From John Lynch on down, the 49ers have been actively recruiting unrestricted free agents in 2018.
Fullback Kyle Juszczyk said he recently spoke to players at the Pro Bowl, as well as former (Ravens) teammates about San Francisco as a destination. “This is the place where people want to be,” he told Joe Fann this week on the 49ers Studios Podcast. Veterans Joe Staley and Pierre Garçon have even been seen partaking in the recruiting on Twitter.
It makes you wonder who else they might be reaching out to privately, and which names are being floated around the building due to pre-existing relationships.
The connections also matter here as the 49ers have not minded bringing in familiar faces. Aside from nearly the entire staff being made up of guys that worked with each other, in the first year they signed Brian Hoyer, Pierre Garcon, Aldrick Robinson, Logan Paulsen, Laken Tomlinson, Earl Mitchell, Dekoda Watson, Sheldon Day, Cassius Marsh and K’Waun Williams, all of whom worked with the staff or front office previously. They also had Tim Hightower in training camp.
Assuming the team dip backs into its rolodex this offseason, here's a list of notable free-agent players and how they're connected to the 49ers.
Isaiah Crowell, RB
Crowell played for then-offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan as a rookie in 2014 and ran for a career-high eight touchdowns. He was also teammates with corner K’Waun Williams for two seasons. The 25-year-old Crowell expects to have a decent market.
Dion Lewis, RB
Lewis was teammates with quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo and defensive end Cassius Marsh in New England. Shanahan was also on the Cleveland staff that released Lewis in August 2014. The soon-to-be 28-year-old tailback will have a lot of suitors, especially with the expectation that Le'Veon Bell doesn't get out of Pittsburgh.
Jerick McKinnon, RB
McKinnon played behind guard Brandon Fusco in Minnesota. He was also a prolific college player at Georgia Southern, where he was directly succeeded by current 49ers running back Matt Breida. McKinnon, who turns 26 in May, wants to be paid and played like a starting running back.
LeGarrette Blount, RB
Blount was teammates with Garoppolo for three seasons in New England. If he doesn't stay with the Eagles, the 31-year-old power back could look for a short-term deal for moderate money elsewhere.
Alfred Morris, RB
Morris as a rookie in 2012 ran for a career-best 1,613 yards under Shanahan and Bobby Turner, which was the second most in the NFL that year, only behind Adrian Peterson’s 2,000-yard season. He had 13 rushing touchdowns to go with. Morris broke 1,000 yards the next year, too, in what was his final year with the coaching duo. He was also teammates with Pierre Garçon, Aldrick Robinson and Logan Paulsen in Washington. Now 29 and three years removed from a 1,000-yard season, Morris might not have a big market.
Mike Wallace, WR
Wallace is a former teammate of Kyle Juszczyk and Elvis Dumervil from Baltimore. He was also on the 2014 Dolphins with Earl Mitchell and the 2015 Vikings with Brandon Fusco. Wallace is officially a journeyman. He won't cost much at 31 years old. But despite his age, Wallace can still run, which is why he'll be on a team next year.
Taylor Gabriel, WR
Shanahan coached Gabriel for two seasons on two different teams (2014 Browns, 2016 Falcons). They were the two best of the receiver’s four-year career. Gabriel was also teammates with 49ers nickel K’Waun Williams in Cleveland and wide receiver Aldrick Robinson in Atlanta. Keeping his sticker price low are perceived limitations due to his size, and the fact that he was a WR3 at best in Atlanta.
Donte Moncrief, WR
This is a bit of a stretch, but second-year defensive lineman D.J. Jones did make a comment recently on an Instagram post of Moncrief mocked up in a 49ers uni, saying, “That’s a must.” While they never played together, the link between the two is Ole Miss. Moncrief turns just 25 years old in August and could be one of the free agents to make a career jump on his next team.
Sammy Watkins, WR
Watkins played with 49ers receiver Marquise Goodwin for three years in Buffalo. Now, it seems like only a matter of time before the Rams tag or extend him, but if Lamarcus Joyner gets the tag instead, and Watkins becomes free, he should finally land that long-term deal. And even though we're still waiting for Watkins to break out, he'll still get top receiver money.
Terrelle Pryor, WR
Pryor was teammates with 49ers nickel K’Waun Williams for a year in Cleveland. His 2017 stint in Washington was a total bust, as the receiver rode the bench in a losing season. Pryor will have suitors because of his size and athleticism, but he won't command much dollar wise.
Paul Richardson, WR
Richardson was teammates with defensive end Cassius Marsh, offensive tackle Garry Gilliam and linebacker Brock Coyle from 2014-16 in Seattle. Richardson, 25, is young and talented, but he still hasn't proven much. He's banking it all on his 44-703-6 line in 2017.
Jimmy Graham, TE
Graham was also teammates with Marsh, Gilliam and Coyle for two years in Seattle. Turning 32 years old next November, it doesn't seem like Graham is going to land another long-term deal averaging $10M per year. Two to three years at $7-8 million per season could do it.
Crockett Gillmore, TE
Gillmore was teammates with Kyle Juszczyk and Elvis Dumervil in Baltimore, and briefly Aldrick Robinson. He won't command much on the open market.
Ryan Jensen, C
Jensen was also teammates with Juszczyk, Robinson and Dumervil. The 26-year-old mauler projects to get top center money on the open market if the Ravens don't retain him.
Nate Solder, OT
Solder was also teammates with Jimmy Garoppolo and Cassius Marsh on New England. Given where he's at in his career, his market will be interesting. If the 49ers were to be interested, it would presumably be to convert Solder to right tackle, which he's played before.
Josh Sitton, G
Sitton was teammates with current 49ers kicker Robbie Gould and tight end Logan Paulsen for a season in Chicago. He is still one of the better guards around, and he fits Shanahan's zone blocking scheme. On his third team and approaching 32 years old, Sitton shouldn't break the bank.
Ziggy Ansah, DE
Current 49ers Senior Personnel Executive Martin Mayhew drafted Ansah at No. 5 overall in 2013 when he was the GM in Detroit. The pass rusher was also teammates with and practiced against 49ers guard Laken Tomlinson for two years. A 28-year-old pass rusher coming off a 12-sack season, Ansah will have quite a market.
Nick Fairly, DL
Fairley was drafted at No. 13 overall in 2011 by Mayhew, the current 49ers exec. The 30-year-old defensive tackle's future is uncertain.
Chris Baker, DL
Baker was on Washington for two years while Shanahan was the offensive coordinator. He was also teammates with Garçon, Robinson and Paulsen. The 30-year-old would be a good depth signing for a team.
Paul Posluszny, LB
Posluszny worked directly with 49ers defensive coordinator Robert Saleh, who was the Jaguars linebackers coach from 2014-16. He was also teammates with Sheldon Day, Dekoda Watson and Zane Beadles. Turning 34 years old in October, Posluszny will only be seeking a short-term deal.
Brian Cushing, LB
Cushing was coached by Saleh in Houston for two seasons when he was the assistant linebackers coach there, including a Pro Bowl rookie year for Cushing in 2009. Added to which, Shanahan was the offensive coordinator that year. Cushing was also teammates with defensive tackle Earl Mitchell for four seasons, and played next to current 49ers coach DeMeco Ryans for three seasons.
Kyle Fuller, CB
Fuller was teammates with Gould in Chicago for two seasons from 2014-15, and was teammates with Paulsen in 2016. Following a strong 2017 campaign, Fuller should be in demand.
Aaron Colvin, CB
Colvin was on the Jacksonville defense Saleh helped coach. The two worked together from 2014-16. Colvin was also teammates with Sheldon Day, Dekoda Watson and Zane Beadles. A talented 26-year-old corner coming from a top-ranked defense, Colvin will have options.
Brandon Boykin, CB
Boykin played on the Eagles defense with 49ers quality control coach DeMeco Ryans from 2012-14. He was also on the 2016 Bears roster with tight end Logan Paulsen. Boykin is a real interesting case in that he has been on IR the past two seasons with two different teams. But prior to that, he was a heck of a player.
Malcolm Butler, CB
Butler was teammates with Jimmy Garoppolo and Cassius Marsh in New England. While the Super Bowl benching is fresh in everyone's minds, it won't deter teams from bidding on Butler.
Bashaud Breeland, CB
Breeland was teammates with Pierre Garçon for three years from 2014-16, and Logan Paulsen for two years from 2014-15. He was also on the Clemson Tigers with punter Bradley Pinion. Breeland should have his pick of teams in free agency.
T.J. Ward, SS
Ward was part of a championship-winning Broncos roster co-constructed by current 49ers personnel exec Adam Peters. At 31 years old going on his fourth team, Ward's best days may be behind him.
Media courtesy AP Images, Matt Bowen, Billy Marshall, Ethan Young, Brandon Thorn, Samuel Gold, DL Vids