49ers look to be active in free agency to begin filling many needs

49ers look to be active in free agency to begin filling many needs

As coach Kyle Shanahan looks at his 49ers roster, he said there is only one position he does not have to give a second look.

“I feel like if you look at our team, the only position you probably couldn’t argue to go get someone at is quarterback, just because of what we’ve done there and the three guys we have,” Shanahan told Bay Area reporters last week at the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis.

The 49ers feel so comfortable with Jimmy Garoppolo, C.J. Beathard and Nick Mullens that the organization will give serious consideration to keeping three quarterbacks on their 53-man roster in 2019.

Beathard and Mullens will compete for the backup job, but neither one is likely at the point where another team could swoop in and make an attractive trade offer. When asked if any team has called about Mullens, 49ers general manager John Lynch said, “No, we haven’t gotten that call, but he played really well. He really did.”

Garoppolo, who sustained a torn ACL in his left knee in Week 3, is on pace to participate in 7-on-7 drills in the offseason program and graduate to 11-on-11 work for the start of training camp in late-July.

The 49ers are a team with a lot of needs, whether it’s starters at some positions or improvement in depth at other spots. And with projected salary-cap space of nearly $70 million, the 49ers can be plenty active in free agency.

Teams are allowed to begin negotiating with free agents from other clubs on Monday, with the official start of the free-agent signing period scheduled for Wednesday at 1 p.m.

“You can’t go get everybody,” Shanahan said. “But you can make an argument to go get everybody at really every position.”

Shanahan and Lynch were signed to six-year contracts in 2017 – longer contracts than usual for a first-time coach and GM– because the roster they inherited was in such poor shape. Former general manager Trent Baalke’s final five drafts did not net much talent, and coaches Jim Tomsula and Chip Kelly were fired after just one season apiece.

The trade to acquire Garoppolo from the New England Patriots in October 2017 appeared to expedite the 49ers' rebuilding process, as the club won five straight to end the season with a 6-10 record. But when Garoppolo was injured, along with several other key players, the 49ers took a step backward in 2018 to a 4-12 mark.

The 49ers have plenty of room for improvement this offseason. And there is no shortage of positions that could use some help.

The 49ers will certainly look to add two starting-caliber edge rushers, an inside linebacker, an outside linebacker, a safety, a wide receiver and a backup tight end. They will attempt to use some combination of free agency and the draft to accomplish a roster upgrade.

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“We can go any direction. It’s what’s available,” Shanahan said. “You realize you’re not going to be able to do everything. So where do you want to be a little bit weaker? Where do you want to stronger? And you hope as you build this the right way.

“We’re definitely not fully there yet. We’re still having to play a little bit of catch-up. But it’s a very pivotal time for us with the six picks we have. And the six picks that we have in the draft will definitely tie into what we do in free agency and vice versa.”

Kwon Alexander will fill Reuben Foster's void, John Lynch believes

Kwon Alexander will fill Reuben Foster's void, John Lynch believes

49ers general manager John Lynch acknowledged that he signed Kwon Alexander to fill the void left by former 49ers linebacker Reuben Foster, who was released last season. 

In an interview with 49ers.com, Lynch spoke about how he and his staff brought back several familiar faces to the linebackers room. He was also very frank about what the team lost in Foster as a player. 

“Let’s be honest,” Lynch said. “We had a void that we thought we had filled with Reuben Foster. Things transpired there. We had a void there and that stinks but you can’t just sit there and pout, you gotta say ‘OK, let’s do something.'

“We needed a dynamic football player at that position. It’s a very critical position in our scheme and this became the guy. Kwon became the guy that we wanted to be that guy.” 

Alexander has many of the same on-field characteristics as Foster. He’s known as a hard hitter who flies around the field, making players think twice about going across the middle. He may make some mistakes in the game, but his passion and heart are recognized by his teammates. 

“I think what stood out to us with Kwon,” Lynch said, “he’s a dynamic football player. He’s a tone setter. You need tone-setters on your defense. 

“I think he’s a guy that when you watch him, when you talk to people who played against him, people who played with him, he’s exactly that. His type of play running all over the field, hitting people, getting the ball, it’s contagious. We need that.” 

The 49ers' admiration for Alexander grew as they did more research on him. They understand it may take some time before he returns to 100 percent health.

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“The more we watched him the more we liked,” Lynch said. “We knew he was coming off an ACL injury but we got comfortable with the medical part and also got comfortable with 'Hey, we are going to wait as long as it takes.' This is a long-term investment. He’s doing very well in his rehab.” 

The staff ideally would like to see Alexander lined up next to Fred Warner, who had a stand-out rookie season. They also brought back Elijah Lee, special teams contributor Mark Nzeocha, and signed ex-Panther David Mayo to a two-year contract to fill out the linebackers room.

Top NFL draft prospect Josh Allen thinks he's best player available

Top NFL draft prospect Josh Allen thinks he's best player available

Josh Allen does not lack confidence.

The edge rusher out of Kentucky, who is linked to both the 49ers with the No. 2 pick and Raiders at No. 4 in next month's NFL draft, spoke highly of his abilities during his pro day Friday.

"You can just watch the film, watch the games," Allen told ESPN on Friday. "If you're talking about stats, I mean, I finished second in the nation in sacks, playing in the SEC, which doesn't throw the ball as much as other conferences.

"I'm physical. I played the whole season. I played every game. I'm healthy. I just think I'm the best edge rusher, the best pass rusher, the best overall player in this draft."

OK then.

Allen put up tremendous numbers in his senior season at Kentucky, totaling 17 sacks and 88 tackles, including 56 solo. The 49ers and Raiders both desperately need someone who can rush the quarterback, so Allen fits the mold for both teams.

Allen told NBC Sports Bay Area's Matt Maiocco that he has scheduled pre-draft meetings with both the 49ers and the Raiders.

The latest speculation is that the 49ers will draft Ohio State edge rusher Nick Bosa with the No. 2 pick, as the Cardinals -- who own the No. 1 pick -- have been heavily linked to Oklahoma quarterback Kyler Murray. If both Bosa and Allen are available to the 49ers, GM John Lynch will have his pick of the two edge rushers.

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The Raiders, meanwhile, have to wait until No. 4 to see if Allen is still available. If both the Cardinals and 49ers pass on the Kentucky standout, only the Jets at No. 3 would stand in their way of getting -- as Allen puts it -- "the best overall player in the draft."

Time will tell whether Allen lives up to his bold proclamation. But it seems as if the 49ers or Raiders would be lucky to find out.