ORLANDO, Fla. – As a youngster, Kyle Shanahan kept a close eye on the Denver Broncos’ activity at the start of free agency.
Just like his wife quizzes him now about the 49ers’ interest in big-name free agents, Shanahan would yearn for his dad, former Broncos coach Mike Shanahan, to lure well-known veterans to his team.
“I came home every night and we didn’t sign the top guys every single day, my wife’s disappointed and all the fans are,” Shanahan said Tuesday at the NFL owners meetings. “I know it’s exciting. I was the same way when my dad came home from work and they didn’t sign every free agent. I’d be disappointed.
“But it’s not always the best move. You have to make sure it’s the right fit and you have a role for him and they’re right type of people you’re going to build your organization around.”
The 49ers pinpointed two veterans they wanted to aggressively pursue and sign on the first day of the free-agent signing period, Shanahan said. They hit on both of their targets: center Weston Richburg and running back Jerick McKinnon.
The club did not pursue any wide receivers on the open market with such players as Pierre Garçon, Marquise Goodwin, Trent Taylor, Aldrick Robinson and Kendrick Bourne already under contract. The 49ers are likely to invest a draft pick on a wide receiver to develop.
Shanahan’s offense with the Atlanta Falcons averaged nearly 34 points per game and quarterback Matt Ryan threw for 4,944 yards. The offense featured one of the top wide receivers in the game. But Shanahan said having a Julio Jones is a luxury, not a necessity.
“You definitely don’t need that,” Shanahan said. “If you ever have it, then keep it. It’s very fun to have and it’ll help you a ton. But that’s not something you need.
“You need guys who can beat man-to-man coverage. You need guys who are explosive enough to scare the secondary so it can open up your play-action game. And you need guys who can separate on third down. That doesn’t have to be a receiver. You’d like it to be all five of your eligibles -- three receivers, your tight end and your running back.”
Garçon was on pace for a 1,000-yard season before he sustained season-ending neck injury in the eighth game. Goodwin had a breakout season with 56 receptions for 962 yards, then signed a three-year contract worth nearly $19 million shortly after the season.
The 49ers were not interested in top free agents Sammy Watkins or Allen Robinson, who signed three-year contracts for $48 million and $42 million, respectively. Eleven other wide receivers signed deals that average at least $5 million per season.
“What you don’t want to do is have a bunch of guys who are OK but are paid like the best,” Shanahan said. “That’s where you get in trouble and have to stay away from in free agency. It’s usually why the draft is the best way to go.”
Shanahan said he shares the same vision as the 49ers’ front office, led by general manager John Lynch. He wants the 49ers built to last. The 49ers have 73 players under contract with more than $47 million in cap space.
The 49ers this offseason resisted the temptation to make splashy signings with an eye toward the future when they plan to re-sign some of their own younger players while also remaining flexible to acquire free agents who fill particular needs.
“I would love to win now and you do everything you can to win now, but you never do it at the expense of the future,” Shanahan said. “I’ve been in this league a long time and I think we’ve all waited a long time to have an opportunity like this. This isn’t something you go in recklessly and just try to make yourself look good right away. You try to make good decisions.”