49ers use free agency to find five players for key roles

49ers use free agency to find five players for key roles

Shortly after the beginning of the NFL’s new league year at 1 p.m. on Thursday, the 49ers are expected to finalize contract with five free agents with whom they reached agreements during the open-negotiating period.

New coach Kyle Shanahan is looking to re-tool the offense, and that’s what was accomplished with the influx of new faces.

Here’s a look at how each of the new players fits in with the 49ers:

QB Brian Hoyer (Chicago)
Hoyer, 31, was the most logical of the 49ers’ quarterback targets based on his recent starting experience and his history with Shanahan during their season together with the Cleveland Browns in 2014.

He was the 49ers’ top target on the free-agent market, and the 49ers got him.

Nobody envisions Hoyer as a franchise quarterback, but he’s a good fit for the 49ers at this time. He averaged 329.5 yards passing in his four full games last season with the Bears. The 49ers, meanwhile, averaged an NFL-worst 181.9 yards per game.

The addition of Hoyer does not preclude the 49ers from using the No. 2 overall pick on a quarterback. And it does not close the door on the possibility of acquiring Kirk Cousins at some point down the road.

The 49ers can be expected to add another veteran quarterback before the draft, but it remains the long shot of long shots that Colin Kaepernick will end up back with the team.

WR Pierre Garçon (Washington)
Garçon, who turns 31 early in training camp, is coming off the second 1,000-yard season of his nine-year career. While he is likely to be the 49ers’ No. 1 receiver this season, this move was made with an eye to the future, too.

Garçon had his best NFL season in 2013, when Shanahan was calling the shots as Washington’s offensive coordinator. Known as a good pro, Garçon can help show the way to the young receivers the 49ers are bound to add during the offseason.

While there might have been more splashy free-agent receivers on the market, the 49ers wanted to add someone who fits into the big picture. That’s what they believe they are getting with Garçon.

The 49ers released Torrey Smith on Monday. Garçon is a more versatile receiver with an ability to run all the routes in Shanahan’s offense.

WR Marquise Goodwin (Buffalo)
Goodwin, 26, gives the 49ers’ offense an injection of speed, as he joins a receiving corps that includes Garçon, Jeremy Kerley and Bruce Ellington.

He had his best season with the Bills in 2016, catching 29 passes for 431 yards and three touchdowns, but there could be more for him in Shanahan’s offense.

Goodwin (5 foot 9, 179 pounds) is likely to fill a similar role that Taylor Gabriel held with the Atlanta Falcons last season. Gabriel (5-8, 165) caught 35 passes for 579 yards and six touchdowns.

The addition of Goodwin would appear to rule out the return of Quinton Patton, who started all 14 games in which he appeared last season. Patton is an unrestricted free agent after catching 37 passes for 408 yards and no TDs last year.

Goodwin qualified for the 2012 Olympic Games in the long jump, placing 10th overall.

FB Kyle Juszczyk (Baltimore)
Shanahan loves to play the matchup game, and he now has a great chess piece with Juszczyk, who earned a trip to the Pro Bowl last season.

His contract is expected to be $21 million over four years with $10.5 million guaranteed, according to ESPN's Adam Caplan.

Juszczyk, who turns 26 next month, can play fullback, tight end, H-back and wide receiver. In four seasons, he has not missed a game. He has carried the ball just seven times. He is a good blocker, and he can catch the ball. Juszczyk has 78 receptions for 587 yards and four touchdowns over the past two seasons.

The 49ers placed a priority on signing him over Patrick DiMarco, who played the past two seasons for Shanahan with the Falcons. Juszczyk graduated from Harvard with a degree in economics, so his ability to pick up the playbook is the least of the 49ers’ concerns.

LB Malcolm Smith (Oakland)
As the 49ers transition to the Seattle-style of defense, Smith is someone who comes in with a good handle on what new coordinator Robert Saleh is looking to install.

Smith will come to the 49ers on a five-year, $26.5 million deal with $13 million guaranteed, according to NFL Network's Mike Garafolo.

Saleh was the Seahawks’ defensive quality control coach during the first three seasons of Smith’s career in Seattle. Smith, who turns 28 in July, is best-suited to play alongside NaVorro Bowman at the weakside linebacker position in the 49ers’ new 4-3 scheme.

The 49ers had an alarming lack of depth at linebacker last season. Smith joins a group that includes Bowman, Ray-Ray Armstrong, Carl Bradford and Shayne Skov. The 49ers are also likely to add at this position in the draft.

TE Logan Paulsen (Chicago)
Paulsen’s first four NFL seasons were with Shanahan in Washington. He started 30 games in those four seasons. He had his two-highest reception totals in 2012 and ’13 with 25 catches for 308 yards and 28 receptions for 308 yards. Paulsen's agreement on contrat terms was first reported by CSN Bay Area's Fallon Smith.

After five seasons in Washington, Paulsen moved on to Chicago, where he was used primarily as a blocker. He caught just three passes in 16 games, including 10 starts. Paulsen, 30, will compete for playing time with Vance McDonald, Garrett Celek, Blake Bell and Je'Ron Hamm.

Terrell Owens selects former 49ers coach as his Hall of Fame presenter


Terrell Owens selects former 49ers coach as his Hall of Fame presenter

Terrell Owens has selected former 49ers special teams and wide receivers coach George Stewart as his presenter into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

“He knew what to get out of me,” Owens told the Hall of Fame.

“He knows who I am. To know who Terrell Owens is, you have to spend some time with him. . . George Stewart became a father figure to me.”

Owens was elected into the Hall of Fame in February. He will enter the Hall of Fame in a class that also includes wide receiver Randy Moss, linebackers Ray Lewis, Brian Urlacher and Robert Brazile, safety Brian Dawkins, guard Jerry Kramer, and contributor Bobby Beathard.

Owens played special teams under Stewart’s direction as a rookie after coming to the 49ers in 1996.

From 2000 to ’02, Stewart worked as the 49ers’ wide receivers coach. Owens was selected to three consecutive All-Pro teams and Pro Bowls during that time. Owens ranks No. 2 all time behind Jerry Rice with 15,934 receiving yards. He is third all-time with 153 receiving touchdowns.

Stewart is set to enter his 30th NFL season as an assistant coach and his second as special-teams coordinator of the Los Angeles Chargers.

The Class of 2018 will be enshrined inside Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium in Canton, Ohio, on Saturday, Aug. 4.

Sherman makes his concern over Reid's free-agency status loud and clear


Sherman makes his concern over Reid's free-agency status loud and clear

Safety Eric Reid, who has 69 career starts and one Pro Bowl appearance in his five-year NFL career, remains available on the open market more than a week after the opening of free agency.

Reid has received no reported interest from NFL teams in what has been an unusually soft market for free-agent safeties. But, with Reid, there is another variable that could be playing a factor.

Reid was at the forefront of the social activism that has been a major storyline in the NFL since the beginning of the 2016 season. Reid and former 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick took a knee during the playing of the national anthem in protest of racial inequality in America.

Reid has remained outspoken and has taken a knee as a way to “make people uncomfortable about the issues.” Reid has been clear his protest has nothing to do with the flag or the anthem.

“The anthem is just a vehicle to get us to have those conversations,” Reid told NBC Sports Bay Area last season. “It’s the platform we have. It’s the only time we have to get the eyeballs on us to do that. If we just did locker-room talks afterward, nobody would even know. Strategically, this is the only way we thought we could do it.”

Veteran cornerback Richard Sherman, who signed a three-year contract with the 49ers on March 10, had been the Seattle Seahawks’ player representative. He is a vice president of the NFL Players Association. Reid was the 49ers’ union representative.

Sherman said he is keeping a close eye on Reid’s situation.

“We are concerned, because he played at a high level for just about every year that he’s played in this league,” Sherman said on Tuesday. “He’s made enough plays to be signed with a team and to make his money. He deserves his money. Safeties make a certain amount. I would think he’s top-five, top-10 safeties in this league, so he deserves to be paid accordingly.

“So there is concern there, because you would think a player of his caliber and his quality would be picked up by now. I think great teams are still looking and people are still looking for players. I’m praying that he gets picked up. But if he doesn’t, then I think there will be a conversation with the league office and the union on potential league action.”

Kaepernick never got so much as an opportunity to compete for an NFL roster spot during training camp last season. Could Reid, 26, be heading for the same fate?

Reid addressed the issue last week on social media:

“The notion that I can be a great signing for your team for cheap, not because of my skill set but because I’ve protested systemic oppression, is ludicrous. If you think is, then your mindset is part of the problem too.”

The 49ers have not placed a priority on re-signing Reid. The club already has potential starting safeties Jimmie Ward, Jaquiski Tartt and Adrian Colbert under contract for the upcoming season.

Reid, whom the 49ers traded up to select with the No. 18 overall pick in the 2013 NFL Draft, has 10 career interceptions. He appeared to thrive last season in run support as a safety who played closer to the line of scrimmage.