive in pursuit of a veteran option at the position, but it is too important of a position to overlook entirely. Finding a solid veteran with inside/outside versatility could be the finishing touch on what looks like the best defense in the NFL on paper.
The nerve center of the offensive line, this is a position you cannot afford to have a major drop-off at following the stellar season that Jake Brendel put together in 2022. Dating back to when Weston Richburg was manning the middle, there is a clear correlation between the success of this team and having above-average play from their center.
Unlike the right tackle spot, center is a position where I would be much more reluctant to have a day two pick be the guy you are counting on to be a day one starter. Between having to check protections and all that comes with being the focal point of the offensive line, it is wiser to invest in a proven veteran at that won’t need the time and reps to develop like a rookie will.
Now this one might really come as a surprise, but in my opinion it is the position that you can least afford to take a shortcut in by foregoing the more expensive veteran option. The truth is, save for a few games here and there, the 49ers have been spoiled with an elite level of dependability at the position over the last decade, with Phil Dawson and Robbie Gould being about as reliable as you can get.
I know everyone likes Jake Moody and from a financial standpoint, finding a rookie who works out would be in the best interest of the team's budget moving forward. However, that is just far too much of a risk to take at this point in time given how strong the rest of the roster they have built is.
Thinking about all the work that has been done to put together this juggernaut of a football team, if you’re John Lynch or Kyle Shanahan, you have to be able to look yourself in the mirror and ask yourself one thing.
Are you comfortable trotting out a rookie kicker in January with your season on the line? Would you be able to stomach the fallout of an entire season's worth of work crumbling down because the moment was too big for a guy who hasn’t been asked to kick with that kind of pressure before?
For me, the answer is an easy no to both. I understand if Gould wants to be elsewhere and the 49ers would like to get younger at the position. That’s fine, but there are veteran options available who the 49ers should make a strong effort to bring in as a long-term solution at the position, and help maintain the long string of success they have had with kickers over the last ten years.