5 Players the 49ers Should Still Target on the Free-Agent Market
Still left with $5.725 million in cap space, per Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea.com, the 49ers have the flexibility to make a move if needed. General manager Trent Baalke also has yet to fill the roster spot vacated by cornerback Eric Wright's retirement, which avoids the need to cut another player.
While the former Pro Bowler left without a contract, this would indicate that San Francisco is willing to make a move. Cornerback is an obvious need given the courting of Flowers, while the holdouts of guard Alex Boone and tight end Vernon Davis could also merit some outside help.
With the cap figure and these positional needs in mind, which available free agents would make the most sense for San Francisco?
Honorable Mention: Dustin Keller, Tight End
Tight end Dustin Keller's lone season in Miami ended before it began, coming as the result of a gruesome knee injury during the 2013 preseason.
Jeff Howe of the Boston Herald reports that the New England Patriots have remained interested in Keller since working him out in late April. Keller is currently working his way back into football shape, and Howe expects him to sign with a team at some point in the near future.
Keller's last full season, with the Jets in 2011, saw career highs in catches (65) and yards (815) in addition to five touchdown receptions. The former first-round pick may no longer have the same speed and agility coming off of knee surgery, but he could probably contribute in a reserve role.
As long as starting tight end Davis continues to hold out, the 49ers could not be blamed for doing their due diligence. This would provide the 49ers with a low-risk veteran contributor, while also offering Keller a low-pressure role to regain his form.
5. James Harrison, Outside Linebacker
Star pass-rusher Aldon Smith will likely be suspended at the beginning of this season, per Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk, which leaves the 49ers with an All-Pro void on the edge.
The days of outside linebacker James Harrison as an All-Pro are long gone, but the remaining market is thin when it comes to proven threats. Harrison's resume includes three seasons of double-digit sacks and the 2008 Defensive Player of the Year award.
Now 36 years old, however, Harrison is coming off of a season in which he recorded just two sacks for the Cincinnati Bengals.
Experience in a 3-4 defensive alignment would most likely help Harrison, who had his best seasons roaming in that system with the Pittsburgh Steelers. Still the No. 8 available free agent, according to CBS Sports, there may be just enough in the tank to help the 49ers get through the early going.
4. Travelle Wharton, Guard
There's no doubting that guard Boone's contract holdout is troublesome for the 49ers, who have consistently boasted one of the top offensive lines in the NFL in recent seasons.
Should Boone's stalemate with the front office lead to an extended absence, the 49ers are most likely covered by reserves such as Adam Snyder and Joe Looney. In addition, former Panthers guard Travelle Wharton is the best available lineman for extra insurance, according to CBS Sports.
Wharton has experience protecting a mobile quarterback (Panthers signal-caller Cam Newton) in an offense that has run the ball. Confidence in their own players will most likely prevent the 49ers from making any such signing, but it isn't out of the realm of possibility.
In the event of an underperformance or even an injury, Wharton would probably be the first call for the 49ers. Unless, of course, the team would prefer reuniting Jonathan Martin with Richie Incognito.
3. Jabari Greer, Cornerback
Now on the wrong side of 30, former Saints cornerback Jabari Greer's 2013 season ended with a tough knee injury against these same 49ers. However, Greer's 86 career starts far surpass the total of all current 49ers cornerbacks put together.
While never a Pro Bowler in his 10-year career, Greer has stuck around in the NFL with consistent play and solid performances across the board.
Greer is the No. 3 available cornerback, according to Nick Mensio of Rotoworld.com, and the courting of Flowers has shown that the 49ers are open to an addition at that position. However, it's more likely that the team will roll the dice on its current roster before making a desperate move.
Desperate or not, Greer would at least provide the 49ers with a known commodity, which they can't claim to have right now.
2. Jermichael Finley, Tight End
Injury history is the main concern with former Packers tight end Jermichael Finley, as evidenced by teams still shying away from the talented pass-catcher.
According to Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk, Finley's agent maintains that his client has been cleared to play by doctors following serious neck and spine injuries. Despite the report mentioning interest from the Seahawks, Patriots and Packers, however, the tight end remains unsigned.
Finley has never put the entire package together, but he has topped 50 receptions three times and boasts a career high of eight touchdowns. Much like the earlier slide about Keller, the holdout situation surrounding Davis makes this signing at least worth looking at.
An extended absence for Davis would likely push the 49ers to consider help at the position. Finley is clearly the most proven tight end left on the free-agent market, so long as he gains the good faith of doctors in the future.
1. Terrell Thomas, Cornerback
Cornerback is the thinnest position on the 49ers roster, and former Giants cornerback Terrell Thomas is the top available cornerback, according to Mensio of Rotoworld.com. He's also the No. 2 cornerback available, according to CBS Sports.
After spending six seasons with the New York Giants, the former second-round pick out of USC would also benefit from a return home to California.
According to Conor Orr of The Star-Ledger, Thomas filled in admirably in the slot after returning from his third ACL tear. While Thomas finished the season on the active roster and started in seven games, the cornerback feels that the injury history has contributed to his prolonged availability.
Orr's report mentioned a visit with the Patriots, but Thomas could also fill an area of need for the 49ers. Given the current injury of projected nickel cornerback Jimmie Ward, the 49ers' first-round pick, Thomas could at least present competition and experience at the spot.
With one spot left on the roster and little risk involved in a low-budget signing, there may not be a better move for the 49ers than this one.
All statistics and accolades according to Pro-Football-Reference.com, unless otherwise attributed. Tom Smeaton is a Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report and can be found on Twitter by following @ByTomSmeaton.
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