Lynch outpaces five years of Baalke's early 49ers free-agent signings

Lynch outpaces five years of Baalke's early 49ers free-agent signings

The 49ers’ new regime crammed five Trent Baalke years of free agency into the first two days of the new league year.

From 2012 to ’16, the 49ers signed just 11 players in the first week of the free-agent signing periods. Under new general manager John Lynch, the 49ers last week matched the number of those signings in the first 31 hours.

Baalke, in his final year as 49ers general manager, was especially tentative. The new league year began on March 9. The next day, the 49ers signed reserve quarterback Thad Lewis to a one-year contract.

The 49ers’ most-significant free-agent addition last year came 13 days after the opening of the signing period with the acquisition of offensive lineman Zane Beadles, whom the Jacksonville Jaguars released three weeks earlier.

Lynch advised 49ers fans to "stay awake" for the opening of free agency, and he made good on his promise. What might have been lacking in star power, the 49ers made up for it in sheer volume.

The 49ers signed 11 free agents to play for new coach Kyle Shanahan:

QB Brian Hoyer
QB Matt Barkley
FB Kyle Juszczyk
WR Pierre Garçon
WR Marquise Goodwin
WR Aldrick Robinson
TE Logan Paulsen
K Robbie Gould
LB Malcolm Smith
LB Brock Coyle
DB Don Jones

With the contracts of 65 players registered by the NFL Players Association (Robinson, Coyle and Jones have yet to be processed), the 49ers still have a league-high $81.08 million in salary cap room with 65 players under contract. Tennessee has the next-highest amount with $55.3 million in cap room.

“I think we were very strategic setting out with where we felt we needed to improve our team,” Lynch said after the first wave of signings.

“While there’s a lot of numbers, we didn’t reach for anything. We found guys that fit it, if not we’ll wait. So I think while the numbers are big and we’re really happy about that, we felt like we found guys that we were excited about being here.”

The 49ers can rollover all of their unused cap space to future seasons to invest in a big-money quarterback, such as Kirk Cousins, and re-sign any players they wish to retain to multi-year contracts.

Under Baalke, the 49ers rarely acted quickly on the free-agent market. Here’s a look at the team’s signings in the first week of March free agency after the league’s collective-bargaining agreement went into affect in the summer of 2011:

CB Perrish Cox
RB Rock Cartwright

DL Glenn Dorsey
LB Dan Skuta
DB Craig Dahl

S Antoine Bethea
CB Chris Cook

WR Torrey Smith
CB Shareece Wright
OL Erik Pears

QB Thad Lewis

Frank Gore returns home for his 14th NFL season


Frank Gore returns home for his 14th NFL season

Frank Gore is returning home to, in all likelihood, finish his professional football career.

Gore, 34, signed a one-year contract to enter his 14th NFL season with his hometown Miami Dolphins, the team announced Friday.

Gore grew up in Coconut Grove, Florida, and attended Coral Gables High School before playing collegiately at the University of Miami.

He played the first 10 NFL seasons with the 49ers and is the franchise’s all-time leading rusher. Gore ranks fifth in NFL history with 14,026 rushing yards – just 75 yards behind No. 4 Curtis Martin.

After rushing for 11,073 yards and 64 touchdowns with the 49ers, the club declined to offer him a multi-year contract following the 2014 season. Gore played the past three seasons with the Indianapolis Colts.

Gore remains one of the most popular players in 49ers history. When asked recently if he would be willing to “retire” as a member of the 49ers after his final game, Gore reacted enthusiastically about the possibility.

1, Emmitt Smith 18,355
2, Walter Payton 16,726
3, Barry Sanders 15,269
4, Curtis Martin 14,101
5, Frank Gore 14,026

49ers increase competition for starting guard positions


49ers increase competition for starting guard positions

The 49ers are the fifth team to give Jonathan Cooper a chance after he arrived in the NFL as the No. 7 overall pick of the Arizona Cardinals in the 2013 draft.

Cooper, 28, caught the attention of the 49ers with his career-high 13 starts last season with the Dallas Cowboys. The 49ers signed him to a one-year, $4.95 million contract this week.

“We signed him to compete for one of the guard spots as a starter,” 49ers general manager John Lynch said Thursday at Stanford's pro day. “He played very well in our minds for Dallas last year and kind of resurrected his career. He’s battled injuries, but we really like the way he played, and we think he’s a very good fit for what we do. So we were pleased to add him.”

The 49ers plan to take it slowly this offseason with Cooper, who underwent surgery after tearing the medial-collateral ligament in his left knee during the final game of the season. The 49ers report for the offseason program in mid-April.

The 49ers are certain to have at least two new starters on the offensive line. Former New York Giants center Weston Richburg was signed to replace Daniel Kilgore, who was subsequently traded to the Miami Dolphins. Brandon Fusco, who started 16 games at right guard, signed with the Atlanta Falcons as an unrestricted free agent.

Laken Tomlinson has a chance to hold onto a starting job. Acquired shortly before the start of the regular season in a trade from the Detroit Lions, Tomlinson quickly moved into the starting lineup at left guard and started the final 15 games. Tomlinson was a first-round draft pick of the Lions in 2015.

“Laken played very well the longer he was there,” Lynch said. “I think people forget with Laken, he came here in Week 1. He was kind of force-fed. We didn’t have many options. But we saw a guy get better throughout the season. He’ll get his opportunity.”

Joshua Garnett, a first-round pick of the 49ers in 2016, spent last season on injured reserve due to an a knee injury sustained in training camp. The 49ers challenged Garnett to get in better physical condition. He has been cleared for football activity.

“Joshua Garnett has been working extremely hard, so he’ll be in that mix,” Lynch said. “He did a great job embracing the time he has last year to improve as a player. He remade his body and we're looking forward to see him get after it in the offseason.

“I think he’s excited about it. He’s feeling sexy, as he says.”

Erik Magnuson, 24, won a spot on the 49ers’ roster after signing as an undrafted rookie from Michigan. Magnuson could enter into the competition at guard. He displayed unique versatility in his first season, starting two games at right tackle before sustaining a season-ending foot injury. He can also serve as a backup center.

And, perhaps, the 49ers are not finished adding to the competition. The team owns the No. 9 overall selection, and Notre Dame’s Quenton Nelson could be on the radar in the unlikely event he is not selected within the top eight picks.

When asked if the 49ers could also add another player to the mix with a draft pick, Lynch answered, “We’ll see. We’re always looking to get better there.”