NN Mailbag: 49ers free agency moves, NFL Draft, roster battles and more

Addressing your 49ers comments, questions and concerns in our NFL free agency edition of the Niners Nation offseason mailbag.

NFL free agency seemed like it was over before it began on Wednesday, with the vast majority of deals reported during the two-day negotiating period. The San Francisco 49ers made their fair share of splashes, most notably trading for Kansas City Chiefs pass rusher Dee Ford and signing former Tampa Bay Buccaneers linebacker Kwon Alexander. After holding a brief question and answer session on Twitter, we decided to bring some of the discussion over to the site for your viewing pleasure.

So we’re back in this week’s NFL free agency mailbag. You’re welcome to drop questions in here for our next mailbag or tweet me @Rob_Lowder.

What’s the thinking of signing another running back?

Ben asks a question that everyone wants to know. Jerick McKinnon is coming off a torn ACL – a tough injury for any running back. Matt Breida struggled with an ankle injury and Raheem Mostert broke his arm. Shanahan was eager to add another healthy, familiar running back to the mix. Oh, and Tevin Coleman is really good. Not to mention Coleman has tremendous value in the passing game. With McKinnon not having any more guaranteed money on his contract, I can see why they wanted to add more insurance.

Why did the 49ers add two linebackers?

Camaro wanted to know why the 49ers, with a slew of roster needs, added two high-priced linebackers this offseason. Fortunately for the roster, not all linebackers are created equality. Dee Ford and Kwon Alexander are both listed as the same position but their roles differ greatly. Alexander is off the ball, likely slated as the team’s WILL linebacker next to Fred Warner. Ford is currently slated to be the team’s LEO on the defensive line, tormenting opposing quarterbacks on all three downs.

Will the 49ers add another receiver in free agency?

On Wednesday, Kyle asked if the 49ers would add another receiver in free agency. The likelihood was strong given the lack of competition among the group. Some names I offered were Donte Moncrief, Chris Conley, Jordan Matthews, Dontrelle Inman and Ryan Grant. On Thursday, the 49ers signed Matthews (6-3, 215) to a one-year contract. He adds a size and scoring dynamic that Shanahan’s recieving corps currently lacks. The former Philadelphia Eagles and Buffalo Bills receiver racked up 16 touchdowns in his first two seasons.

Is Jerick McKinnon in danger of being cut?

The 49ers signed former Atlanta Falcons running back Tevin Coleman to a two-year deal on Thursday. Eddie addresses the elephant in the room that is Jerick McKinnon, who suffered a torn ACL before the 2018 season. Does this put McKinnon’s spot on the team in jeopardy? Not really. Shanahan still has admiration for McKinnon’s abilities and will be eager to see him in action. We saw last season that you can’t have enough running backs. The 49ers can now give McKinnon plenty of time to recover from his torn ACL.

Will Jason Verrett be competing for a starting spot?

Absolutely, Doug. Former Los Angeles cornerback Jason Verrett, a former first-round pick in 2014, will be competing for the starting role opposite Richard Sherman this offseason. Verrett has struggled with injuries after a promising start to his career. In five seasons, he’s played in 25 of 80 games due in large part to a partially torn ACL in 2016 and a torn Achilles tendon in 2018. If Verrett can stay healthy, his one-year, $3.6 million deal could be a steal for the 49ers and their struggling secondary.

Where do you think the 49ers add a receiver? Draft? Free agency?

Kameron knows the 49ers are in need of help at wide receiver. The team may have added Matthews, but they’re very likely to target a receiver in the draft as well. Day 2 seems like the sweet spot for a new 49ers receiver. It’s a talented, deep class of pass-catchers. I’d keep an eye out for A.J. Brown, Deebo Samuel, Hakeem Butler, N’Keal Harry and others that may fall into Round 2.

Tre Boston or Ha-Ha Clinton Dix?

Drew’s question became a bit easier on Thursday when the Chicago Bears signed safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix. Even before the signing, I was leaning toward Tre Boston. I wrongfully assumed Clinton-Dix would command a big contract, something the 49ers had already dolled out several times this offseason to Alexander, Ford and Coleman. Clinton-Dix only ended up with a one-year, $3.5 million deal with the Bears. Boston is still available. He’s coming off a productive season for the Cardinals and was only making $1.5 million in 2018. The 49ers are still in need of an upgrade at free safety and Boston is a solid blend of value/impact at this point in free agency.

What’s the starting front 7 look like with the current roster?

Allen asked what the 49ers’ front seven on defense would look like with additions of Alexander and Ford. Here’s what I expect to see on passing downs:
RDE: Dee Ford
DT: DeForest Buckner
DT: Arik Armstead/Solomon Thomas
LDE: Cassius Marsh (Bosa? Allen?)
WLB: Kwon Alexander
MLB: Fred Warner

Do the 49ers draft a safety in the second or third round?

Buddy’s mind is on the 49ers’ secondary, which was among the team’s weakest position groups in 2018. The free safety spot is one of the most critical positions in Robert Saleh’s scheme. The most obvious target was always former Seattle Seahawks safety Earl Thomas, who essentially wrote the book for what the 49ers need on defense. Thomas signed with the Ravens. It’s safe to say the position will be on the 49ers’ radar throughout the draft. Names like Alabama’s Deionte Thompson, Mississippi State’s Jonathan Abrams and Delaware’s Nasir Adderley come to mind as late first-round, early second-round picks.

Best possible trade partner? Raiders?

The Oakland Raiders have been on fire this offseason. They traded for former Pittsburgh Steelers receiver Antonio Brown, then signed former 49ers tackle Trent Brown, defensive Lamarcus Joyner and receiver Tyrell Williams. General manager Mike Mayock and head coach Jon Gruden may look to keep things rolling in April for the draft, and trading up with the 49ers to land a coveted player is one way to do it. The Raiders currently hold the No. 4 pick and a pair late first-rounders at 24 and 27. Perhaps dealing one of those picks to jump up two spots would be the play, as Guy suggested. It’s definitely something Lynch would consider if they’re not completely sold on their target at two.

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