49ers' Free-Agent Signings Who Will Make Biggest Impact Next Season
The San Francisco 49ers had their 2020 campaign derailed by injuries to key players like Jimmy Garoppolo, Nick Bosa and George Kittle. Having those players healthy should help San Francisco get back to being a playoff team in 2021.
Of course, adding reinforcements can help too, and the 49ers made some significant moves during the draft They traded up for quarterback-of-the-future Trey Lance, grabbed Notre Dame offensive lineman Aaron Banks in the second round and added Ohio State running back Trey Sermon in the third.
San Francisco's free-agent class isn't likely to get as much attention as its draft picks, but it could have a more immediate impact on the upcoming season. While the 49ers didn't go star-chasing on the open market, they did add some valuable veterans who could contribute right away.
Here we'll examine the three incoming veterans most likely to make an impact in 2021.
C Alex Mack
San Francisco's biggest move in free agency was re-signing Pro Bowl left tackle Trent Williams on a six-year, $138 million deal. Locking up Williams should help keep Garoppolo protected in 2021 and aid Lance as he develops into the 49ers' new franchise quarterback.
Adding center Alex Mack didn't generate as much attention as Williams' massive deal, but it too should go a long way toward helping the offensive line this season.
Mack, who signed a three-year, $14.9 million deal, is a three-time Pro Bowler with experience playing under head coach Kyle Shanahan. Mack spent a year each under Shanahan with the Cleveland Browns and the Atlanta Falcons. The former Cal standout has also been consistently dependable, missing only 13 games in 12 seasons.
"Throughout his career, Alex has been a model of consistency," general manager John Lynch said at the time of the signing, per the team's official website. "His leadership and high character will be felt throughout our team and community."
Expect Mack to instantly become an anchor on the offensive interior, with tackles Williams and Mike McGlinchey bookending a championship-caliber offensive line.
RB Wayne Gallman
Sermon isn't the only running back San Francisco added to its offense this offseason. The 49ers also signed Wayne Gallman to a one-year, $990,000 deal. While this does represent an under-the-radar budget signing, Gallman could be a significant contributor.
Shanahan regularly uses a committee approach to the running game, and Gallman should slot in next to Sermon and returning back Raheem Mostert. Jeff Wilson Jr.—who rushed for 600 yards and seven touchdowns last year—may also be a factor late in the year. However, Wilson suffered a torn meniscus in May and is likely to miss significant time, according to NFL Media's Mike Garafolo.
Gallman spent the past four seasons with the New York Giants, for whom he mostly served as a backup. However, Saquon Barkley's 2020 ACL tear led Gallman to a starting role, and he made 10 of his 14 career starts last year.
In all, Gallman rushed for 1,444 yards and nine touchdowns in four seasons with New York. Last season, he averaged 4.6 yards per carry and totaled 796 scrimmage yards with six touchdowns.
Gallman isn't going to waltz into a starting role, but with multiple backs in and out of the rotation, he will have many opportunities to make his mark.
LB Samson Ebukam
Defensively, the 49ers are going to get a massive boost from Bosa's return. The 2019 Defensive Rookie of the Year logged nine sacks and 45 quarterback pressures in his first season but missed 14 games in 2020 with a torn ACL. Getting back Dee Ford, who had 6.5 sacks in 2019 but missed 15 games last year, will also be beneficial.
San Francisco produced just 30 sacks in 2020 after posting 48 the previous season.
Adding outside linebacker Samson Ebukam should further help bolster the pass rush. While Ebukam wasn't one of the headliners of the free-agent pass-rusher class—he signed a relatively modest two-year, $12 million deal—he can make an impact as a rotational sack artist.
Ebukam spent his first four seasons with the rival Los Angeles Rams and logged nine sacks and 28 quarterback pressures over the past two campaigns. He had 4.5 sacks, 31 tackles and 13 pressures in 2020 despite only playing 36 percent of the defensive snaps.
Having experience in the NFC West will be a bonus, as Ebukam will be familiar with many of the linemen, quarterbacks and offensive schemes he'll face within the division.
With Ebukam added to the linebacker corps and Bosa and Ford back in the lineup, San Francisco's pass rush should rebound in 2021.