2012 Free Agency: 5 Veterans the 49ers Should Bring in for Training Camp
San Francisco is always looking around for someone that can help their football team. With one remaining roster spot before training camp, the Niners brought in free linebacker Brian Banks for a workout in mid-June, even though it's a pretty solid position group already.
Jim Harbaugh and Trent Baalke are both advocates of competition and depth throughout the roster.
The 49ers are still one of the league's younger teams, which is good because the free-agent market is pretty dried up, left with mostly players in their 30s. But if San Francisco is looking for some late value, and they've got room, there might be some players worth a look.
Since the 49ers brought in Brandon Jacobs and Randy Moss, they don't seem to have an issue with age. And between Moss and Perrish Cox, time away from football doesn't seem to bother San Francisco either —that opens up some possibilities for the Niners to examine.
In the following slides, we'll look at five remaining free agents that San Francisco could target to compete in training camp.
1. Marcus McNiell, OL
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Longtime San Diego Chargers blindside protector, Marcus McNeill is still without a team.
On March 13, 2012, the Chargers released the 28-year-old two-time Pro Bowler after a neck injury ended his 2011 season prematurely after 9 games. After losing Jason Peters, the Philadelphia Eagles reportedly showed interest in the tackle but never pulled the trigger on a deal, likely because of McNeill's medical history.
San Francisco isn't in a place where they need a starting tackle for Week 1, but rather depth at the position. The 49ers would be left completely exposed if a tackle went down.
McNeill could also provide a possible stop-gap at guard if Alex Boone did not work out, leaving the Niners in need of veteran experience in a hurry.
At 6'7, 336 pounds, McNeill is an imposing player and very experienced left tackle that could even provide insight to Joe Staley and Anthony Davis—even though they aren't much younger. McNeill was a crucial component to some of LaDainian Tomlinson's best seasons in San Diego, including his dominant 2006 campaign.
The Niners carried veteran tackle Barry Sims for a while as a back-up, which proved to be good value and a nice insurance policy—perhaps something could be worked out with McNeill as he continues to heal.
2. Plaxico Burress, WR
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There isn't a lot of demand for a 34-year-old ex-convict wide receiver, even if he is 6'5.
Plaxico Burress is looking for a new team after a brief stint with the New York Jets. After two seasons away from the league, the one-time Super Bowl Champion managed 612 receiving yards and 8 touchdowns from Mark Sanchez in 2011.
Burress' greatest asset is his size. That's enabled him to become a polished red-zone attacker.
In 10 NFL season, Burress has broken the 1,000-yard mark four times and amassed 63 receiving touchdowns. There are no physical ailments plaguing Burress, but the age is a primary concern for many teams who are looking to build for the future.
Burress has expressed interest in teams like Philadelphia and Carolina, and it's clear that he would like to go to a a winner or high-potential team. Unfortunately, those teams have not expressed any mutual feelings back toward Burress.
He seems to still have the passion to play and could probably be gotten for near the league minimum. And even though he is in his mid-30s, Burress doesn't have that kind of mileage, recently having a two-season break from the league.
He would also be able to provide insight on the AFC East—especially the Jets—when San Francisco faces them in 2012. Plaxico Burress seems to be motivated and could possibly still perform again given the right situation.
3. Jake Scott, OL
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This is probably the most realistic direction the 49ers could look to go while assessing the remaining free-agent market.
Jake Scott, 31, is an experienced interior offensive lineman, most recently coming off a four-year stint with the Tennessee Titans. Before then, Scott was the starting guard for Peyton Manning and the Indianapolis Colts, including their Super Bowl winning 2006 team.
At 6'5, 295 pounds, Scott has been a solid run and pass blocker, with a very physical approach to the game. Scott's presence would provide a safety net if Alex Boone did not work out or if injuries occurred.
After Alex Boone, it's youth and inexperience across the board as far as the interior line depth goes. To have Scott on board for the season would be a strong move by San Francisco. The 49ers also like to use multiple offensive linemen in their heavy-packages, where Scott or McNeill would be able to fill an immediate role.
4. Joey Porter, LB
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Joey Porter has spent a lifetime as a 3-4 outside backer, getting to the quarterback with frequency.
Porter, 35, is a four-time All-Pro and Pro Bowl player with a Super Bowl Championship to call his own. Having spent time with Pittsburgh, Miami and most recently, Arizona, Porter is now a free agent once again looking for what is likely his final destination.
A season-ending injury to fifth-round linebacker Darius Fleming of Notre Dame may allow this to be a considerable option. Porter is currently 1.5 sacks away from DeMarcus Ware in career-sacks (98), and two shy of 100.
The pitch to bring in Porter would be to have him as a situational pass-rusher, as Aldon Smith looks to take over as the starter. Porter could serve a role as a back-up, similar to Giants linebacker Mathias Kiwanuka, as that extra pass rush specialist.
For his entire career, Porter has been an aggressive and passionate football player—it's the way he plays the game. He's also always been in incredible shape, a physical freak like new 49er Randy Moss. Porter could thrive in a defense with so many stars because it would open a lot of opportunities for him.
If the 49ers brought Porter into training camp, they'd have a chance to see if he is still physically and mentally there. At best, they could strike up a one-year incentive-laden deal, mirroring the Moss signing in purpose and on paper.
5. Bob Sanders, S
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Former Indianapolis Colt Bob Sanders has an impressive resume' but his career looks to be ending to no fault of his own. This is a real shame because when healthy, Sanders has been one of the league's better defensive players.
And he comes with versatility and intelligence, able to play either safety position. He has been a physical player who contributes in run defense, but also has solid coverage skills. Sanders won a Super Bowl with Indianapolis, is a two-time Pro Bowler and in 2007 was even named AP NFL Defensive Player of the Year.
With the deadline to sign franchise tenders right around the corner, Dashon Goldson remains unsigned under the team's tag.
At age 31, Sanders would immediately provide veteran leadership and experience to players like C.J. Spillman and Trenton Robinson. Sanders has been a communicator on the field, and a very smart player. He is also a punishing hitter, which fits the 49ers way of doing things—although I question whether an injury-prone Sanders would still bring that same ferocity.
Like Marcus McNeill, Sanders' injury concerns have been enough to keep teams away. In his career, Sanders has never completed a full season and has been labeled injury-prone. He has seen a high ankle sprain, a torn bicep tendon and recurring knee injuries.
In the past three season, Sanders has started and played in a total of 5 games.
San Francisco could give him a physical and see how he performs at training camp to give him a proper assessment. If Goldson decides to take this into the regular, which I doubt, Sanders could come in handy.