Continuing to remind folks in the football world it's a new era in San Francisco, the 49ers did the unimaginable Saturday, signing recently released cornerback and four-time All-Pro Richard Sherman to a three-year deal. Aside from the Twilight Zone essence of this deal, it's significant to the 49ers, as it was a high-profile signing at a position of need.
This shakes things up a bit heading into Monday's legal tampering period, and then 48 hours later when free agents can officially sign new contracts in the 2018 league year.
To provide an update on where things stand ahead of San Francisco's shopping spree, I opened it up for questions.
Who’s the #1 FA in their sights now? Also, which position is now the most crucial to address in the draft? – @zachhernan
They’ve been reported as "very interested" in Allen Robinson. But the Jaguars wide receiver is the eminent headline grabber, and only one we know about. It doesn’t necessarily mean that’s the one they’ll go hardest after and be most relentless in their pursuit for. In fact, it’s quite possible Robinson’s price is driven up by more desperate teams, and the 49ers withdraw from talks. So, while he's the biggest name, WR isn't a main position of need and Robinson might not be the top priority.
Considering that, we can reassess their needs and project realistic targets we're not hearing about yet.
With the Sherman signing, it seems safe to say they're out on the top free-agent boundary corners, Trumaine Johnson and Rashaan Melvin. It has to be between offensive line, pass rusher and running back.
Given the moves that were made with the franchise tag, as well as the market for the positions in both free agency and the draft, I’d zero in on offensive line, particularly guards Andrew Norwell or Josh Sitton. One of them would seem like a must-have in free agency before Robinson. Those are the highest-caliber players at positions of need, so that’s who should be in their sights realistically.
In the draft, the most important player to find will be a pass rusher. . .
How would you address edge rusher based on what options are available, and what is likely in free agency and the draft? – @crazyjoecooper
The 49ers can find bodies for the rotation in free agency—someone like Vinny Curry or Charles Johnson. But the top-of-the-line edge, the guy they want with the most reps, is going to be found in the draft. That became clear once top defensive ends Demarcus Lawrence (Cowboys) and Ezekiel Ansah (Lions) were both tagged by their respective teams.
All signs point to the 49ers finding their primary edge rusher in the first or second round of the draft. It’s an in-demand position, and that’s a hot spot for this year’s group which is very loosely defined outside of EDGE1 Bradley Chubb. In addition to Chubb, players like Marcus Davenport, Harold Landry, Arden Key, Hercules Mata'afa, Josh Sweat and Ogbonnia Okoronkwo all project to be in the mix.
How aggressive do you think they’ll be in pursuing Allen Robinson? – @kdgoldenstate
Like I say in the first question, I really believe they’re interested, but to a degree.
I don't think the 49ers are sliding a blank check across the table to A-Rob, which some teams may be willing to do. Contract structure is going to matter and how flexible Robinson is willing to be in order to join the 49ers. If it's a one-year prove-it deal, I think the 49ers are a favorite. If Robinson has his heart set on earning top receiver money over multiple years, I think it's far less likely the Niners push the issue.
And the Bears are right there in the background. They seem like a team that could dedicate all of their resources and energy to Robinson in order to pair him with soon-to-be 24-year-old quarterback and last year's No. 2 overall pick Mitchell Trubisky.
Who do you think the 49ers will target during the legal tampering period? – @xCali9er209
I think despite the Sherman signing that Malcolm Butler is still a target, as is Aaron Colvin. The shared traits between these two corners is that they are both versatile. Both can play in the slot or out on the boundary, and that's good for playing right now and transitioning from Sherman some day. Bringing one of them in would help round out the cornerbacks, giving the 49ers a group of four strong with Sherman, Ahkello Witherspoon, K’Waun Williams and Butler/Colvin.
It's not crazy considering what the Broncos and Seahawks once had, and what the Rams just put together.
Moving on from cornerback, as I mention before, it also makes sense for the 49ers to sign one of the better veteran guards out there, like Norwell or Sitton. Don't be surprised if Jack Mewhort or Justin Pugh enter the conversation as targets, as well. This team could use a couple new interior O-linemen, so expect them to be in the market right away.
Skill position wise, a low-key addition like Paul Richardson or John Brown make sense as the 49ers look to build out a more competitive receiving corps. These are two receivers that have made big plays and come with a ton of upside, but have had injuries and low-to-moderate production lately. Running backs Dion Lewis and even LeGarrette Blount make sense as role fillers in a rebuilding committee, as well.
Do the Niners pursue a LB in free agency. If so, who? – @fcmason9
One name I haven’t heard a lot of but I think makes sense for the 49ers is linebacker Paul Posluszny. He’s been solid for a long time, putting up two respectable stints in this league, one with Buffalo and then most recently Jacksonville. Now 33 years old, he’s on the tail end of his career looking for a familiar place to finish strong.
Posluszny was directly coached by Robert Saleh for three seasons when he was the Jaguars’ linebackers coach. The Niners also need depth at that position, and with Reuben Foster’s situation, they need someone unique that can start in his absence and be flexible enough to play alongside him when he’s in the lineup, too.
This is a potential one- or two-year deal that makes sense for both sides.
How many more ‘big’ free agents does the team try and sign? Is it just (Allen) Robinson or could they try and add a corner like (Aaron) Colvin or guard like (Justin) Pugh too? – @Colan13Lamont
Like Jason at Over the Cap said, “The 49ers have enough cap space to add Kirk Cousins if they wanted to.”
Despite the splashy deals for Jimmy Garoppolo and Sherman, general manager John Lynch is not bound by the dollar. This could be one of those off-seasons where the 49ers hold a presser featuring three high-profile signings holding their scarlet red jerseys up for the cameras. The only limitations this front office has in terms of spending are the ones they set for themselves when they assign value to each player.
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