49ers Mailbag: Some free agency needs filled, others remain untouched

49ers Mailbag: Some free agency needs filled, others remain untouched

The 49ers have filled two of their biggest needs with the acquisitions of inside linebacker Kwon Alexander and edge rusher Dee Ford.

The 49ers have not acquired a wide receiver. The pass-catcher they wanted, Odell Beckham Jr., was dealt from the New York Giants to the Cleveland Browns on Tuesday.

As the official NFL free-agent signing period begins Wednesday afternoon, there are several 49ers offseason issues that remain unresolved:

Why no AB? Why no OBJ? Why no Earl Thomas? (@changokid)
There is no question the 49ers would have wanted Beckham and Thomas, but they are not in a position where they are just one piece away from a championship and would go all-in to acquire either player.

In the case of Beckham, the 49ers did not want to give up the No. 2 overall pick. That is understandable. The Giants are in a similar spot as the 49ers. They need draft picks, so it helped them to be able to acquire a second first-round draft pick from Cleveland, in addition to a third-round selection and safety Jabrill Peppers. I don’t believe the 49ers had a player at a position of need for the Giants to throw into the mix to sweeten their offer.

With Thomas, the cost of the contract was the turn-off. The 49ers probably were not willing to go beyond the $9 million average they gave Richard Sherman last year. They deemed the dollar amount required to sign Thomas as too much for the salary structure of the team.

And with Antonio Brown, the 49ers had no interest in bringing him into their locker room. He’s a great player, but they did not see him as a fit with what they are trying to build with their culture. Add to the equation his age, guaranteed salary demands and the cost of trade compensation to Pittsburgh, and the 49ers took a hard pass on Brown.

How is the team going to address the WR position? (@GoldMine49)
They might add a veteran wide receiver. But I doubt that person would come in as an immediate starter. Anybody who is out there does not bring production that would be a significant upgrade over Kendrick Bourne and Marquise Goodwin. Bourne had a 42-catch, 487-yard season as a second-year pro. Goodwin has averaged more than 17 yards per catch in his two seasons with the 49ers.

The No. 36 overall pick would appear to be the sweet spot to add a wide receiver in the draft. Obviously, who the 49ers are able to select would depend on how many receivers fly off the board with the first 35 draft picks.

What do you make of the Niners and Bell links that came out. Should we be worried about Jerick? (@josh_49spurs)
The 49ers were in contact with Dee Ford’s agent to work out the details on his five-year contract. It just so happens that Ford’s agent is also Le’Veon Bell’s agent. What a coincidence, huh?

It certainly did not hurt Bell’s cause for the 49ers to have reported interest in him. After all, the Jets competed for Jerick McKinnon and Kyle Juszczyk the past two years in free agency, and both ended up signing with the 49ers. Do I believe the 49ers were really serious contenders on this one? No.

That said, there has to be some concern about McKinnon’s ability to come back from the torn ACL. He’s a running back whose strength is his quickness, speed and agility. How quickly he is able to get close to his old form remains to be seen.

Hey Matt, with Dee Ford on the team, how do you see him being used in combination with Bosa? How about with Allen? Burns? Sweat? (@ThatOsCruz)
Ford will line up at one end, and the No. 2 overall pick will line up on the other side in passing situations and they’ll try to meet at the quarterback as often as possible. The 49ers did not just need one upgrade at edge rusher, they need two upgrades.

[RELATED: Why Ford 'needed this' trade to 49ers from Chiefs]

Hey thanks Matt, if St. Mary's could do it, why not us? But also: Assuming we draft Bosa or Allen, would we still definitely stick with the 4-3 on D? (@qnjastros)
The only thing that will change up front is that the 49ers will have their defensive ends line up outside the offensive tackles and get up the field with new defensive line coach Kris Kocurek. Upwards of two-thirds of defensive snaps are played with a four-man line, two linebackers and five defensive backs. The 49ers’ run defense is fine. Where this team struggled was putting pressure on the quarterback and forcing poor decisions and bad throws.

(And how 'bout those Gaels? That was a truly incredible showing Tuesday night against the top-ranked Zags. Saint Mary's lost by 48 points just a few weeks ago in Spokane, but they never stopped believing in themselves. Yes, I'm a happy man.)

How do they address the secondary now that most top corners and safeties are off the market? (@jaxsontoschi)
Like the wide receiver position, I doubt the 49ers can bring in a veteran who would immediately be seen as a starter. And the same goes for the draft. There would have to be competition.

Right now, the 49ers have Richard Sherman, Ahkello Witherspoon and Tarvarius Moore at cornerback. They have Jaquiski Tartt, Adrian Colbert and Marcell Harris at safety. The club believes Jimmie Ward as their best defensive back at the time he got injured. They would like to bring him back, and they've offered him a one-year deal, according to a source.

Those players, along with anyone else brought in via free agency or the draft, would compete for the four starting jobs. The biggest help for the defensive backfield will likely end up coming from Ford and the other edge rusher who is coming on draft day.

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.

[RELATED: Kwon Alexander overcame tragedy, adversity]

“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.

[RELATED: Draft prospect Quinnen Williams dined with 49ers at IHOP]

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.