Landon Collins

John Lynch explains why 49ers didn't chase Earl Thomas, Landon Collins

John Lynch explains why 49ers didn't chase Earl Thomas, Landon Collins

49ers general manager John Lynch feels comfortable with the team’s group of safeties, which is why they didn’t sign big-name free agents such as Earl Thomas or Landon Collins. 

"We feel good about our free safety depth," Lynch said on the team’s website. "We feel we're pretty well stocked there."

Lynch did clarify, saying that his statement doesn’t mean they will avoid looking closely at the deep class of safeties heading into the draft. Quite the opposite, as he reports that his staff always does their due diligence on players that can make the team better. 

“It’s not to say,” Lynch said, “if an opportunity presents itself, that we won’t go there, but we feel pretty good at our free safety spot.” 

One of the players that Lynch and the 49ers staff has always been complimentary of is Jimmie Ward. During free agency, Ward signed a one year $4.5 million contract to remain with the team for a sixth season. $1.5 million of his contract is in per-game roster bonuses, which means he must be healthy enough to play to receive the payout. 

"It was big for us to bring back Jimmie Ward,” Lynch said. “I know that's a hot-button item because he hasn't been able to stay healthy. We aren't blind to that. We understand that. 

“There's a lot to like about Jimmie Ward, though, in what he brings. Are we taking a gamble? Yes, but that's accounted for in our contract with him. Jimmie wanted to be here, and we wanted to give him that opportunity to come back."

Another player that Lynch spoke highly of was Adrian Colbert, who he said had a great rookie season. Colbert was forced to play due to injuries in 2017, but had a challenging start to his sophomore year. Lynch believed he was improving prior to his season-ending ankle injury. 

“We thought he was starting to play like the guy we saw his rookie season,” Lynch said, “that we really thought was going to be our long term answer at free safety.” 

Lynch also mentioned Jaquiski Tartt and Antone Exum as players he was happy to have back. He was especially complimentary of 2018 fifth-round draft pick D.J. Reed. 

As a rookie, Reed played in multiple positions, which is challenging even for a veteran. His versatility is something that Lynch sees as very valuable. Reed not only can play both safety positions, but he also can play outside corner or the slot position. 

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Reed is also a productive kick and punt returner, averaging 30.2 yards per return in his first season in the NFL. 

The 49ers decided to add depth to other defensive positions in free agency by signing Dee Ford and Kwon Alexander, but they will likely add competition at safety in the draft. 

Le'Veon Bell tweets at NFL free agents to create Warriors-like super team

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AP

Le'Veon Bell tweets at NFL free agents to create Warriors-like super team

Le'Veon Bell tweeted at a handful of fellow soon-to-be NFL free agents -- and one who already is -- on Wednesday, and it didn't take long for someone to invoke the Warriors.

Specifically, Bell hit up free-agent safeties Landon Collins, Tyrann Mathieu, Earl Thomas and Eric Weddle.

New York Jets safety Jamal Adams then replied to the Pittsburgh Steelers running back (for now), and joked that Bell was trying to emulate Golden State.

Bell, of course, embraced the comparison.

Adams quote-tweeted Bell with the requisite eyes emoji, so you know he's down for the Jets getting their own version of the "Hamptons Five." But, the cross-sport comparison falls a bit flat here.

Although the Hamptons are located much closer to the Jets' home turf than the Warriors' home court, this collection of free agents wouldn't necessarily comprise a super team. There's a lot of positional redundancy, as Collins, Mathieu, Thomas, Weddle and Adams himself all are safeties themselves. Sure, they could each conceivably play different positions in the defensive backfield, but it'd be kind of like the Warriors signing Kevin Durant plus two more starting small forwards in the summer of 2016.

Then again, if one franchise is going to bring that level of ... uh, innovation ... to the NFL, it would be the New York Jets.

[RELATED: Bogut 'kind of blown away' by how Warriors recruited him]

Could Bell find himself very close to the home of the actual "Hamptons Five," at least for one season? Although Adams' Jets are the rumored favorites, Bleacher Report's Matt Miller identified the Raiders as "the team to watch" to secure the star running back's signature.

Oh, and did we mention the Silver and Black could use some safety help?

49ers could address safety position with promising options in NFL Draft

49ers could address safety position with promising options in NFL Draft

INDIANAPOLIS -- The 49ers need to add depth at the safety position. There are several big names hitting the free agent market like Landon Collins and Earl Thomas, but there is also a good group of prospects who attended the NFL Scouting Combine that could fill the need. 

A few of the draft hopefuls already had the chance to work with the 49ers while at the Senior Bowl. Delaware safety Nasir Adderly (6-foot-0, 206 pounds) was one of them, even though he was coached by the Raiders staff. He had a notable week of practice and performed well in the game with what he recently revealed was a significant injury.

"Unfortunately, I won't be participating in the combine events tomorrow,” Adderly said, “because a lot of you don’t really know, but I was dealing with a high ankle sprain the back end of the year. So, it happened probably Week 6, Week 7 and I've just played through it and got an MRI following the year and it was a pretty significant high ankle sprain. 

“But I knew coming from a small school, the Senior Bowl is the most important event for me. So, I wanted to go out there and I just fought through it and it kind of set me back as far as my training for these events. So, I'm getting a lot better and I'm confident I should be able to do everything on my pro day."

The 49ers had the lowest turnover ratio in the league in 2018, so acquiring a known ball-hawking safety is a priority. Virginia’s Juan Thornhill (6-0, 205) got to know the 49ers at the Senior Bowl as well. He ran a 4.42 40-yard dash, showing off his speed, while his stats reflect his coverage ability.

“I’m the type of player that likes to play with my face towards the ball instead of with my back towards the ball,” Thornhill said. “I’m a ball hawk. I had 13 career interceptions, six interceptions this year. 

“It seems like every year I get more and more interceptions. I was always taught that the ball is the most important thing. You can’t score points if you don’t have the football, so with a guy like me, you’ll definitely get the ball back to the offense and allow us to put up more points.”

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Thornhill explained how he is able to predict where the ball is going for a pick. 

“It’s like I can see things happening before they happen,” Thornhill said. “I can see where the quarterback is throwing. I just read his eyes pretty well and break before the ball is released. I think that is my biggest thing. I’m a good player at reading the quarterback.”

Chauncey Gardner-Johnson (5-11, 210), who ran a 4.48 40 at the Combine, also considers himself a ball hawk. He recorded four interceptions in his final season at Florida and nine over his three-year career. He also described his versatility. 

“It’s big because you can put me anywhere,” Gardner-Johnson said. “I’m not limited to one position. I can be in for base. I can be in for nickel. I can be in for nickel and cover down in the slot, be in the post, come off the hash, I can do anything coach puts me at, no matter where I go.”

“Knowing your assignment, knowing what your teammates are going to do, trusting yourself and trusting your teammates to help you become a ball-hawking safety.”

The 49ers also had a large number of missed tackles in 2018. It’s important that they find players who are able and willing, and Washington’s Taylor Rapp (6-0, 208) is one who thinks he can do the job. 

“That’s (some)thing I take pride in,” Rapp said. “I think I'm one of the most consistent tacklers and most reliable defensive players in this draft class. I take pride in everything I do, especially tackling. If it's a one-on-one open-field tackle, I'm gonna tackle the ballcarrier no matter what.”

Alabama’s Deionte Thompson, (6-1, 195) recorded 78 tackles and two interceptions in his final college season, but was unable to participate in drills at the Combine due to a freak accident in the weight room that tore a ligament in his wrist. 

Thompson went into the Combine projected for the first round, but his inability to participate could make him a value pick later somewhere in the second. His workout at Alabama’s pro-day could make all the difference. 

[RELATED: NFL mock draft 2.0: Projected picks after Scouting Combine]

A few other promising options are Maryland’s Darnell Savage (5-11, 198) and Mississippi State’s Johnathan Abram (5-11, 205). Savage pulled in seven interceptions over his college career and just ran a 4.36 40-yard dash. Abram worked with the 49ers at the Senior Bowl and racked up 99 tackles in his senior year, and ran a 4.45 40. 

Any way you slice it, there are promising options for the 49ers to fit their needs at safety.