SANTA CLARA -- When the 49ers implemented their defensive system last year, two players from outside the organization were held up as models for how their respective positions in the secondary should be played.

The 49ers signed one of those players in the offseason after the Seattle Seahawks released veteran cornerback Richard Sherman. And if the 49ers need anyone to present a recruiting pitch to the other individual, free safety Earl Thomas, they don't have to look too far for a volunteer.

Sherman said he believes the 49ers will be interested in Thomas, but there should be plenty of competition, too.

“If they need me to be, I have no problem with it,” Sherman told reporters Thursday. “I think this is a pretty attractive destination as is. But money is the best recruiter. I’ll give my two cents. I’ll give you my best recruiting pitch.”

The 49ers are likely to have approximately $70 million in salary-cap space at the beginning of the free-agent signing period. The open negotiating period begins March 11, and teams are allowed to sign free agents starting March 13.

Thomas, a nine-year NFL veteran, has been selected to six Pro Bowls and three All-Pro teams. During his time with the Seahawks, he intercepted 28 passes and forced 11 fumbles.

In hopes of leveraging a new contract with the Seahawks or forcing a trade, Thomas sat out training camp at the beginning of the final year of his contract. After he reported to the team at the start of the regular season, Thomas sustained a season-ending fractured leg in Week 4.


As Thomas was carted off the field, he made an obscene gesture toward the Seahawks sideline, further driving home the point that his time in Seattle was over.

[RELATED: Sherman is one of Mullens' go-to guys for advice]

Thomas is scheduled to be an unrestricted free agent, and Sherman wasn't shy about discussing the possibility that his former teammate could join him in Santa Clara.

“Would I love to play with Earl Thomas III? I would love to,” Sherman said. “I would love to have him back in the locker room. But I’m sure he’ll have a plethora of opportunities, and I’m sure we’re going to throw our hat in the ring.”

The 49ers have a group of young safeties, but no guaranteed starters among the group that includes Jaquiski Tartt, Adrian Colbert, Marcell Harris and D.J. Reed.