Available Free Agents Still Within the San Francisco 49ers' Reach
San Francisco 49ers general manager Trent Baalke is likely done maneuvering through free agency, having made his acquisitions within the first 48 hours of the opening period. There were no big splashes or impact players added either via the open market or trade wire.
The team focused on re-signing its own and adding a few components, which would provide it flexibility in the NFL draft.
However, the offseason is still ongoing. There are name players still available and things happening that may affect San Francisco's Week 1 game-day roster. That being said, it is not too late to look at a few names the 49ers can still add to this lineup in 2014.
Note: Player list is limited due to a withered crop of free agents. The following serves to provide the most realistic targets possible, which in certain cases are still a stretch.
Brandon Lloyd, WR
One position in particular the 49ers have been linked to all offseason, whether it is draft chat or free agency, is wide receiver. The club is in need of some help there, looking to veer on the side of caution after limping through last season. Injuries and a lack of experience crippled the entire offense.
The domino effect was real, as there was no downfield threat. Teams were stacking the box versus the run and pressuring quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who had no one open to throw to at all.
San Francisco has been scouring the market for a low-cost contingency plan, maybe to be a fifth or sixth receiver after Kassim Osgood and a rookie. According to Matt Maiocco of CSN Bay Area, the 49ers have reached out to Brandon Lloyd, whom they drafted under different management in 2003.
Lloyd, 32, emerged as a successful NFL journeyman, playing for five teams after leaving the Bay Area and seeing his best numbers after turning 29 years old. He even led the league in receiving in 2010 with the Denver Broncos, finishing with 1,448 yards and 11 touchdowns.
During that stretch, he made some of the most spectacular one-hand palming and toe-tapping grabs in the NFL.
In Lloyd’s last full season, he started 15 games for the New England Patriots, finishing with 74 receptions and 911 yards at age 32.
One can imagine—with this production and taking an entire season off to rest his body and mind—the one-time 49er still has some juice left. If he is willing to come in at a low cost to compete with the current corps and provide depth, it is very possible that Brandon Lloyd returns to the team that inaugurated him into the league.
Brandon Lloyd's catch rates on deep balls: 2008: 42.9%, 2009: 40% (2 games), 2010: 41.5%, 2011: 36.1%, 2012: 28.1%. #49ers— Jeff Deeney (@PFF_Jeff) April 10, 2014
Jonathan Vilma, ILB
The 49ers are going to be without All-Pro inside linebacker NaVorro Bowman for a good part of the 2014 regular season, likely looking to an unknown rookie or developing undrafted free agent like Michael Wilhoite, who has only played in spot duty and on special teams.
If they are uncomfortable with this, they can look to a veteran.
Former New York Jet and New Orleans Saint patrolman Jonathan Vilma seems like a suitable candidate this late in free agency. The 11-year pro has seen it all and has proven to be scheme versatile, switching from a 4-3 MLB to a 3-4 ILB. And at his age (31), he might thrive in San Francisco’s 3-4 defense with less space to cover and Patrick Willis beside him.
The only issue is Vilma didn’t play in 2013 and hasn’t had a truly good year since the 2009 and 2010 seasons.
He is also a big question mark, which is perhaps why the 49ers have not inquired about him already. Perhaps they feel they can get a player at a cut-rate in the middle to late rounds of the draft. Or maybe they’re 100 percent confident in what Wilhoite can do for games on end.
One way or another, Jonathan Vilma should be a player who’s at least on this team’s radar because of the hole at inside linebacker.
It's definitely unfortunate, but thinking this might be it for Jonathan Vilma. Good player at one time.— Elliot Harrison (@HarrisonNFL) November 7, 2013
James Harrison, OLB
Well, the 49ers may or may not have a vacancy at one of their outside linebacker spots for at least part of the 2014 season.
The often troubled All-Pro Aldon Smith has a new legal matter pending after an incident at LAX airport in Los Angeles, Calif. This team would be wise to implement some sort of contingency plan, and it can do that by acquiring one of the hottest names left on the market.
James Harrison—a Super Bowl winner, five-time Pro Bowler and two-time All-Pro—has made his name as a demonic pass-rushing specialist.
From 2007-2011, the outside linebacker had 54 sacks for the Pittsburgh Steelers (27 forced fumbles, four interceptions). Harrison plays with bad intentions, which is an attitude the 49ers will love. He elicits fear, smells blood in the water and then he gets after it.
It makes Harrison a pure playmaker.
The downside with him is his age (35), coupled with the evident decline in his sack numbers and playing time over the three years, going from nine sacks to six sacks to two sacks. He also hasn’t started a full 16 games since 2010. Like the other names on this list, the 49ers could find a spot for him but don’t know what they’re getting with James Harrison.
Marvin Lewis says James Harrison "was a tremendous role model in how to play the game" and regrets not getting him on the field more often.— SiriusXM NFL Radio (@SiriusXMNFL) March 25, 2014
Miles Austin, WR
Back to wide receiver, the palpable need.
The 49ers have searched high and low for veterans who have enough questions where they’d come at a low cost but have the track record where the offense could potentially catch lightning in a bottle. Former Dallas Cowboys wideout Miles Austin certainly fits the bill.
The two-time Pro Bowler had a couple stellar seasons with the Cowboys in 2009 and 2010, filing back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons.
It looked like Austin was on his way to becoming one of the better receivers in the National Football League. Unfortunately, the truth came to the surface: Austin is terribly injury-prone. He could not stay healthy, and even when he was in the lineup over the past couple seasons, he never looked quite right.
And it must be a serious enough concern too.
Till this point, no teams have reached out to the former star wideout, trusting their current corps as well as this coming draft class. Miles Austin could offer quite a bit and is looking at a chance to resurrect his career, which could give him the motivation he needs to make the most of every opportunity.
A spot role for him in the Bay Area makes sense, if the 49ers choose to pursue it.
BREAKING: Miles Austin pulls hamstring leaving Cowboys facility. Expected to miss 6-8 weeks.— Faux John Madden (@FauxJohnMadden) March 12, 2014