The San Francisco 49ers have a plethora of cap space this off-season and the ammo needed to sign high-prized free-agents, but the question remains, who will those players be? Can new 49ers head coach Chip Kelly recruit defensive players? Will unrestricted free-agents even want to play in San Francisco? These are all valid questions that will surely be answered in the next couple months.
So with free-agency set to begin on March 9, I thought it would be a great idea to compile a list of my top five unrestricted free-agents. And while some players are not household names, that should not diminish their impact on the field, as they have all proven to be key players on their respective teams.
Analysis: This should be the 49ers No. 1 priority, as Williams is not only the anchor along the team’s defensive line but a respected team captain. An explosive player who is fundamentally sound at the point of attack makes Williams a top priority and a player that should be retained for the long-term.
Analysis: Whether or not Mo Wilkerson gets slapped with the franchise tag remains to be seen as the New York Jets have until March 1 to make that decision. But make no mistake, the team should aggressively pursue the Pro Bowl 3-4 defensive end franchised or not, as he’s the best 3-4 defensive end in the game not named DE J.J. Watt.
I still believe #49ers should target DE Mo Wilkerson as their No. 1 FA target. Armstead can be good but Wilkerson is on a different level.
— Ryan Sakamoto (@SakamotoRyan) February 13, 2016
In 2015, Wilkerson finished the season with 64 tackles, 12.0 sacks, and 7 pass breakups while being named to his first Pro Bowl.
#49ers need to shore up RT position & one player who would provide depth would be Browns RT Mitchell Schwartz. A. Davis is not back yet…
— Ryan Sakamoto (@SakamotoRyan) January 7, 2016
Analysis: While rumors continue to swirl regarding RT Anthony Davis‘ return, the fact remains that he’s still retired and has yet to file paperwork for a comeback. With that being said, the team can’t wait forever and as a result should target underrated, reliable, and heady football player RT Mitchell Schwartz.
Schwartz would instantly shore up the right tackle position while talented but raw second-year RT Trent Brown gains another year of NFL experience under his belt in the meantime. A smart move by the organization if they want to win now, adding a player like Schwartz would be a wise investment especially under Kelly’s offense.
4. ILB James Laurinaitis
Analysis: In a surprise move earlier this week, the Los Angeles Rams decided to part ways with the franchise’s all-time leading tackler ILB James Laurinaitis. A very smart, savvy, and instinctive inside linebacker, Laurinaitis would instantly satisfy the teams inside linebacker position alongside All-Pro ILB NaVorro Bowman all while stealing away a star player but from a divisional foe.
5. CB Janoris Jenkins
Analysis: In a perfect world, I would like the team to target Carolina Panthers CB Josh Norman but I don’t see him getting out of Carolina, making Jenkins the next best option. Another very underrated cornerback with the ballhawking skills to take it to the house, Jenkins would be a perfect complement to CB Tramaine Brock on the other side.
Originally a second-round pick (No. 39) of the 2012 NFL Draft, Jenkins has been an elite ballhawk since entering the league as he’s recorded 10 interceptions ( 5 returned for touchdowns) and 48 pass breakups in only four seasons.