I'm not saying this team is ready to win it all this year, but they might not be as far away as the casual fan might think if they can make some key additions. Quarterback is often considered the most important position in sports for a reason, and the turnaround under Garoppolo is an example why, as the offense went from being ranked in the bottom half of the league in yards, yards per play, and points before he took over to being in the top five in each. Furthermore, the defense experienced a similar improvement to the top 10 in those same categories, and although that can partly be attributed to rookie defensive coordinator Robert Saleh and a lineup filled with young players getting more comfortable as the season progressed, the offense no longer put them in disadvantageous situations. With the fifth most salary cap space per OverTheCap.com and nine draft picks (selections 9, 59, 70, 74, 128, 143, 184, 227, and 240) at the disposal of John Lynch and the front office, here are their biggest needs and some options to fill them to at least make them playoff contenders.
|This coach-QB pairing is cause for celebration.|
Free agent options
- Being just under 5'10", Malcolm Butler may not be a perfect fit, but he has shown over the past three years that he is a high-level starter and only just turned 28. He's played a variety of roles in New England with their game plan specific schemes, so strange Super Bowl benching that arguably cost them this year's championship notwithstanding, I'm not concerned about his ability to play zone in the Cover 3 or shadow man-to-man.
- Trumaine Johnson is the other corner considered among the best free agents and often mentioned with the 49ers due to his hometown of Stockton, CA and great length at 6'2" with 33.25" arms, but I'm not convinced he'll be worth the huge contract he'll get based on his inconsistency over the years.
- Kyle Fuller's combination of production, size, and youth might be the most intriguing of all the options, but Chicago placed the transition tag on him so that they can match any offer sheet he signs. With their other starting corner a free agent on this list, I don't think the Bears are going to let their former 1st round pick get away.
- Given more of a mid-tier price range, Aaron Colvin is probably my favorite option based on him only being 26, his ability to play in the slot, and the connection to Saleh, who was on the Jacksonville coaching staff the previous three seasons and runs essentially the same scheme. With Jalen Ramsey and A.J. Bouye starring on the outside, Colvin was limited to nickelback, but I think he's talented enough to excel in a larger role, somewhat in a similar way to how Casey Hayward has become a star as a Charger after an up-and-down tenure in Green Bay.
- Prince Amukamara also overlapped with Saleh in Jacksonville, and although he never became the star expected when picked 19th overall in 2011, he has been a reliable starter on the outside. His 81.2 PFF grade in Chicago this season actually wasn't far behind his teammate Fuller, but with his 29th birthday months away, I don't expect a price tag nearly as high.
- I hadn't put a lot of thought to Rashaan Melvin after he finished his breakout season on injured reserve, but after the Better Rivals podcast made the case for him as a late bloomer with standout athleticism, I realized that he could be this year's A.J. Bouye without as expensive of a salary commitment. According to DraftScout.com's pro day numbers, he put together a 4.42 40 yard dash, 10'6" broad jump, and 38" vertical at just under 6'2" and 192 pounds, so together with the success he found this season, he might be the best lottery ticket of the bunch since the new regime seems to place an emphasis on athleticism. Like Amukamara, Melvin will be 29 this year, so I could see him getting a nice payday that's only a short term deal while a prospect is drafted in the first three rounds to develop.