COMMENTARY | If the San Francisco 49ers are "still interested" in free agent Charles Woodson, he will only be a fallback option for the team.
The 36-year-old Woodson, who was released by the Green Bay Packers in February, visited Santa Clara in the same month but left without a contract.
The San Jose Mercury News' Cam Inman is reporting that 49ers general manager Trent Baalke and the team have not ruled out signing Woodson to a deal this offseason.
"We feel he can still play the game," Baalke said of Woodson, who visited the 49ers on Feb. 15. "We'll continue to look at that and see how the draft goes. Charles is certainly somebody we're still interested in."
Inman also mentioned that a deal for Woodson would most likely not come until after the NFL draft on April 25.
The 49ers' success in the draft is expected to determine Woodson's place in San Francisco. If the team is able to add a legitimate starting safety, then Woodson would likely have no place in red and gold. However, if the 49ers draft more of a project player, then Woodson suddenly becomes a valuable asset to the team on a one or two-year deal where he would presumably be the starter at safety with veteran experience.
Realistically, the only surefire safety in the draft is Kenny Vaccaro from Texas, and he will likely be taken within the first 20 picks. While the 49ers trading up for the all-around talent is not out of the equation, settling for another strong player like Florida's Matt Elam, who is expected to be available at both the No. 31 and No. 34 overall picks, is not a bad consolation prize.
Elam provides much of the same threats as former 49er Dashon Goldson with his big-hit ability, but with all the skills needed to play a strong cover. Finding someone to complement Donte Whitner is another issue the team must consider.
Other options at safety later in the second round include South Carolina's D.J. Swearinger, Florida International's Johnathan Cyprien and LSU's Eric Reid, but all three are expected to take some time to adjust to the speed of the NFL.
Even if San Francisco drafts Elam, the 49ers would do well to sign Woodson to a one-year deal that could help the rookie grow as a player in the NFL. Woodson's options at least appear to be limited as this point, and he has said he wants to play for a contender this season, considering he does not have many seasons left in his career.
With the lack of news surrounding Woodson and prospective teams this offseason, it is likely the 49ers will test the waters on the veteran sooner or later. Woodson would provide a veteran influence, and for a one or two-year deal worth next to nothing, San Francisco could pull another steal in an already strong and eventful offseason for the team.
Scott Semmler is a senior at San Jose State University fortunate enough to have covered nearly every Bay Area professional sports team, including the San Francisco Giants' 2012 World Series title. Follow him on Twitter @ScottSemmler22.
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