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.

Tom Rathman to be inducted into 49ers Hall of Fame

Tom Rathman to be inducted into 49ers Hall of Fame

Former 49ers fullback Tom Rathman, who was not retained this season on Kyle Shanahan’s coaching staff, will be coming back to the organization in a permanent fashion.

Rathman, 54, who spent a total of 23 seasons as a player and coach, will be inducted into the 49ers Hall of Fame, CEO Jed York announced on Tuesday.

“Tom Rathman embodies everything this organization wants in its players, coaches and staff,” York said in a statement. “Throughout his more than two decades with our team, Tom set a tone for the 49ers both on and off the field. As a player, he was selfless, hard-working and dedicated to bringing his best every single day. Tom coached very much the same way.

"It was his mission to help every man he coached realize his full potential, as both a player and a man. Tom is family and we are so thrilled to induct him into the Edward J. DeBartolo Sr. 49ers Hall of Fame, where he will take his place among the all-time greats in our team’s history.”

Rathman discussed having a role on the 49ers’ coaching staff after the hiring of Shanahan. But Shanahan had already promised the position of running backs coach to Bobby Turner.

“It was all positive,” said Rathman told NBC Sports Bay Area in February. “I have no hard feelings. It’s just the nature of the business. Everybody just has to understand that. In pro football, coaches get fired and new guys come in and they bring their guys. I totally understand it. I don’t have a problem with it. Being in the business for 28 years, playing and coaching, you understand what it is. You can never take anything for granted.”

Rathman played for the 49ers from 1986 to ’93. He was a starter on two Super Bowl-winning teams and seven NFC West champions. Used mostly as a lead-blocker for Roger Craig, Rathman’s best season came in 1989, when he caught 73 passes for 616 yards.

After his playing career concluded with the Los Angeles Rams in 1994, Rathman entered into a career in coaching. He coached under Steve Mariucci from 1997 to 2002. He returned to coach with the 49ers in 2009, serving on the coaching staffs of head coaches Mike Singletary, Jim Harbaugh, Jim Tomsula and Chip Kelly.

“I’ve always considered myself a 49er and I always will consider myself a 49er," Rathman said in a statement. "I’ll take that brand with me wherever I go because that’s who I am. It feels great to be with the guys who are already in the 49ers Hall of Fame. Dating back to Joe Perry, it’s an honor to be associated with the likes of Joe Montana, Jerry Rice, Ronnie Lott, Roger Craig and Dwight Clark.

"That’s a lot of history right there. To be able to say that you’re in a fraternity with those guys so to speak, the 49ers Hall of Fame fraternity, says volumes. It’s pretty special.”

49ers draft board consists of nearly 200 prospects

49ers draft board consists of nearly 200 prospects

The 49ers new draft grading system is inspired by the New England Patriots, but their draft menu consists of a lot more options.

“We’ve got just under 200 players on our draft board, that we see as draftable players on our board,” 49ers general manager John Lynch told reporters Monday at team headquarters in Santa Clara.

“I’ve been spending a lot of time in here and it was needed this year because I had a lot of catch-up to do. I can tell you that just (Sunday) night I finally got to the point, I always knew as a player like, ‘OK. I’m ready.’ That moment was (Sunday) for me where I said, ‘OK. I’m ready. I’m ready to go on this thing.’ That’s a good feeling.”

The 49ers have 10 draft picks scheduled for the three-day draft, including the No. 2 overall selection. With 73 players under contract, the 49ers figure to add approximately 17 rookies through the draft and as free agents. The NFL's seven-round draft will result in 253 players being selected.

Lynch was hired out of the FOX broadcast booth a week before the Super Bowl. The following week, Lynch assembled all of the team’s scouts for meetings in Santa Clara.

“When we first brought scouts in right after the Super Bowl we were kind of working off the old grading system,” Lynch said. “But what helped was the grading system that they use in Denver, which kind of derived from one that was developed in New England.”

One of Lynch’s first hires was former Broncos college scouting director Adam Peters as 49ers vice president of player personnel. New coach Kyle Shanahan was also familiar with the system because, like Peters, Atlanta Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff worked in the Patriots’ scouting department.

“In these last three weeks of draft meetings we moved over to that grading scale,” Lynch said.

“I’ve always been someone who thinks you should listen to multiple opinions and we’ve been very collaborative. I believe in strong opinions. Someone once told me, ‘Strong opinions, weakly held.’ So are you open to different thoughts and someone makes you think? But ultimately someone’s got to make decisions.”

Patriots director of player personnel Nick Caserio recently told Boston-area reporters that New England's draft board consists of only 50 to 75 players who fit as draft picks for their team. The Patriots have seven scheduled draft picks but none in the first two rounds.

"I would say it varies year to year, but I would say our draft board is smaller than most," Caserio said. "We are trying to find players that we feel comfortable with on all levels that we would actually draft -- not that are going to get drafted.

"It's players that we would draft, that we would actually feel comfortable with in our program in some capacity."

49ERS 2017 DRAFT PICKS
1. First round: No. 2 overall
2. Second round: No. 34 overall
3. Third round: No. 66 overall
4. Fourth round: No. 109 overall
5. Fourth round: No. 143 overall (compensatory)
6. Fifth round: No. 146 overall
7. Fifth round: No. 161 (pick acquired from Washington in 2015 trade for TE Derek Carrier)
8. Sixth round: No. 198 overall (from Baltimore in trade with C Jeremy Zuttah for No. 186)
9. Sixth round: No. 202 overall (pick acquired from Denver in 2015 trade for TE Vernon Davis)
10. Seventh round: No. 219 overall (pick acquired from Cleveland in 2015 trade for Andy Lee)