The NFL’s new year kicked off on Wednesday at 1 PM PST, some deals were finalized, while others are close to done. The talent pool is still deep after three days of free agency. The 49ers made the initial splash of the period by signing Javon Hargrave. Every other signing by the team has been retaining players or depth signings.
Restructures have happened to create extra cap space for the 49ers to operate. The team isn’t out on signing bigger names, or at least one, in my opinion, but it appears the 49ers’ strategy will be to wait for the first wave of free agency to conclude and then strike.
What’s the reasoning behind this logic? Santa Clara will be an attractive destination for players at the back end of their careers who have been paid handsomely, throughout their careers, to chase a ring.
Playing in three of the last four NFC Championship games has shown stability and a winning culture. Let’s take a look at some cheap, veteran additions that can help push the 49ers over the hump:
Quinton Jefferson, DT, 30
Jefferson was recently released following Dre’Mont Jones’s signing. Javon Hargrave and Arik Armstead are starting at DT for the 49ers, but Jefferson would be a valuable rotational piece with experience. Per PFF, Jefferson played 566 total snaps (206 run defense, 360 pass rush) and finished with six sacks, six QB hits, 30 hurries, and 14 defensive stops.
In Jefferson’s last three games of 2022 against the Chiefs, Jets, and Rams, he had seven total hurries in limited snaps with two sacks against the Jets.
Seattle has been known to poach from the 49ers. Jefferson would be the 49ers returning the favor, and pairing him with Kris Kocurek could reap Jefferson some financial benefits.
Justin Houston, EDGE, 34
Baltimore saw fit to bring back Houston in 2022, and it was a home run signing. 2021 was an every-down role for Houston, and it resulted in six sacks and 12 hurries. The following year, Baltimore used him primarily in pass-rushing situations. Houston tied his second-best sack total over his career with 11 and added 22 hurries.
As it stands, the 49ers have Nick Bosa and are hoping for a second-year leap from Drake Jackson. Clelin Ferrell is the annual “Kocurek project.” Houston will fit in perfectly as a pass rush specialist on the cheap. Names like Yannick Ngauke, Trey Flowers, and Markus Golden will get more attention.
Houston would be an impact signing immediately and feels like the type of player the 49ers will target on the back end of free agency.
Marcus Peters, CB, 30
Yes, another former Raven. This move is much more boom-or-bust than the others. Peters is a ball hawk who takes chances, far too many depending on who you ask, but would provide solid depth to the secondary at the age of 30.
Deommodore Lenoir was impressive down the stretch and in the playoffs. Emmanuel Moseley has departed for Detroit. The 49ers brought in Isaiah Oliver to compete at the nickel spot with Samuel Womack. The only corner behind Lenoir that has experience outside is Ambry Thomas.
The only questions that remain are: does Peters view himself as a starter in this league, and is he willing to be depth and/or compete for a spot at this point in his career?
Pointing to the injury luck the 49ers have had at cornerback, it’s not the worst idea to stockpile the secondary with reliable names.
Who are some under-the-radar players you would like the 49ers to target?