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PFF: 2 safeties 49ers could pursue in free agency

The 49ers salary cap situation may keep them from being major players at the top of this year’s free agent market. Of course, there are ways they could create the cap space necessary to go big game hunting, but a more prudent move may be fishing around the bargain bin for quality fits that either help their starting lineup or their overall depth chart.

A good example of that bargain shopping comes via Pro Football Focus, which lists a pair of inexpensive safeties as potential free agent additions for the 49ers.

The first one is Chargers safety Alohi Gilman. He was a sixth-round pick in 2020 who started only nine games on defense while working primarily as a special teams contributor his first three seasons.

Last year though he played 928 defensive snaps and started all 14 games he played for the Chargers at free safety, but he showed off some versatility by lining up all over the field for then-head coach Brandon Staley, who is now the assistant head coach for the 49ers. Gilman in his expanded defensive role turned in the best season of his career with a pair of interceptions, seven pass breakups, and an overall 86.1 defensive grade from PFF.

His lack of overall experience is a bit of a red flag, but it will also be something that tamps down his market some to make him affordable enough for the 49ers. Gilman would fit the role of either starting or contributing on special teams and giving San Francisco some quality depth behind Ji’Ayir Brown and Talanoa Hufanga.

The other player PFF lists is Patriots defensive back Jalen Mills.

Mills has had an up-and-down career with four seasons in Philadelphia and three seasons in New England. He’s never been consistently productive, but he’s lined up all over the field from outside corner, to slot corner, to strong safety to free safety. The 49ers don’t have a super versatile defensive back like that who can plug several holes depending on their need, but relying on him as a starting safety is probably not how San Francisco would want to operate.

Bringing him in as a reserve, Swiss Army knife defensive back and potential special teams contributor would make a ton of sense though, and at 30-years old he’s unlikely to break the bank in free agency.

Safety isn’t way up the list of 49ers’ offseason needs, but it’s definitely there and a low-cost addition like Mills or Gilman would be smart team-building by San Francisco.

Story originally appeared on Niners Wire