COMMENTARY | The San Francisco 49ers don't normally delve into the top-tier free agent market. In fact, few of the top teams in the NFL do. The Seattle Seahawks acquiring a couple upper-echelon free agents last year notwithstanding, it's usually the bottom feeders or mediocre teams that address needs this way.
With that said, San Francisco does have some holes to fill and would likely be better off filling a couple of them the veteran route instead of through the draft. Here are five player that the 49ers could realistically targets in free agency.
Physical limitations aside, Hill is one of those quarterbacks who can come in and win a game in a pinch. He might not have the arm or accuracy to be a regular starter in the NFL, but the veteran is among the best backup quarterbacks in the NFL. In fact, he's likely better than five or six starters out there right now, which says a lot about the quarterback situation for some teams around the NFL.
The 34-year-old quarterback possesses a career .500 record in 26 starts and has thrown 41 touchdowns compared to 23 interceptions for a solid 85.9 rating during that span. He was a respectable 10-6 as a starter for the 49ers during their down years from 2007-2009.
If San Francisco were to target Hill in free agency, it wouldn't be an extensively long conversation. His value is as a backup quarterback right now and in his mid 30's, the deal would have to be of the short-term variety. He's a dramatic upgrade over Colt McCoy behind Colin Kaepernick and would still enable the 49ers to spend a draft pick on a developmental guy.
This is the type of player that fits the 49ers philosophy of bargain shopping on the free agent market. It's kinda like going garage sale hopping on a Saturday morning. Most of the stuff you pick up is crap, but you will find that one random gem. There is little doubt that Britt has the talent to be a stud receiver in the NFL. Off-field issues coupled with injuries have kept him from hitting star status and a change of scenery from Tennessee is likely.
Where Britt's production has fallen off since he put up 775 yards and nine scores back in 2010, his 6'3" and 215 pound frame suggests that the enigmatic receiver could be a solid red-zone threat for the 49ers. The issue with signing Britt, however, is that San Francisco is likely going to retain Anquan Boldin before the start of free agency and has a youngster in Quinton Patton ready to take the next step. There simply might not be enough room for a guy that seems to be of the belief he should be on the field for nearly every game. How would that dynamic play out if Britt is sitting behind Michael Crabtree, Boldin and Patton on the depth chart?
With Anquan Boldin likely to get a new contract before the start of free agency, there might not be much urgency for the 49ers to add another veteran receiver to the mix. Much like Britt, the 49ers may indeed look to target an undervalued veteran with a lot to prove. Maclin missed the entire 2013 season with a torn ACL. Prior to that, the former first-round pick was a consistently good No. 2 receiver for the Eagles. He averaged 62 receptions for 863 yards and nearly seven touchdowns in his first four seasons.
If San Francisco is going to make a major free-agent splash it will be at the cornerback position. With the likes of Tarell Brown, Eric Wright and Perrish Cox set to be free agents and the likelihood that Carlos Rogers is released, there are multiple holes to fill.
This is only magnified if the 49ers decide that Chris Culliver, coming off an ACL injury, is best suited to play next to young phenom Eric Reid at safety.
Grimes returned from an injury-riddled 2012 campaign to earn a Pro Bowl berth this past year. He recorded four interceptions and 16 passes defended. According to Pro Football Focus, Grimes was the second-best cornerback in the NFL in 2013 behind only Darrelle Revis. With that type of production comes a lot of money on a long-term deal.
The only way San Francisco would be able to make this work is if it released Rogers and a few others while restructuring the deals of other veterans on the roster. We do know that Trent Baalke and Co. would love a cornerback group that includes Tramaine Brock, Chris Culliver, Brent Grimes and a rookie.
Davis would be a cheaper alternative to Grimes. He is a starter-caliber cornerback in the NFL, but is nowhere near a true shutdown guy. With that said San Francisco doesn't necessarily need that in the defensive secondary when it has an elite front seven.
Davis started 16 games this past season, recording 12 passes defended and an interception. Looking at Pro Football Focus once again, he graded out as the third-best corner in the NFL. There is also a common link to Davis and the 49ers with his brother suiting up at tight end in San Francisco. Much like Grimes, Baalke and Co. would have to work some magic to bring Davis in.
Vincent Frank has been covering the National Football League for three years. He started out writing for Bleacher Report and is currently the head editor at eDraft and a columnist at Pro Football Focus. Vincent co-hosts a weekly radio show called "Football Debate Central" with former NFL player Ryan Riddle and has seen his work featured on CNN, BR and Los Angeles Times, among many other outlets.
- Sports & Recreation
- American Football
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- Kenny Britt
- Brent Grimes
- Anquan Boldin