49ers

NFL rumors: How Trey Flowers, C.J. Mosley, Eric Weddle would fit 49ers

NFL rumors: How Trey Flowers, C.J. Mosley, Eric Weddle would fit 49ers

Landon Collins reportedly wasn't the only player to learn he'd become a free agent in the coming days. 

Baltimore Ravens linebacker C.J. Mosley and New England Patriots defensive end Trey Flowers did not receive a franchise tag from their respective teams, according to multiple reports. On Tuesday, the Ravens also reportedly cut safety Eric Weddle

All three play positions where the 49ers' needs are abundantly clear, but would any of them fit in San Francisco? 

Trey Flowers

Flowers should have a flowery outlook on free agency. Bad puns aside, he just might be the best player available on the open market. 

The 25-year-old is a versatile player, who Pro Football Focus graded out as a top-10 edge defender over the last three seasons with an overall grade of 88.7. The football analytics site rated Flowers as one of the best run defenders at his position, and an average-to-above-average pass rusher. He has also been durable, playing no fewer than 14 games in each of the last three seasons. 

The 49ers were decent defending the run last season, but could clearly use help rushing the passer. They likely are going to draft an edge-rusher at the top of the draft, but one player won't solve what ailed them. Flowers will be expensive, but the 49ers have the salary-cap space and the need to bring him into the fold. 

C.J. Mosley

Mosley has been a starter since the Ravens drafted him No. 17 overall out of Alabama in 2014. He has recorded at least 100 combined tackles in four of five NFL seasons, and manned the middle of one of the league's top defenses in 2018.

But Mosley's hype doesn't necessarily match his production. Pro Football Focus found that Mosley graded out as one of the best run defenders at his position, but he wasn't as strong defending the pass. 

Still, the 49ers' linebacking corps is likely due for an upgrade. The 49ers will have to make a decision on retaining Malcolm Smith soon, and could use help at the position whether or not Mosley is retained. 

[RELATED: Our latest mock draft after NFL Scouting Combine]

Eric Weddle

At 34 years old, Weddle is the oldest of the players mentioned here. He didn't record an interception for the second time in the last five years, and had a career-low three passes defended. 

Yet, Weddle still has something left in the tank. He was a pivotal part of a Ravens defense that allowed fewer yards than any other team last season, and made his sixth career Pro Bowl. 

The 49ers need help across the secondary, and a ball-hawk safety would go a long way towards improving their turnover numbers next season. If 2018 was not just a down year, Weddle might not be that at this stage of his career. 

DeAndre Hopkins, 49ers' new rival, says he's NFL's best wide receiver

DeAndre Hopkins, 49ers' new rival, says he's NFL's best wide receiver

One of the 49ers' newest rivals is coming to the NFC West with lots of confidence.

DeAndre Hopkins hasn't even suited up for the Arizona Cardinals yet, but he told ESPN's "Jalen & Jacoby Show" that he "definitely" is the best wide receiver in the NFL. 

"I know I'm the best," Hopkins said Thursday. "Mike's my boy. I love [New Orleans Saints wide receiver] Michael [Thomas] ... but he knows if I had Drew Brees my whole career what these numbers would be. [Falcons wide receiver] Julio Jones knows if I had Matt Ryan my whole career. That's my boy. I trained with Julio, too. He knows what these numbers would be."

Hopkins caught passes from Houston Texans star Deshaun Watson over the last two-and-half seasons before Hopkins was traded to the Cardinals this offseason, and Watson is no slouch as a quarterback. The 27-year-old receiver made First Team All-Pro in each of the last three seasons since Watson was drafted, catching 257 passes for 3,288 yards and 24 touchdowns in the QB's 37 career starts.

But Hopkins was great despite playing with numerous forgettable quarterbacks in four years before Watson arrived in Houston, making the Pro Bowl in 2015 after finishing third in receiving yards (1,521) and tied for seventh in TDs (11) while Brian Hoyer, Ryan Mallett, T.J. Yates and Brandon Weeden each started at least one game.

[49ERS INSIDER PODCAST: Listen to the latest episode]

Hopkins won't have to worry about that in 2020, barring injury, as he's set to team up with up-and-coming star Kyler Murray in Kliff Kingsbury's high-octane offense. That combination has the potential to be a thorn in the 49ers' side for years to come.

If you agree with where Hopkins stands among the game's best wide receivers, he'll pose a threat to the 49ers this season. Thomas and Jones each carved up the 49ers' dominat defense last season, with both catching 11 or more passes for 134 yards and at least one touchdown. Of the receivers who accrued at least 100 receiving yards in a game against the 49ers, Thomas (13) and Jones (11) had the most receptions.

[RELATED: How Washington jumping gun on Williams benefited 49ers] 

Hopkins will have two chances to replicate his peers' production, and he'll be aided by arguably a better supporting cast of receivers. Larry Fitzgerald caught 75 passes for 804 yards as a 36-year-old last season, while Christian Kirk had 709 receiving yards himself. Fitzgerald has gained more receiving yards (2,381) and scored more touchdowns (19) against the 49ers than any other team in his career, while Kirk has scored two of his six career TDs (in two seasons) against San Francisco.

The All-Pro receiver's swagger alone won't knock the 49ers off their divisional perch, but Hopkins' arrival should keep them -- and their secondary -- up at night preparing for (at least) two games against the Cardinals this season. 

How 49ers' Trent Williams trade benefited from Washington jumping gun

How 49ers' Trent Williams trade benefited from Washington jumping gun

If Trent Williams is fully healthy and plays up to his ability, the 49ers got an absolute steal in only giving up a 2020 fifth-round pick and 2021 third-round selection in last month's trade with Washington. Had he played last season, it's highly unlikely San Francisco would have been able to acquire him for such a low cost.

And, thanks to Washington jumping the gun, he didn't.

Williams joined NFL Media's Ian Rapoport on the "RapSheet and Friends" podcast set to debut Friday and revealed that he was, in fact, prepared to suit up for Washington once he reported to the team after the trade deadline last season. But before his new helmet could arrive, Washington placed him on the reserve/non-football injury list, officially ending his season.

"The competitive juices started to flow, so I was really prepared to make my return last year," Williams told Rapoport. "I know all of the things that had went on and just being in that facility, being around teammates, being around the guys you fought with and bled with for some many years. It was almost impossible for me to fight the urge not to just want to get back on the field. I was literally waiting on my new helmet to come in. I was getting ready to kind of gear up and it was going to be somewhat of a surprise to some, but I think for the people who know me best, they know how competitive I am.

"... I was under the impression my new helmet was coming in that Tuesday, and then I was put on the NFI ... right before I could even get the helmet to get back out there. It was a bummer but figured it was just how it was supposed to work out."

[RELATED: 49ers help Williams by restructuring final year of contract]

It should be noted, Washington saved $6 million by placing Williams on the NFI. Of course, that likely was the final nail in the coffin for their relationship. 

Williams doesn't sound too upset about it. You can be sure the 49ers -- who now have arguably the NFL's best offensive tackle -- aren't either.

[49ERS INSIDER PODCAST: Listen to the latest episode]