Grading 49ers 2019 Free Agent Signings
Jose Luis Sanchez III
2019 didn’t have the ideal finish for the San Francisco 49ers who were seven minutes away from claiming footballs ultimate prize. However, despite falling short in the Super Bowl, it doesn’t diminish the phenomenal season the Niners had.
2019 came together perfectly like a completed puzzle. One of the reasons was the offseason moves the 49ers made in free agency. There weren’t many additions the team made, but they chose to go with quality over quantity. Most of the signings made a major impact, while others were just regular contributors.
Now that the 2019 season is completed, let’s reflect on how the free agent signings of the 49ers fared.
LB Kwon Alexander
Contract: Four year, $54 million
Analysis: To make up for the failed Rueben Foster experiment, the 49ers’ first order of business in free agency was to sign former Tampa Bay Buccaneers linebacker Kwon Alexander. At first, the signing of Alexander was questionable considering the fact that he suffered a torn ACL in 2018. The 49ers gave him quite a bit of money and were clearly unbothered by any lingering health concerns.
Their investment in Alexander paid off dividends as he would become one of the best coverage linebackers in the game. Pairing him up with Fred Warner was an ingenious move. The two would fly to the ball in an instant. It was just too much speed at the position, along with Dre Greenlaw in base defense.
It wasn’t just his productivity that made him such a great commodity. Alexander established himself as a leader on the defensive side of the ball and provided them with an energy surge. He was practically a shot of adrenaline for the defense and they all just fed off of him. Alexander’s season was going stupendously until he tore his pectoral muscle on Halloween.
He would make a miraculous return in the playoffs after missing two months, but hardly made an impact. Surely rust played a part and he possibly wasn’t fully recovered. Nevertheless, Alexander was a strong signing to sure up the linebacker position after whiffing on Reuben Foster.
OL Daniel Brunskill
Contract: One year, $495,000
Analysis: What gets lost in all of the success from the 49ers’ 2019 season is that they were able to overcome being down both of their starting offensive tackles. Daniel Brunskill is a major reason why they were able to do so. He was a free agent signing following the abrupt end of the AAF. There was hardly any expectations placed on him, yet he was able to slide in as the right tackle so smoothly.
Brunskill not only demonstrated he is a capable starting right tackle, but he was able to show that he can transition easily to the left side or even as a guard. He filled in as relief at left tackle for Justin Skule who was struggling and for right guard Mike Person while he was injured.
Considering the 49ers signed him for nickels and dimes, Brunskill is arguably the best free agent signing.
2019 could’ve easily unraveled once Mike McGlinchey went down, but Brunskill stepped up and anchored the position. One thing is for certain, the 49ers will want to retain Brunskill who could be apart of their future plans when replacing Joe Staley.
RB Tevin Coleman
Contract: Two year, $8.5 million
Analysis: Kyle Shanahan’s system is heavily influenced by the running back position, so it wasn’t shocking to see the 49ers sign former Atlanta Falcons back Tevin Coleman. There was obvious familiarity since Shanahan was the offensive coordinator when Coleman entered the league.
Getting accustomed to the offensive system was an easy transition for Coleman who had a few explosive games in the season (Vs. Carolina, Minnesota). However, he would only tally 544 rushing yards which is due to multiple reasons. Injuries caused Coleman to miss some games as well as the revolving door of featured running backs.
One month it was Matt Breida who was the hot hand, then Coleman and it finished with Raheem Mostert. Coleman wasn’t as impressive of a signing in 2019 as initially hoped, but he does make the running back rotation for the 49ers one of the best in the league.
DE Dee Ford
Contract: Five years, $87.5 million
Analysis: While he technically wasn’t a free agent signing, Dee Ford still signed a new deal with the 49ers following his acquisition via trade. Ford was a key piece to the pass rush of the 49ers being so dominant. Even though he only registered 6.5 sacks in the regular season, it was clear as day that Ford made an impact.
Having to account for so much talent on the defensive front as the opposition was impossible. It’s why the 49ers were off to a historic start in the first half of the regular season. One of the most intriguing stats was that the 49ers had 24 sacks on 164 snaps with Nick Bosa and Ford on the field together in the regular season. They had 24 sacks on 801 snaps on all other plays.
It’s simply an over-saturation of talent that cannot be accounted for, especially when Bosa and Ford line up on the same side. The only concern there is with Ford is his health. He hasn’t had much of a healthy career. There’s just always something ailing him and for a guy who has no role against the run with health concerns, he is quite overpaid. It’ll be interesting to see how the 49ers view Ford as the years go on.
CB Jason Verrett, LB David Mayo, WR Jordan Matthews
Analysis: Contract details for these three players are irrelevant considering the little to no impact on the salary cap. These players were mainly brought in to serve as potential depth, but unfortunately could not leave a lasting impression on the coaches.
Only cornerback Jason Verrett made the final 53-man roster cut. The hope behind signing him was similar to when the 49ers brought in Richard Sherman. A change of scenery following a major injury on a prove it deal only benefited both parties. However, all it took was one series against the Pittsburgh Steelers for the 49ers to see enough out of him.
Verrett would be placed on season ending injured reserve shortly after that game. It’s safe to say the 49ers will not be bringing Verrett back. As for the other two, David Mayo would get swooped up by the New York Giants. While Jordan Matthews would serve as an emergency body for the 49ers. All three were failed signings, but were worth the gamble.