5 Veteran Free Agents the San Francisco 49ers Should Bring into Camp
With Trent Baalke and Jim Harbaugh at the helm for the San Francisco 49ers, competition is the name of the game, especially now as free agents are being considered for training camp.
The 49ers are currently loaded at most positions across the board. Only wide receiver resembles anything close to a positional deficiency.
That being the case, veteran talent is commonly brought in to provide depth and motivate existing roster members. It’s also often a case of zero risk and potentially high reward with regards to these late-July additions.
San Francisco is no exception, despite its aforementioned stacked roster.
Let’s review five veteran free agents the 49ers should bring in to camp.
Laurent Robinson, Wide Receiver
For Laurent Robinson, respectable career highs soon become distant memories in the face of statistical lows and career-threatening injuries.
Then arrived a dismal 2012 campaign in Jacksonville.
With Blaine Gabbert throwing him passes, Robinson accrued just 252 yards on 24 catches with zero touchdowns. Far more devastating, however, was the four concussions he sustained that year.
Andrea Kremer and Christine Detz of NFL Evolution report that the terrible head trauma has plagued Robinson with constant headaches and severe sensitivity to light and noise—even the cries of his baby daughter. These symptoms were materializing as late as February, despite his fourth concussion occurring back in November in Week 11.
So, why would we include such an injury-devastated player on this list?
First, Robinson possesses clear physical abilities with his 6’2’’ length. Then there's his 2011 production. The 49ers could use more competition for Ricardo Lockette as the backup split-end “X” receiver position.
Second, and more importantly, picking up Robinson for a training-camp tryout would serve as a feel-good story for both the receiver himself and other players who have suffered concussions in the NFL. His prospects at making the team are slim. But giving him a chance to resume his career would be gratifying for all those involved.
However doubtful, we’ll wait and see if the 49ers afford him that opportunity.
Jammal Brown, Offensive Tackle
Chalk up this potential addition as purely a case of “Why not?”
Jammal Brown sat out the entire 2012 campaign after the Washington Redskins shut him down in late November with a hip injury. The eight-year veteran had missed just 11 games over the previous seven seasons.
Brown is a former Pro Bowl and All-Pro left tackle for the New Orleans Saints. He moved over to the right side during his two years in Washington.
When healthy, Brown is an exceptional run-blocker and is plenty effective in pass protection. He would serve as a quality swing tackle for the 49ers and would keep Alex Boone fresh at the guard position. In other words, Boone would not have to play both starting right guard and backup tackle to Joe Staley and Anthony Davis.
We’d simply recommend that the 49ers coaching staff to give him a look—there just isn’t any risk involved.
Steve Breaston, Wide Receiver
Who knows—maybe two former Michigan wide receivers with knee issues are better than one.
Steve Breaston experienced the least productive season of his six-year career in 2012 due to recurring right-knee inflammation. He considered undergoing the Regenokine treatment that Alex Rodriguez and Kobe Bryant both had but was advised that such a procedure wasn’t necessary, per a tweet from NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport.
Before the debilitating condition reared its most ugly head, Breaston averaged 805 receiving yards, 13.6 yards per catch and two touchdowns per season from 2008 through 2011. He also was a solid return man in parts of four different seasons over his career.
The 49ers could utilize his services as a lower depth-chart wideout if his knee does indeed check out. He could then push inexperienced receivers Ricardo Lockette, Quinton Patton and A.J. Jenkins.
Mario Manningham might even heal more quickly with a fellow Wolverine on the squad.
All kidding aside, Breaston has decent upside with his playmaking versatility. Adding him would be similar to the acquisition of Jammal Brown with respect to their NFL past and low-risk prospects.
Brandon Moore, Offensive Guard
Even at this stage of free agency, some high-quality talent still exists.
Former New York Jet Brandon Moore was the No. 17-rated available free agent at the start of the 2013 offseason, according to ESPN Insider (membership required).
He currently sits at No. 2.
Moore has started every game since 2005 and made the Pro Bowl in 2011 because of his consistent and tough interior line play and his ability to be a blocking force at the second level.
The 49ers would bring him in to battle it out with the likes of Adam Snyder, Joe Looney and others for the backup-guard position. They recognize full well the need for durable men operating in the trenches.
The major obstacle to the 49ers signing Moore is a high demand for his services, according to the National Football Post. He could certainly command top dollar, even this late in the offseason signing period.
If Moore could accept a reduced salary—and role—he’d make a tremendous backup in San Francisco.
Dallas Clark, Tight End
The most intriguing player on this list is a former go-to target of future Hall of Fame quarterback Peyton Manning.
Dallas Clark has accumulated 5,322 yards receiving and 50 touchdowns over a 10-year career, nine of those coming with Manning. He has operated as one of the most consistently productive tight ends during that span.
In spite of a few down years since 2010, Clark has still averaged 39 catches for 378 yards and three touchdowns over the past three seasons. They aren’t eye-popping numbers. But any team would certainly welcome them from a secondary offensive weapon.
What makes Clark valuable to the 49ers is his established role as a "move" tight end. He would pair with—and mentor—2013 draft pick Vance McDonald at the backup TE spot.
No. 1 option Vernon Davis practiced exclusively at receiver during 49ers minicamp, per Grant Cohn of the The Press Democrat (Santa Rosa, Ca.). Davis will certainly see time out wide this season to offset the loss of Michael Crabtree, thereby allowing McDonald and potentially Clark to operate in more traditional tight end formations, or in the slot if Davis is used as a blocker.
One way or another, Davis, McDonald and Clark would be quite the formidable trio. We can only wonder how Jim Harbaugh and company would utilize them with their well-documented mastery of the tight end position.
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