Five Affordable NFL Free Agents the San Francisco 49ers Should Consider
The NFL’s free-agency period will be here in no time, and though the San Francisco 49ers are hardly recognized as loose spenders, they’ll likely make a notable acquisition or two at some point this Spring.
One off-season ago, GM Trent Baalke and Co. wasted little time bringing in help, signing Randy Moss to a one-year contract on the very first day of the new league year. Signing veterans to short-term deals was basically the theme of last year’s free-agency period for the Niners, who also brought in wide receiver Mario Manningham, quarterback Josh Johnson and running back Brandon Jacobs, among others.
With many of last year’s starters once again expected to pick up where they left off, money will be somewhat tight and the free-agent additions will be few and far between for San Francisco. Actually, this group likes to let the dust settle from the frenzy over the NFL’s top-tier free agents and then sift through the leftovers to get the most bang for their buck.
Expect that to be the case again in 2013, but you can bet if the 49ers’ front office is granted the opportunity to land an impact player at a respectable rate, it’ll jump at the chance to make a Super Bowl-caliber squad that much better. It’s unlikely, but very possible in the unpredictable world that is the National Football League.
San Fran does have a couple of starters slated to hit the free-agent market themselves in safety Dashon Goldson and nose tackle Isaac Sopoaga. Also, veteran kicker David Alers was recently released after his 2012 campaign to forget, so there's definitely plenty to consider as this year's FA period grows near.
The following slides bring you five free agents the 49ers should consider that may cost a pretty penny, but won’t be breaking the bank whatsoever.
Cullen Jenkins, Defensive Tackle
The Niners have already expressed interest in Jenkins, and did so by bringing him in for a visit on Tuesday. He’s versatile enough to earn reps anywhere in the 49ers three-man front. Sopoaga is a free agent and so is his backup at the nose tackle spot, Ricky Jean Francois. The draft is loaded with potential starters at this position and the 49ers should jump on one of them, but Jenkins could be a nice veteran insurance policy if a departure opens up a spot.
Alan Branch, Nose Tackle
Branch has already played for the Cardinals and spent the past two seasons in Seattle, so why not continue the NFC West tour and come to San Francisco? The Michigan alum has thrived in the 3-4 defense Seattle, like SF, employs. And, though Branch will be more expensive than Jenkins, he’s a monster (6-foot-6, 325 pounds) capable of eating up bodies in the run game and contributes on passing downs, too.
Phil Dawson, Kicker
The Browns won’t be keeping Dawson in Cleveland this season, and the 38-year old vet nailed 93.5 percent of his kicks in 2012. He’s finished 82 percent or better every year since 2007, and even though I’d probably prefer the Niners find a cheap option in the draft, you can’t doubt the guy’s still-impressive consistency and ability to put the pigskin between the uprights. If his aging leg can lower that price tag a bit, he'd be worth the gamble.
Matt Moore, Miami Dolphins
Moore is more than a capable backup signal-caller in this league, and has even played solid as a starter at times. It’s a weak free-agent class for QB’s, so if a team views him as a starter, his price will be too high for San Fran. If not, the Niners may be able to provide insurance for Colin Kaepernick at an affordable rate, as the roster will no longer hold a proven backup once the Alex Smith trade goes through.
Danny Amendola, Wide Receiver
Amendola may not necessarily be viewed as “affordable”, but his history of injuries will likely scare off a few potential suitors. He’s extremely effective out of the slot and works every other area of the field respectably, too. Randy Moss won’t be back in 2013 and there’s a need for WR help. While there are concerns here, one would think Amendola will warrant a look from Balke and Co. after seeing what he’s done to the Red and Gold in recent years.