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:
LOT OF OPTIONS
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
NOT MANY OPTIONS
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.
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.