Ranking the San Francisco 49ers Best Remaining Free Agent Options
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
The San Francisco 49ers came within five yards of defeating the Baltimore Ravens and winning Super Bowl XLVII. The 49ers are one of the best teams in the NFL and a looking to bolster their roster for another championship run.
On the defensive side of the ball, linemen Isaac Sopoaga and Ricky Jean-Francois have both departed. Sopoaga is now an Eagle and Jean-Francois has moved to the Colts.
GM Trent Baalke has made several moves to build the 49ers' roster. He has brought in defensive lineman Glenn Dorsey, who will minimize the loss of Sopoaga and Jean-Francois.
In addition to Dorsey, the 49ers just signed safety free agent Craig Dahl, who will compete for the starting safety job. Dahl is also a solid special teams player. His signing also weakens a division rival, St. Louis.
The addition of free-agent linebacker Dan Skuta provides depth and also a top special teams performer.
Baalke also pulled off two trades that will help the 49ers. First, he traded quarterback Alex Smith to the Chiefs for a second-round draft selection this year. The 49ers also received a conditional pick for 2014, which could be as high as another Round 2 selection.
The next move will strengthen the 49ers at the wide receiver position. Baalke acquired veteran receiver Anquan Boldin from the Ravens in exchange for a sixth-round draft pick. Boldin will become the 49ers' No. 2 receiver and step into a starting role, opposite Michael Crabtree.
The whirlwind of the first few days of free agency has calmed somewhat. However, there are still several players on the market who the 49ers have either expressed interest in or would be a good fit in San Francisco.
Let's take a closer look at the top five of these remaining free agents.
No. 5: Ed Reed
Ed Reed helped lead the Ravens to the Super Bowl victory.
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The San Francisco 49ers have shown interest in Ed Reed and have had discussions with his agent. Reed seems very amenable to the 49ers but there is no contract offer on the table. Reed was heavily courted by the Texans, but they have not yet come to an agreement.
The buzz about Reed coming to the 49ers has cooled somewhat and one has to wonder if this is merely the quiet before the storm. We could see Reed sign somewhere within the next few days.
The 49ers just signed safety Craig Dahl, who will compete for the starting job to replace Dashon Goldson. If Reed comes aboard, he becomes the starter, but that may also allow the 49ers to waive Donte Whitner for salary cap savings.
Reed will not come cheap, and that is the likely hang up between him and a contract agreement with the 49ers. The 49ers should not extend themselves to sign Reed.
Reed would bring a wealth of experience to the 49ers' secondary, but he will be 35 years of age at the beginning of the season. He has lost a step or two in coverage and this is an area the 49ers must improve. Adding Reed would not be an ideal move for the 49ers.
No. 4: Josh Johnson
Josh Johnson has a positive history with Jim Harbaugh.
The San Francisco 49ers traded their former starting quarterback Alex Smith to the Kansas City Chiefs, which left them without a proven backup. With Colin Kaepernick running the read-option, he is exposed to more hits than most quarterbacks. A quality backup is important insurance for the 49ers.
Head coach Jim Harbaugh has stated on several occasions that he is very pleased with Scott Tolzien as the backup. However, Tolzien has never thrown a pass in the NFL, so it would be understandable if the 49ers wanted to have a veteran waiting in the wings.
Josh Johnson has a good relationship with Jim Harbaugh, as Harbaugh coached him at the University of San Diego. Under Harbaugh, Johnson transformed his game from being an undisciplined quarterback into a much more refined NFL talent.
Johnson's experience can also be helpful to Kaepernick, as the two can bounce ideas off each other. In addition, Johnson can be signed for a very modest amount and that would be an excellent move for the 49ers.
No. 3: Nnamdi Asomugha
Nnamdi Asomugha was sent packing by the Eagles after two subpar seasons.
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
In his two years in Philadelphia, Asomugha never came close to measuring up to expectations and he was released earlier this month. Asomugha has close ties to the Bay Area, as he also played his college football at the University of California, Berkeley.
The question that GM Trent Baalke must answer is whether Asomugha is the player he was with the Eagles, or if his earlier years are more representative of where he is today. It's always a very risky move to expect a player to make a sudden turnaround after two poor seasons.
Asomugha would be an expensive gamble for the 49ers and, for a team with cap concerns, it's a risk too big to take. The 49ers should pass on Asomugha.
No. 2: John Abraham
John Abraham would add to the 49ers' pass rush.
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
John Abraham has 122 career sacks, and, although he will be 35 years of age this season, he still has some good football left. Abraham is an accomplished pass-rusher and would be ideal as a defensive end on pass-rushing downs.
He had 10 sacks last year with the Falcons and 33 total tackles. A strong pass rush is the most important component to a good pass defense. Abraham would be an ideal fit for the 49ers and could give the 49ers a pass-rushing presence opposite Justin Smith and Aldon Smith.
The 49ers struggled defensively late in the season and in the playoffs when Justin was out and Aldon was playing with an injury. Ray McDonald, the 49ers' other defensive end, is better against the run than as a pass-rusher. Abraham would solve this issue for the 49ers.
In addition, the lack of depth eventually caught up with the 49ers' defensive line. Abraham would enable the 49ers to rotate their defensive ends and keep players fresh.
If Trent Baalke can fit Abraham into the 49ers' salary cap structure, he would be a tremendous addition.
No. 1: Charles Woodson
Charles Woodson breaks up this pass intended for Delanie Walker.
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Charles Woodson is one of the most respected defensive backs in the game. Like Ed Reed, Woodson visited the 49ers but did not leave with a contract.
Woodson has played both cornerback and safety, and although he will be 37 years of age in October, he can still play. Woodson would be an ideal player for the 49ers to install at a safety position, especially if they draft a young safety with one of their first two picks.
There are three excellent safety prospects who could be available when the 49ers make their first selections at Nos. 31 and 34. Matt Elam, Eric Reed and Jonathan Cyprien are all talented safeties that would benefit from a year working with Woodson.
In 2012, Woodson played in only seven games due to injury. He appears healthy now and still has the ability to cover top receivers and make plays in the secondary.
If Woodson is amenable to a one-year contract, the 49ers should make every effort to sign him. He can play safety in the 49ers' base defense and could also switch to a corner or slot defender in a nickel or dime package.
The 49ers Currently Have 14 Picks Heading into the Draft
Trent Baalke cannot whiff on his first round pick this year.
Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports
The San Francisco 49ers and GM Trent Baalke have done a good job in the free-agent market, filling some holes on their roster. They also have 14 draft selections, including seven in the first four rounds.
There is no way the 49ers will keep all of their 14 picks because they have nowhere near that many positions available. Baalke will be able to bundle some of those picks to trade up and select a player the 49ers really covet.
These assets can also be utilized to acquire better picks or to swap for more selections in 2014. The bottom line is the 49ers are poised to address all their needs in the offseason. They are already off to a good start.
If Baalke can sign another good free agent, or two, and have a strong draft, this is a team that will again contend for the Super Bowl.