With the 2020 season in the review mirror for the 49ers, the attention of most has turned to how the team will retool the roster to improve on their 6-10 record. San Francisco will have a number of areas throughout the roster to address which should make for an exciting offseason.
The retooling process will officially begin on March 17 when free agency opens up. Currently the 49ers have roughly $20 million in cap space with which to re-sign their own free agents and bring in others from the outside. Look for the 49ers to make a number of moves during the next two months to help create additional salary cap space and flexibility.
By moving on from injured players such as Dee Ford, and Weston Richburg the 49ers can free up enough additional cap space to bump their available cap space to more than $40 million. Let’s take a look at how San Francisco can fill some holes in the roster within that space.
Corey Linsley – C, Green Bay. Linsley was originally drafted by the Packers in the fifth round of the 2014 draft and will turn 30 shortly before the start of training camp. Linsley was a first-team All-Pro in 2020 and has started all but three games for the Packers since 2017. The 49ers offensive line struggled throughout 2020, and a big part of that was the lack of a seasoned center. Being able to bring in Linsley would provide a veteran presence and his familiarity with Kyle Shanahan’s offensive system would make for a quick transition. The only issue? Linsley won’t come cheap. He is currently making $8.5 million with Green Bay and will be highly sought after which means his price could be in the range of $10 to $11 million. Definitely a stretch, but a move that is offset somewhat by the ability to move Daniel Brunskill and his low cap number to guard.
Jon Feliciano – G, Buffalo. Feliciano was selected in the fourth round of the 2015 draft by the Oakland Raiders. After starting only eight games during his four years with Oakland, Feliciano joined the Buffalo Bills in 2019 and started all 16 games, but missed the first seven games of 2020 after suffering a pectoral injury early in training camp. Feliciano was able to return to the Bills starting lineup in Week 8 and has been a big part of why the Buffalo offensive line has improved over the second half of the season. Bringing in a veteran like Feliciano is the type of move we’ve seen from the 49ers in recent years to shore up the interior of the offensive line, and his current contract would suggest San Francisco could bring him in for about $4 million to $5 million per year. This would allow Daniel Brunskill to focus on improving as a center, and allow the 49ers the ability to have the flexibility in their draft that they covet by not being pigeon holed into having a big need at certain positions.
Curtis Samuel – WR, Carolina. Samuel was selected by the Panthers in the second round of the 2017 draft. With the 49ers likely to move on from Kendrick Bourne, making a move for Samuel would make sense because he shows the type of versatility that Shanahan likes to see out of his wide receivers. With Carolina, Samuel did a lot of the same type of things as we have seen from Deebo Samuel over the last two seasons. With Deebo Samuel struggling to remain injury free, Curtis Samuel would provide insurance that the offense won’t drop off. Bringing in Samuel might be a little too much of a luxury-type move -- his new deal could be in the range of $11 million per year -- but if the 49ers move enough pieces around to create cap space, he would provide them with the best wide receiver corps the red and gold has had in quite some time.
Benson Mayowa – Defensive End, Seattle. 49ers fans may best remember Mayowa for his strip sack of C.J. Beathard in the final game of 2020. Mayowa went undrafted out of college but has been able to play eight seasons in the NFL with Seattle, Oakland, Dallas, and Arizona. This past season Mayowa was the Kerry Hyder Jr of the Seahawks defensive line, starting a career high nine games and recording six sacks. Mayowa has been relatively consistent with the pass rush the past three years, averaging roughly 5.5 sacks per season during that time. With Hyder likely moving on in free agency, and the 49ers in need of someone to make it so they can move Arik Armstead inside on passing downs, Mayowa could be just what they need, and could likely be had on a one-year deal for less than $5 million.
Michael Davis – CB, Los Angeles Chargers. Davis was signed by the Chargers as an undrafted free agent in 2017 and earned his way onto the active roster for all but five games during his time with the club, including 35 starts the past three seasons. At 6-2, Davis has the type of size and length the 49ers look for at the cornerback position, and he’s shown to be a good fit in their scheme, hauling in five interceptions the past two seasons. If the 49ers miss out on re-signing Jason Verrett, Davis should be the next guy that they are working on adding to their secondary for 2021 and beyond.
Bonus option: Aldon Smith – Given everything that went down during Smith’s first stint with the 49ers, this is probably highly unlikely, but it would be a great story. Smith showed flashes early on in his return to the NFL with Dallas this season, but sort of fizzled out as the season went on. Part of this may have been due to the way Mike Nolan was utilizing Smith, often lining him up inside in pass rushing situations. With the 49ers, the expectation would be for him to be simply an outside pass rush specialist so that Arik Armstead could move down inside which is where he found so much of his success in 2019. It took only $2 million for the Cowboys to sign him for 2020, so this would be a low-risk high reward type of signing for San Francisco.