Five Positions for the 49ers to Avoid in Free Agency
Jose Luis Sanchez III
With only $14.7 million in salary cap space available, the San Francisco 49ers will not be able to be big players when free agency kicks off in a month.
The 49ers have some position needs to address, but considering they were seven minutes away from a Super Bowl victory - there current status is quite adequate. They still have to take care of the players within house. Tight end George Kittle is one contract that the Niners still need to wrap up, as well as the decision to extend or franchise tag Arik Armstead.
Those are just two of many decisions the 49ers need to figure out as they have 13 pending unrestricted free agents. They're in a tough spot with who they should keep and who they can keep due to their limited cap space. And with free agency nearing, there won't be a lot of additions for the 49ers.
In order to make their duties lightened up, the 49ers can start by checking off which positions they are adequate at. Doing so will help them key in on where to use the limited amount of cap space to keep the team in Super Bowl contention in 2020.
Here are the five positions for the 49ers to avoid in free agency.
If it wasn't clear prior to the 2019 season, it is surely clear now. The 49ers do not need a feature running back in their offensive system. Head coach Kyle Shanahan operates under a running back by committee in his offense, which is why the ground game was so effective for the Niners. Keeping fresh legs on the field to sustain an offensive drive is critical for the them to achieve their gameplan.
Three of the 49ers' running backs tallied over 500 rushing yards. The revolving door of players at the position works and the three that they have on the roster is more than enough to keep their offense strong in 2020. Matt Breida and Jeff Wilson Jr. are set to become restricted free agents, but so long as they are restricted the Niners will have first dibs on these players.
Even if they both somehow walk, the 49ers still have Jerick McKinnon on the roster or they can easily find a late draft addition. Raheem Mostert and Tevin Coleman were an impressive duo once Breida fell out of favor. With those two sharing the load, the 49ers ground game will still be impressive. Do not expect them to go after a big name player like Melvin Gordon. If anything, they will just find someone to add depth to the position.
Right tackle Mike McGlinchey has quelled any questions on the right side of the offensive line. He has been a superior talent since stepping into the league in 2018. Drafting him has to feel like a homerun for the 49ers. The only part that does have questions with offensive tackle is on the left side with Joe Staley. He will be 36 years old when the 2020 regular season rolls along.
His performance surprisingly hasn't taken much of a hit now that he is up there in age. However, 2019 showed that sustaining health will be difficult for Staley. At some point, the 49ers will need to strongly consider a replacement for him. That replacement must not come in free agency. In fact, the 49ers might already have an heir for Staley in their ranks. Backup offensive lineman Daniel Brunskill and even Justin Skule both proved invaluable last season.
When the 49ers lost both Staley and McGlinchey due to injury, they were able to slide in without the offense skipping a beat. With another offseason to sure up their mechanics, one of these two could prove to be a solid future replacement for Staley whenever he decides to hang them up. If not, then dipping into the draft is the best course of action when addressing left tackle. Throwing a large sum of cash in free agency with the salary cap tied up will not leave the Niners in good shape.
The reason for staying away from tight end in free agency is not because of All-Pro player George Kittle. Obviously, his impact on the offense is the most valued next to the quarterback because of what he does in both pass and run games. Avoiding this position in free agency is ideal since they already have quality depth behind Kittle.
Ross Dwelley and Levin Toilolo proved as great backup players when Kittle was on the shelf with ankle injury. They both even a bit of playing time since Shanahan loves to go with a heavy front to run the football. The only issue is that both Dwelley (ERFA) and Toilolo (UFA) are free agents this offseason.
Concern with Dwelley walking should not be raised since the 49ers can get their hands on him first and he most likely will be retained. Toilolo could walk, but my sense from being around the locker room is that he will likely stay with the team for cheap. Regardless, if he does end up leaving the 49ers can just poach an undrafted free agent to fill out the depth.
Hitting on last year's offseason addition for linebackers is why this group was one of the best in the league in 2019. Kwon Alexander immediately came in and made the failed Reuben Foster experiment irrelevant. His energy and a role in pass coverage cannot be overstated.
Tie that in with Fred Warner taking a massive leap, and the 49ers have their most talented pair of linebackers since Patrick Willis and NaVorro Bowman.
What seals the deal for the position being the most solidified is the emergence of Dre Greenlaw. In hindsight, the injury that sidelined Alexander until the playoffs was beneficial for the 49ers. It allowed Greenlaw to step into the fold and expedite his development. He made the loss of Alexander unnoticeable. Now the 49ers have a stout base defense and can rotate easily in nickel.
There is absolutely no reason for the red and gold to inquire services of linebackers in free agency. It is easily their top three most complete position on the team and will be strong for years to come.
Jimmy Garoppolo has been getting grilled ever since his poor fourth quarter performance in Super Bowl LIV. It has sowed doubt in his ability to be a true franchise quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers. And with the free agent market being loaded with viable talent at quarterback, which is a rare sight, the Niners could poach one to help round out the offense.
However, that would be a complete waste of time and money if the 49ers were to actually dip into the market. Is Garoppolo a great quarterback? Not really.
But that isn't to say he can't continue to get better. Garoppolo just had his first full season as a starter. Let's not forget that he spent last offseason rehabbing his knee after suffering a torn ACL. This offseason he can put his full focus and effort into cleaning up the issues in his gameplay.
As much as the critics don't like it, Garoppolo will still be the 49ers' starting quarterback in 2020. One poor quarter doesn't detract the Niners brass from him and even if they had enough room with the salary cap, they still wouldn't bring on another quarterback.