Travis Benjamin

Why Donte Whitner thinks 49ers found slot receiver in Travis Benjamin

Why Donte Whitner thinks 49ers found slot receiver in Travis Benjamin

The 49ers last week agreed to terms with free-agent slot receiver Travis Benjamin, and Donte Whitner was not the least-bit surprised 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan wanted him.

“I played with Travis Benjamin in Cleveland while Kyle Shanahan was our offensive coordinator. And let me tell you, he loved Travis Benjamin,” Whitner said on 49ers Central.

Whitner played safety for 11 NFL seasons, including two years with the Cleveland Browns. He and Benjamin were teammates. Shanahan spent the 2014 season in Cleveland as the offensive coordinator.

“Travis Benjamin fits this offense perfectly,” Whitner said. “With those guys crossing the middle and being able to break back and have down-the-football-field speed, he fits in automatically with his offense.

“If you can get Marquise Goodwin to wake up on the outside, you’ll have two of the fastest wide receivers in the National Football League.”

Benjamin is expected to compete primarily with Trent Taylor, Richie James and Dante Pettis for the 49ers’ slot receiver role, as well as punt returner. He joins a receiving corps that currently also includes Deebo Samuel, Kendrick Bourne, Jalen Hurd and Goodwin.

Benjamin, 30, has seen his production decline for the past four seasons while with the San Diego/Los Angeles Chargers organization. The past two seasons Benjamin was limited by foot and quadriceps injuries. He appeared in just 16 games over the past two seasons and caught just 18 passes for 216 yards and one touchdown.

[RELATEDWhat 49ers' options are with $15.7M left in salary-cap space this offseason]

Benjamin entered the NFL in 2012 as a fourth-round pick of the Browns. He ran a time of 4.36 seconds in the 40-yard dash at the NFL Scouting Combine, but Whitner said that number is deceiving.

“I guarantee you if you talked to any defensive back that played with him and had to cover him on a day-to-day basis, they will say that he runs a lot faster than 4.36,” Whitner said.

What 49ers' options are with $15.7M left in salary-cap space this offseason

What 49ers' options are with $15.7M left in salary-cap space this offseason

Two weeks into the new league year, and with most of the team’s contracts tabulated, the 49ers rank 20th in the NFL in room under the league’s salary cap.

According to figures released by the NFL Players Association, the 49ers have 74 players under contract for the 2020 season and are $15,741,039 under the league’s $198.2 million salary cap.

Only the top 51 players count toward each team’s salary cap until the cutdown to 53 players for the start of the regular season.

The figure does not include the recently signed one-year contract for backup offensive lineman Ben Garland or free-agent agreements with lineman Tom Compton and wide receiver Travis Benjamin.

The 49ers carried over $7.86 million of unused cap room from last year’s cap into 2020.

The 49ers must leave cap space this offseason to sign their rookie class. The 49ers have seven scheduled draft picks, including Nos. 13 and 31 in the first round.

The club is also expected to pursue a contract extension with tight end George Kittle, who is in line to become the NFL’s highest-paid tight end -- by a lot.

[RELATEDGeorge Kittle's new contract will be 49ers' next priority after free agency]

Kittle has one season remaining on his original rookie contract. Earlier this offseason, the Cleveland Browns signed tight end Austin Hooper to a four-year, $42 million contract.

Here is the list of salary cap space for each team (players under contract in parenthesis):

Houston (64) $45,834,619
N.Y. Jets (65) $45,018,663
Cleveland (65) $45,347,227
L.A. Chargers (53) $39,675,066
Tennessee (58) $33,186,101
Washington (68) $32,145,235
Detroit (76) $31,893,750
Denver (76) $28,875,754
Philadelphia (65) $28,544,977
Indianapolis (69) $27,540,144
Dallas (62) $27,310,030
Jacksonville (61) $23,485,088
Miami (78) $23,359,352
Buffalo (67) $23,172,999
Chicago (61) $22,122,887
N.Y. Giants (65) $18,571,509
Carolina (62) $17,508,922
L.A. Rams (55) $16,883,884
Raiders (73) $15,825,066
49ers (74) $15,741,039

Tampa Bay (62) $15,512,767
Cincinnati (62) $15,181,484
Green Bay (63) $13,580,733
Minnesota (59) $13,172,243
Baltimore (57) $12,230,579
Seattle (64) $11,919,646
Arizona (63) $10,360,175
New Orleans (64) $9,914,157
Pittsburgh (69) $9,344,614
Atlanta (60) $7,456,988
New England (67) $1,568,575
Kansas City (62) $676,971

Source: NFL Players Association.

How 49ers' veteran free-agent additions fit into 2020 season plan

How 49ers' veteran free-agent additions fit into 2020 season plan

In the first week of free agency, the 49ers went outside the organization to add veterans at the following positions: wide receiver, offensive lineman, edge rusher and inside linebacker.

But nothing has really changed for the 49ers in the big picture. Those four acquisitions have no impact on how the 49ers figure to approach the draft next month.

The 49ers’ top projected priorities in the draft entering free agency were wide receiver, offensive line, cornerback and defensive line.

And after the first week of comings and goings, the 49ers’ top draft needs are still wide receiver, offensive line, cornerback and defensive line.

Here is a look at the four veteran players the 49ers have added in free agency, and how they fit into the team’s plan.

Travis Benjamin, WR

The 49ers did not get much production from their slot receiver last season. That could change in 2020, if Trent Taylor is healthy after undergoing five surgeries on his foot.

The 49ers agreed to terms with Benjamin (5-foot-10, 175 pounds) on a one-year deal. Benjamin, 30, appeared in 17 games the past two seasons as a slot receiver with the Los Angeles Chargers. He caught just 18 passes for 216 yards and one touchdown in 2018 and ’19.

His best season came in 2015 with the Cleveland Browns – the season after Kyle Shanahan served as the team’s offensive coordinator. Benjamin posted career-highs with 68 catches for 966 yards and five touchdowns.

Benjamin was a good punt returner in 2017. He averaged 9.5 yards on 27 returns with a touchdown and two fumbles.

Benjamin comes to the 49ers to compete with Taylor and Richie James. Other receivers the 49ers have listed on their roster are Deebo Samuel, Kendrick Bourne, Dante Pettis, Jalen Hurd, Marquise Goodwin, Chris Thompson and Shawn Poindexter.

The 49ers can be expected to invest one of their top draft picks in a wide receiver, too. And Benjamin will face a difficult challenge to win a roster spot.

Tom Compton, OL

The 49ers agreed to terms with Compton on a one-year deal. Then, the club promptly released right guard Mike Person, who started all but two games for the 49ers in his two seasons with the club.

Compton is well-traveled. And he is versatile. The 49ers will be his sixth NFL club of the past six seasons. He has started games in his career at right tackle, right guard and left guard.

There’s not much in his background that suggests Compton is a starter. But there was not much in Person’s past before he signed with the 49ers that indicated he was ready for a starting role, either.

Daniel Brunskill filled in admirably at right tackle, left tackle and right guard for the 49ers last season. He is young and getting better. If he can focus on one position -- such as right guard -- he would have an opportunity to be a fixture at that spot for the foreseeable future.

Compton gives the 49ers some options along the offensive line, but it is no guarantee that he will win a spot on the 53-man roster.

Kerry Hyder, DE

The arrow was pointing up on Hyder’s career in 2016, when he registered eight sacks for the Detroit Lions. His defensive line coach was Kris Kocurek.

But in the first preseason game of 2017, Hyder’s career took a disappointing turn when he sustained a torn left Achilles.

He missed the entire 2017 season. Hyder returned to action after a year of rehabbing but he was not the same. He played in 23 games during the 2018 and ’19 seasons with Detroit and Dallas and picked up just two sacks.

Hyder (6-2, 275) will compete for a roster spot with the 49ers. He has the ability to rush the passer from inside or outside and on either side. The 49ers last week re-signed Ronald Blair. Hyder will compete for a spot on the 49ers’ roster as a rotational nickel pass-rusher to help keep Nick Bosa and Dee Ford fresh.

More competition could be coming in the draft. After all, even with the depth, the 49ers had a year ago in training camp, they found out that a team can never have too many defensive linemen.

[RELATED: How Emmanuel Sanders left his mark with 49ers' young receivers group]

Joe Walker, LB

Walker started 11 games for the Arizona Cardinals last season and picked up 65 tackles. Arizona’s first-round pick of 2017, Haason Reddick, lost his job to Walker.

But the Cardinals were not willing to extend a multi-year contract offer to Walker, whom the 49ers signed on a one-year deal this week.

Walker comes to the 49ers as a backup player. He is not going to break into a lineup that already consists of Fred Warner, Kwon Alexander and Dre Greenlaw. Azeez Al-Shaair and Mark Nzeocha are the other returning linebackers for the 49ers.

Walker should make the 49ers as a backup linebacker and core special-teams player. He is likely to take the spot that opened when the 49ers declined to tender Elijah Lee as a restricted free agent.