Assessing the 49ers' biggest needs, options in free agency


Assessing the 49ers' biggest needs, options in free agency

The free-agent signing period is a week away, and the 49ers expect to be active in strengthening their roster at several positions.

Here’s a look at how they might prioritize filling their needs:


The 49ers have just one starting-caliber cornerback (Ahkello Witherspoon), so they will have to fill the need on the other side. They have already looked hard at Vontae Davis and Marcus Peters this offseason before deciding to not pursue those options. Trumaine Johnson (Rams) will get big money. Is he really worth it? Aaron Colvin is younger, and defensive coordinator Robert Saleh knows him well. He excelled at nickel back last season, as he was behind two of the best corners in the business. He’ll be a starter next season – somewhere – on the outside. Rashaan Melvin (Colts) is also a good system fit.

Wide receiver
There should be plenty of options in free agency in a lot of different price ranges. Interestingly, the 49ers’ wideouts looked a lot better late in the season – after Jimmy Garoppolo took over as the starter. And Pierre Garçon will be added to the mix, as he is expected to return to full strength for the beginning of the offseason program. The 49ers could use a bigger-bodied receiver. Allen Robinson (Jaguars) and Sammy Watkins (Rams) are likely to attract the most attention. Jordan Matthews (Bills) and Donte Moncrief (Colts) are less expensive but it’s questionable whether they would add much to the group already assembled.

Running backs
The 49ers say they want to bring back Carlos Hyde, who is scheduled for free agency. But there are going to be a lot of options in free agency and the draft. Isaiah Crowell (Browns) is probably the best fit – and he broke into the NFL with Kyle Shanahan as his offensive coordinator. Six-year veteran Alfred Morris (Cowboys) played his first two seasons for Shanahan in Washington. He started five games last season in place of Ezekiel Elliott and averaged 4.8 yards a carry as a two-down back. Dion Lewis (Patriots) is another solid option. But if the asking prices on the veteran market are too high, the 49ers could easily turn to the draft without losing any sleep.


Inside linebacker
Reuben Foster’s off-field concerns this offseason have placed an emphasis on this position. Regardless, the 49ers need to add an inside linebacker who can also contribute on special teams. The best fit could be Brock Coyle, who underwent shoulder surgery early in the offseason and is a free agent.

Tight end
The 49ers could look for a blocking tight end in the role that Logan Paulsen held last season. There are concerns about George Kittle’s ability to remain healthy, but it seems doubtful the 49ers would throw starter’s money to land a veteran tight end.


Edge rusher
Forget about Ziggy Ansah (Lions) and DeMarcus Lawrence (Cowboys). Both players are off the market after being tagged as franchise players. There simply are not many legitimate options available, which is the reason the 49ers have talked a lot about focusing on developing their own players, such as Eli Harold, Cassius Marsh and Pita Taumoepenu.

Offensive guard
The top player on the market is Andrew Norwell (Panthers), who will become the highest-paid guard in the NFL. Shanahan’s offense places a lot of emphasis on the guard positions. But Shanahan wants lineman who can really move. Norwell is not known as a great athlete. Brandon Fusco, who started all 16 games last season, is a free agent. He could be re-signed, and the 49ers can be expected to also look to add competition in the draft.


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.