Free agency has been underway for about a week and a half now, including the tampering period. At this point, teams have already acquired the players they needed or wanted. For the San Francisco 49ers, free agency is just about wrapped up for them.
They opened up the first day of the tampering period making a lot of noise with the Arik Armstead extension and trade of DeForest Buckner. However, they really weren’t involved in free agency following the thunderous first day that included the re-signing of Jimmie Ward.
San Francisco’s goal this free agency period was to keep the entire roster intact, which is exactly what they have achieved for the most part. The 49ers were also able to add some more depth pieces to boost quality of some positions. Now the 49ers are running thin with their salary-cap space. It would be pretty bold to believe another player is going to get signed with George Kittle’s extension looming.
That means the 49ers are essentially done with adding free agents. Or at least there will not be a significant signing given the cap. With that said: what are the leftover defensive needs for the 49ers with free agency wrapped up?
Much to my surprise, the 49ers did not target a cornerback. There wasn’t even a single rumor regarding their interest in anyone. Now cornerback isn’t an immediate pressing need for the 49ers. They’re still in good shape with Richard Sherman, Emmanuel Moseley and K’Waun Williams. Even Ahkello Witherspoon is a player of interest because a full off-season can benefit his confidence.
However, there is still a bit of depth concerns at the position. If Witherspoon cannot becomes a sufficient player, then what happens if Sherman and Moseley become injured?
Perhaps the 49ers are just looking at the position to be addressed in the draft since it would allow them to groom someone as Sherman’s future replacement. With the salary-cap back into limited shape, I sincerely doubt the Niners end up signing someone. Unless, of course, someone is willing to sign for the bare minimum.
When the 49ers sent DeForest Buckner to the Indianapolis Colts, they created a hole at defensive tackle. Buckner was a phenomenal player at the position in both run and pass downs. Not to mention he was a leader in the locker room. There really isn’t a way for the 49ers to fill that hole left by him, but there is a way they can shrink the size of it.
So far, the moves the 49ers have indicated in free agency have been to platoon the position. That is why they have re-signed players like D.J. Jones and Ronald Blair. They also brought in Kerry Hyder who could prove to be a solid depth piece. San Francisco is looking to use a rotation at the position. Lets not forget that Arik Armstead can be used there with his versatility.
If there is any doubt that these players will not be sufficient, then I would not rule out the Niners taking a swing for Javon Kinlaw with the No. 13 pick. While I don’t believe that is the ideal pick, since wide receiver and offensive tackle are more pressing, Kinlaw is someone who can come as close as to filling the hole as anyone. He’ll be on a rookie contract for years to come to maintain the core three of lineman in case the Niners cut ties with Dee Ford after next season.