Taylor Gabriel

NFL free agency: 49ers have external options to further bolster roster

NFL free agency: 49ers have external options to further bolster roster

The 49ers have been active during the NFL’s open-negotiating window to retain many of their scheduled unrestricted free agents.

Although they parted ways with team MVP DeForest Buckner in a trade with the Indianapolis Colts for the No. 13 overall pick, they managed to re-sign such defensive players as Arik Armstead, Jimmie Ward and Ronald Blair.

On offense, wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders remains available. But the 49ers restructured running back Jerick McKinnon’s contract to keep him around for another season. The 49ers also re-signed backup offensive linemen Ben Garland and Shon Coleman.

It appears doubtful the 49ers will be active on the open market because of the priority they placed on keeping their roster largely intact. But if the 49ers were to look around the NFL for help, here are some players to keep in mind:

Geronimo Allison, WR, Green Bay Packers

If the 49ers are unable to re-sign Sanders, they could look to the free-agent market. The club returns Deebo Samuel, Kendrick Bourne, Richie James and Dante Pettis. The 49ers expect Trent Taylor and Jalen Hurd to be healthy and contributing in 2020, too.

The 49ers got very little from their slot receiver last season. Allison is a four-year veteran who started six games last season with the Green Bay Packers and caught 34 passes for 287 yards and two touchdowns. Allison could compete for playing time and provide competition for Taylor, if healthy, and James.

Chester Rogers, WR, Indianapolis Colts

In addition to being a slot receiver, Rogers also has skills as a punt returner and he should come at a reasonable price.

This might take a while, though. Rogers ended up on injured reserve last season with a fractured knee, and it will be a while before a team, such as the 49ers, could give him a full medical examination due to travel restrictions related to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

Rogers had a good season in 2018 with 53 catches for 485 yards and two touchdowns.

Taylor Gabriel, WR, Free Agent

It is attractive to the 49ers to sign a player who does not count against them in the compensatory formula. Gabriel was released this offseason, so the 49ers could wait a while and bring him in to reunite with coach Kyle Shanahan.

Gabriel would be expected to take Marquise Goodwin’s role with the club. Goodwin is available for a trade, and he is not likely to return to San Francisco this season.

Delanie Walker, TE, Free Agent

The 49ers reportedly looked into signing Austin Hooper. And after losing Levine Toilolo to the New York Giants, they are certainly in the market for another tight end. The Tennessee Titans released Walker after a failed physical.

San Francisco would want to give him a physical to check out the condition of his bothersome ankle. That could be months down the road. If Walker continues his career, he likely would have to accept a part-time role. He could fit nicely with the 49ers playing behind or alongside George Kittle.

Michael Schofield, G, L.A. Chargers

The 49ers re-signed backup Ben Garland on Wednesday. They still might be looking for a starter, though. Right guard Mike Person missed time late in the season with a neck issue. Schofield is a good pass-protector and has the athleticism to get out in the team’s zone-blocking scheme.

Brandon Mebane, NT, Free Agent

If the 49ers do not re-sign Sheldon Day, Mebane, 35 would be a great rotational option behind starter D.J. Jones due to his familiarity with the scheme.

Like Gabriel and Walker, Mebane would not count against the compensatory formula because the Los Angeles Chargers released him last week.

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Kevin Johnson, CB, Buffalo Bills

The 49ers do not need to go out and get a safety after re-signing Jimmie Ward. But they could still use another cornerback to come in and challenge Emmanuel Moseley and Ahkello Witherspoon.

Johnson remained healthy last season while appearing in all 16 games in the regular season for the Buffalo Bills. He was in the starting lineup in the playoffs.

Johnson, 27, has additional value on special teams in case he does not win a starting job. Of course, with two first-round picks, the 49ers could also look to add a top cornerback in the draft.

NFL free agency: 49ers should target these five offensive players

NFL free agency: 49ers should target these five offensive players

Veteran wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders is the 49ers' top offensive free agent.

Sanders should be one of the top receivers on the NFL free-agent market, which unofficially begins Monday with the two-day opening negotiating period before the new league year starts on Wednesday.

Dallas’ Amari Cooper is the top receiver scheduled for free agency. Cincinnati’s A.J. Green, who missed all of last season with an ankle injury, and Robby Anderson of the New York Jets should also receive a lot of attention, if they make it to free agency.

The 49ers might deem Sanders too expensive to re-sign. If he gets away, the 49ers could look for one of several lower-priced options. The 49ers could also look to add an interior offensive lineman in free agency.

Here are five offensive free agents who could be good fits for the 49ers:

Geronimo Allison, WR, Green Bay

The 49ers did not get a lot of production from their slot receiver in 2019, and that is one area in which the team can give quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo some help. Allison is a four-year veteran who started six games last season and caught 34 passes for 287 yards and two touchdowns.

Allison can step into a situation with the 49ers where he is competing for a job. The 49ers should have some insurance in case Trent Taylor does not make a strong recovery from missing the entire season due to complications following foot surgery.

Chester Rogers, WR, Indianapolis

In addition to being a slot receiver, Rogers also has skills as a punt returner. Richie James was solid in that role last season, but he did not do enough on offense to work his way into a role on that side of the ball.

Rogers should be a low-priced option after he ended the season on injured reserve with a fractured knee. Rogers had a good season in 2018 with 53 catches for 485 yards and two touchdowns.

Taylor Gabriel, WR, Free Agent

When the 49ers signed Marquise Goodwin on the first day of free agency in 2017, coach Kyle Shanahan envisioned using him in a role that was similar to how he used Gabriel with Cleveland and Atlanta.

Gabriel is a free agent right now after the Chicago Bears released him last month. He does not count against the compensatory formula for any team that signs him.

Goodwin is not likely to be back with the 49ers this season. Gabriel finished the season on injured reserve due to a concussion. If his health is in order, Gabriel could be an option to sign once there’s clarity with Sanders’ situation.

Michael Schofield, G, L.A. Chargers

Guard Mike Person missed time late in the season with a neck issue. The 49ers could look to tighten up that position with Schofield, who is a good pass-protector and has the athleticism to get out in the team’s zone-blocking scheme.

Joe Staley, Mike McGlinchey, Laken Tomlinson and Weston Richburg, assuming he’s healthy, will be the starters at the other four spots on the offensive line. Person and Daniel Brunskill are in line to compete for the job at right guard – unless the 49ers add a starter in free agency.

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Delanie Walker, TE, Free Agent

The 49ers have a pretty good tight end. And Walker is a 14-year NFL veteran who has been struggling on an ankle that has not been right since he sustained a severe injury in 2018.

Walker is on the market now after the Tennessee Titans released him on Friday. Walker failed his physical. Walker does not figure to find a new home anytime soon, as teams will want to check him out physically before taking the next step.

If Walker continues to play, it would serve him well to take on a part-time role. His ability in the passing game, along with his blocking, would make him a nice accessory for a year behind or alongside George Kittle.

Why 49ers could be interested in adding Taylor Gabriel to receiver mix

Why 49ers could be interested in adding Taylor Gabriel to receiver mix

When the 49ers signed wide receiver Marquise Goodwin on the first day of free agency in 2017, coach Kyle Shanahan envisioned using him in a role similar to what he designed previously for Taylor Gabriel.

Now, Goodwin’s time with the 49ers appears to be coming to an end at the same time that Gabriel is set to become available. The Bears on Friday released Gabriel.

Gabriel was scheduled to make $5.5 million this season with the Chicago Bears for the 2020 season. Goodwin is on the books to cost the 49ers $4.5 million this year and is expected to be released in a cost-cutting move.

The 49ers could look to replace Goodwin with Gabriel, who has a valuation of $1.864 million, according to OverTheCap.com. But the move would have to be a low-risk deal, as Gabriel missed the final five games of last season after sustaining his second concussion of the season.

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Gabriel, 29, played in nine games for the Bears last season. He caught 29 passes for 353 yards and four touchdowns. If the 49ers have interest in Gabriel, it would be to add him to the roster to compete for a spot as a part-time player to stretch the field.

Gabriel had the two highest yards-per-reception averages of his career with Shanahan calling the plays. In 2014 with the Cleveland Browns, Gabriel caught 36 passes for 621 yards (17.3-yard average). And in 2016, he caught 35 passes for 579 yards (16.5 average).