49ers use free agency to find five players for key roles

49ers use free agency to find five players for key roles

Shortly after the beginning of the NFL’s new league year at 1 p.m. on Thursday, the 49ers are expected to finalize contract with five free agents with whom they reached agreements during the open-negotiating period.

New coach Kyle Shanahan is looking to re-tool the offense, and that’s what was accomplished with the influx of new faces.

Here’s a look at how each of the new players fits in with the 49ers:

QB Brian Hoyer (Chicago)
Hoyer, 31, was the most logical of the 49ers’ quarterback targets based on his recent starting experience and his history with Shanahan during their season together with the Cleveland Browns in 2014.

He was the 49ers’ top target on the free-agent market, and the 49ers got him.

Nobody envisions Hoyer as a franchise quarterback, but he’s a good fit for the 49ers at this time. He averaged 329.5 yards passing in his four full games last season with the Bears. The 49ers, meanwhile, averaged an NFL-worst 181.9 yards per game.

The addition of Hoyer does not preclude the 49ers from using the No. 2 overall pick on a quarterback. And it does not close the door on the possibility of acquiring Kirk Cousins at some point down the road.

The 49ers can be expected to add another veteran quarterback before the draft, but it remains the long shot of long shots that Colin Kaepernick will end up back with the team.

WR Pierre Garçon (Washington)
Garçon, who turns 31 early in training camp, is coming off the second 1,000-yard season of his nine-year career. While he is likely to be the 49ers’ No. 1 receiver this season, this move was made with an eye to the future, too.

Garçon had his best NFL season in 2013, when Shanahan was calling the shots as Washington’s offensive coordinator. Known as a good pro, Garçon can help show the way to the young receivers the 49ers are bound to add during the offseason.

While there might have been more splashy free-agent receivers on the market, the 49ers wanted to add someone who fits into the big picture. That’s what they believe they are getting with Garçon.

The 49ers released Torrey Smith on Monday. Garçon is a more versatile receiver with an ability to run all the routes in Shanahan’s offense.

WR Marquise Goodwin (Buffalo)
Goodwin, 26, gives the 49ers’ offense an injection of speed, as he joins a receiving corps that includes Garçon, Jeremy Kerley and Bruce Ellington.

He had his best season with the Bills in 2016, catching 29 passes for 431 yards and three touchdowns, but there could be more for him in Shanahan’s offense.

Goodwin (5 foot 9, 179 pounds) is likely to fill a similar role that Taylor Gabriel held with the Atlanta Falcons last season. Gabriel (5-8, 165) caught 35 passes for 579 yards and six touchdowns.

The addition of Goodwin would appear to rule out the return of Quinton Patton, who started all 14 games in which he appeared last season. Patton is an unrestricted free agent after catching 37 passes for 408 yards and no TDs last year.

Goodwin qualified for the 2012 Olympic Games in the long jump, placing 10th overall.

FB Kyle Juszczyk (Baltimore)
Shanahan loves to play the matchup game, and he now has a great chess piece with Juszczyk, who earned a trip to the Pro Bowl last season.

His contract is expected to be $21 million over four years with $10.5 million guaranteed, according to ESPN's Adam Caplan.

Juszczyk, who turns 26 next month, can play fullback, tight end, H-back and wide receiver. In four seasons, he has not missed a game. He has carried the ball just seven times. He is a good blocker, and he can catch the ball. Juszczyk has 78 receptions for 587 yards and four touchdowns over the past two seasons.

The 49ers placed a priority on signing him over Patrick DiMarco, who played the past two seasons for Shanahan with the Falcons. Juszczyk graduated from Harvard with a degree in economics, so his ability to pick up the playbook is the least of the 49ers’ concerns.

LB Malcolm Smith (Oakland)
As the 49ers transition to the Seattle-style of defense, Smith is someone who comes in with a good handle on what new coordinator Robert Saleh is looking to install.

Smith will come to the 49ers on a five-year, $26.5 million deal with $13 million guaranteed, according to NFL Network's Mike Garafolo.

Saleh was the Seahawks’ defensive quality control coach during the first three seasons of Smith’s career in Seattle. Smith, who turns 28 in July, is best-suited to play alongside NaVorro Bowman at the weakside linebacker position in the 49ers’ new 4-3 scheme.

The 49ers had an alarming lack of depth at linebacker last season. Smith joins a group that includes Bowman, Ray-Ray Armstrong, Carl Bradford and Shayne Skov. The 49ers are also likely to add at this position in the draft.

TE Logan Paulsen (Chicago)
Paulsen’s first four NFL seasons were with Shanahan in Washington. He started 30 games in those four seasons. He had his two-highest reception totals in 2012 and ’13 with 25 catches for 308 yards and 28 receptions for 308 yards. Paulsen's agreement on contrat terms was first reported by CSN Bay Area's Fallon Smith.

After five seasons in Washington, Paulsen moved on to Chicago, where he was used primarily as a blocker. He caught just three passes in 16 games, including 10 starts. Paulsen, 30, will compete for playing time with Vance McDonald, Garrett Celek, Blake Bell and Je'Ron Hamm.

Reports: Former 49ers wide receiver to visit Bills

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AP

Reports: Former 49ers wide receiver to visit Bills

Aquan Boldin is looking for a new football home.

And the former 49ers wide receiver is visiting with the Bills on Monday, according to multiple reports.

Boldin started all 16 games with the Lions last season, recording 67 catches for 584 yards and eight touchdowns.

From 2013 to 2015 with the 49ers, he racked up 237 receptions, 3030 receiving yards and 16 touchdowns.

The three-time Pro Bowler will turn 37 years old in October.

Boldin entered the NFL as the 54th overall pick in the 2003 draft.

Taking a closer look at Ryan's criticism of Shanahan

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Taking a closer look at Ryan's criticism of Shanahan

There is no shortage of blame to go around for the Atlanta Falcons’ collapse in Super Bowl 51.

The Falcons built a 28-3 lead in the middle of the third quarter and let it slip away, ultimately falling to the New England Patriots, 34-28, in overtime.

Matt Ryan voiced one previously undisclosed factor in the collapse this week in an interview with Pete Prisco of CBS Sports, pointing the finger at the new coach of the 49ers.

Kyle Shanahan has been the focus of a lot of the blame, but critique from the league MVP was a new one.

The Falcons quarterback faulted his former offensive coordinator for taking too much time to relay the play calls. Ryan said he did not have enough time to change any of the plays – presumably checking out of called pass plays to run the ball.

Here’s what Ryan told Prisco:

"Kyle's play calls -- he would take time to get stuff in. As I was getting it, you're looking at the clock and you're talking 16 seconds before it cuts out. You don't have a lot of time to say, 'There's 16 seconds, no, no, no, we're not going to do that. Hey, guys, we're going to line up and run this.' You're talking about breaking the huddle at seven seconds if you do something along the lines.

"With the way Kyle's system was set up, he took more time to call plays and we shift and motion a lot more than we did with (former coordinator) Dirk (Koetter). You couldn't get out of stuff like that. We talk about being the most aggressive team in football. And I'm all for it. But there's also winning time. You're not being aggressive not running it there."

The 49ers can point to mismanagement of the clock for their own Super Bowl heartbreak. The 49ers’ offense had the perfect play call at the perfect time against the Baltimore Ravens late in Super Bowl XLVII.

But with the play clock striking :00, coach Jim Harbaugh was forced to call a timeout from the sideline. A split-second later, the ball was snapped and it appeared the quarterback run would have easily ended up with Colin Kaepernick in the end zone.

Much like after the 49ers’ loss, the Falcons left plenty of room for second-guessing.

Two of Shanahan’s plays calls, which directly led to the collapse, will forever be scrutinized.

The first came with 8:31 remaining in regulation and the Falcons holding a 28-12 lead. On third and 1 from the Atlanta 36, Shanahan did not remain conservative with an expected run play. He swung for the fence.

Receiver Aldrick Robinson, whom the 49ers added this offseason as a free-agent pickup, was breaking free past the Patriots secondary for what could have been a touchdown. But just as Ryan was unloading, New England linebacker Dont’a Hightower hit him and forced the fumble. Running back Devonta Freeman whiffed on blitz pickup, which would have provided Ryan with enough time to target Robinson deep.

Ryan’s explanation does not appear applicable on this play, though. In watching the replay, the Falcons broke the huddle with more than 25 seconds remaining on the play clock and the snap occurred with :15 to spare.

The other questionable sequence came after the Falcons – leading by eight points -- got to the New England 22-yard line with less than five minutes to play. The Falcons lost 1 yard on a run play on first down.

On second down, Ryan was sacked for a 12-yard loss. Before that play, the Falcons broke the huddle with :19 on the play clock. The snap occurred with :04 remaining. The game clock was running, so the Falcons had reason to attempt to burn as much clock as possible.

In the fourth quarter, the Falcons never seemed rushed to get off a play. The closest they came to delay-of-game penalties were when they snapped the ball with :04 on the one play and :03 another time. The majority of their snaps occurred with :10 or more seconds to spare.

If the Falcons were guilty of anything when it came to the play clock, it was that the offense did not waste more time. After New England pulled to within 28-9 late in the third quarter, the Falcons ran only six offensive plays while the game clock was running.

On those six plays, the Falcons snapped the ball with :13, :09, :14, :20, :13 and :04 remaining on the play clock. If they’d snapped the ball with one second remaining each time, they could have shortened the game by 1 minute, 7 seconds. The Patriots scored the game-tying touchdown with :57 remaining in regulation.