After a thrilling end to Super Bowl LI, the NFL season has come to an end. The 2017 NFL off-season is now heating up and free agency is approaching. This off-season, Last Word on Pro Football will be analyzing the top three needs for each team, and the topic at hand today is the San Francisco 49ers.
San Francisco will start the 2017 season under a brand new regime. Former NFL player John Lynch has been hired by San Francisco as general manager. Also, Chip Kelly has been shown the door as head coach. The 49ers have brought in former Atlanta Falcons offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan to fill that void. With the team in turmoil and in a re-building phase, acquiring useful talent through free agency will be key for San Francisco.
San Francisco 49ers 2017 Off-Season: Top Three Needs
The 49ers are in dire straits at their most important position. Once Jim Harbaugh left the team, Colin Kaepernick regressed. Since then he has proven he’s not the team’s answer for the future, and is likely to find a new home this off-season. Furthermore, Blaine Gabbert and Christian Ponder are both free agents. The 49ers and Shanahan have hinted at having interest in a few free agent quarterbacks.
Shanahan has been complimentary of Kirk Cousins and Jimmy Garoppolo. To acquire Cousins, San Francisco would likely have to give up draft picks. This may make Cousins less desirable. Garoppolo has gained experience behind one of the best quarterback-coaching tandems of all time. Though he is largely unproven due to lack of playing time, he may be a more reasonable target for San Francisco.
The Dallas Cowboys proved last season that having an outstanding offensive line can help inexperienced players look like veterans. Regardless of who plays quarterback this coming season, the 49ers will need to have players to protect him. Though Joe Staley remains in the mix, the 49ers still could opt to add experience to a young offensive line. Russell Okung is approaching 30-years-old, he is still a dominant tackle, and could provide much needed leadership to the 49ers locker room. Okung is looking to earn just over $10 million a season and this will be a deterrent for San Francisco.
Other viable options include Matt Kalil from the Minnesota Vikings. Kalil may present the best option as his market value is $7.1 million. At only 25-years-old, Kalil could be a long term option for San Francisco. Many of the offensive line free agents this off-season are 30 and older. Finding a player to fill San Francisco’s void at a reasonable price may be more adequately accomplished through the draft.
San Francisco has had just as many troubles at linebacker as they’ve had at quarterback the last few seasons. Between injuries to players like NaVorro Bowman and Chris Borland deciding to quit football entirely, the 49ers have been decimated at linebacker, outside of Ahmad Brooks.
Fortunately, San Francisco has a better outlook for finding players at value for this position. Melvin Ingram is an unrestricted free agent for the Los Angeles Chargers. Ingram is set to earn about seven million dollars this season and is 28-years-old. Over the past two seasons for Los Angeles, Ingram has recorded 18.5 sacks and eight forced fumbles.
Dont’a Hightower is also set to hit the free agent market. After winning a Super Bowl last year with the New England Patriots, Hightower knows what it takes to win a championship, and he would be a great option to bring to this franchise for his experience. San Francisco is likely to field a young team this season with many new faces. Leadership will be a major factor.