5 Free Agents the San Francisco 49ers Should Target This Offseason
When the new league year begins on March 11, NFL teams will be allowed to negotiate contract deals with unrestricted free agents. After a disappointing end to the 2013-14 season, the San Francisco 49ers could be big participants.
The 49ers have a lot of uncertainty surrounding their personnel this offseason. Notables such as Anquan Boldin, Tarell Brown, Jonathan Goodwin and Donte Whitner will be free agents, and it remains unclear who will return next season. If the Niners let players walk, they will look to the draft and free-agent market to fill some holes.
Here is a list of five free agents the Niners should target this offseason.
Note: Rankings are in no particular order.
Since the Jim Harbaugh era began in 2011, the Niners have longed for a big-play slot receiver. The Seahawks got their guy last year when they landed Percy Harvin, and now it’s the Niners' turn to make a big move. Enter Jeremy Maclin.
Maclin missed the 2013 season after tearing his ACL in July but should be ready for spring practices, according to Jeff McLane of Philly.com. Entering his sixth season in the league, Maclin has 3,453 receiving yards and 26 touchdowns on his career. The 25-year-old receiver would give the Niners a speed receiver and home run threat.
The Niners already have Michael Crabtree, and if they decide to bring back Boldin, their receiving corps could become one of the best in the NFC with the addition of Maclin.
To keep up with their rival Seahawks, the Niners need to add more playmakers on offense, and Maclin would be just that.
49ers center Jonathan Goodwin is an unrestricted free agent this offseason, and it remains unclear if they will re-sign the 35-year-old. The 49ers rely heavily on their offensive line to protect Colin Kaepernick and pound the football with their running game.
Alex Mack of the Cleveland Browns would be a great addition to an already-solid Niners offensive line that features Joe Staley and Mike Iupati.
Mack, a two-time Pro Bowler, would help the Niners improve their blocking up front, something they struggled to do against good rushing defenses like Seattle and New Orleans. If the Niners could land the big fella, he'd help solidify their offensive line.
There is no getting around the fact that the Niners’ elite defense is led by their front seven. The Niners saw their secondary get exposed last season, specifically in the NFC Championship Game. With the addition of Alterraun Verner, the Niners secondary would see a huge improvement.
Verner was voted to his first Pro Bowl in 2013 with the Titans after a career-high five interceptions and 23 pass deflections this past season. Niners cornerbacks Tarell Brown and Eric Wright are both unrestricted free agents, and if they sign elsewhere, the Niners should look at Verner to upgrade.
According to Chris Wesseling of NFL.com, Johnson is unlikely to return to Cincinnati. The defensive end had a breakout season in 2012 when he recorded 11.5 sacks and had 52 total tackles. The Niners already have some great pass-rushers with Aldon Smith and Justin Smith, but Johnson would make the defensive line an elite group.
San Francisco finished 18th in the league with 38 sacks in 2013. The Niners have to be able to bring down the quarterback and must see improvement in this area in 2014. Would Johnson be a good fit in San Francisco?
Although the young receiver just had 511 yards in 2014, he was a huge special teams weapon for the Chiefs. McCluster led the NFL with 686 punt return yards, including two touchdowns. The Niners finished 17th in the NFL in punt return yards and would benefit by landing the speedster McCluster.
LaMichael James struggled in 2014 as the Niners averaged just 22.7 yards per kickoff return, 19th in the NFL. James will not be a free agent until 2016, but his recent tweet may suggest he wants to leave San Francisco.
If James does not return next season, the Niners should look to upgrade, and McCluster would be an ideal candidate.