49ers

Big names highlight 2017 crop of NFL free agents

Big names highlight 2017 crop of NFL free agents

NEW YORK -- Free agency is not the lifeblood of NFL teams. The draft remains the most significant means by which to build and fortify a franchise.

Yet, as the salary cap increases exponentially each year under the 10-year labor agreement reached in 2011, the lure of veterans on the open market can be powerful. Not only do clubs who manage their financial structure wisely have increased funds to spend, they can get quick improvement that doesn't normally come from rookies.

To Panthers general manager Dave Gettleman, it's unusual to see how much money is available for spending, and not just in Carolina.

"Different since I got here," he said. "We had to cut guys to get under, then the next year I think we had to touch one or two contracts to get under, then the last three years we've been able to create separation, sort of.

"Meanwhile, you've got teams that have got crazy money under the cap. It gives you flexibility. It allows you, for lack of a better term, it allows you to expand your thought process."

The Falcons (Alex Mack, Mohamed Sanu), Giants (Damon Harrison, Olivier Vernon, Janoris Jenkins) and Raiders (Bruce Irvin, Kelechi Osemele, Donald Penn) scored in a big way in 2016. The Bears (Danny Trevathan), Dolphins (Arian Foster) and Texans (Brock Osweiler) not so much.

With the 2017 crop lacking big-time difference makers, that extra $12 million each team has to spend might get spread around a bit more. Then again, overspending has become second nature in free agency for far too many teams.

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HEAD OF THE CLASS

There were four All-Pros whose contracts were up after the 2015 season. Von Miller, Eric Berry and Doug Martin returned to their teams. Josh Norman had the franchise tag dropped by Carolina and scored big with a five-year, $75 million deal in Washington.

Four top guys who won't be going anywhere:

Le'Veon Bell , RB, Pittsburgh - The Steelers tagged their all-world back and he won't be leaving Steel City.

Eric Berry, S, Kansas City - He threatened to sit out 2017 rather than be tagged again and he won, getting a long-term deal as the league's highest-paid safety.

Kirk Cousins, QB, Washington - When a good but not great quarterback such as Cousins is making more than Super Bowl winners, it shows how valued (and overvalued) the position can be.

Jason Pierre-Paul , DE, New York Giants - The Giants are convinced he's found ways to be consistently dangerous despite his hand issues from 2015 fireworks accident.

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Still on teams' radars:

Alshon Jeffery, WR, Chicago - If he stays healthy, Jeffery can be a No. 1 target. In this pass-first league, that's a must-have commodity.

Latavius Murray, RB, Oakland - Teams outside of Dallas have discovered the need for two running backs. Murray pretty much would fit anywhere.

Andrew Whitworth, OT, Cincinnati - Veteran left tackles with versatility, leadership skills and intelligence are difficult to find.

Dont'a Hightower, LB, New England - Probably the best defender on the NFL champions, and a good locker room guy.

Dontari Poe, DT, Kansas City - If he isn't the best at his position in the NFL, he's close.

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Superstars without a home:

Adrian Peterson, RB: Surely the former Viking will get a nice, if short, deal from a club in dire need of a ground threat who could put it over the top.

Darrelle Revis, CB: He might have legal issues, and he slipped badly in his return to the Jets. If he has anything left, Revis is a find for someone - with a short-term contract.

Jamaal Charles, RB: One of the league's most gallant and versatile players, but his knee problems might be too much to overcome.

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NEXT IN LINE

These players are not far behind those above, but some come with significant questions marks. Listed alphabetically:

A.J. Bouye, CB, Houston; Calais Campbell, DE, Arizona; Pierre Garcon, WR, Washington; DeSean Jackson, WR, Washington; Tony Jefferson, S, Arizona; Trumaine Johnson (non-exclusive tag), CB, Los Angeles Rams; Chris Long, DE, New England; Brandon Marshall, WR, New York Jets; Alex Okafor, LB, Arizona; Nick Perry, LB, Green Bay; Terrelle Pryor, WR, Cleveland; Kawann Short (non-exclusive tag), DT, Carolina; Brandon Williams, DT, Baltimore; Kevin Zeitler, G, Cincinnati.

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SECOND WAVE

Some of these players might get quick deals more because of the position they play than their overall production. Some have excellent timing, hitting free agency after effective seasons. Listed alphabetically:

Kamar Aiken, WR, Baltimore; Martellus Bennett, TE, New England; Zach Brown, LB, Buffalo; Trent Cole, LB (edge rusher), Indianapolis; Jared Cook, TE, Green Bay; Patrick DiMarco, FB, Atlanta; Jack Doyle, TE, Indianapolis; Stephon Gilmore, CB, Buffalo; Mike Glennon, QB, Tampa Bay; Micah Hyde, S, Green Bay; Melvin Ingram (non-exclusive tag), LB, Los Angeles Chargers; Chandler Jones (non-exclusive tag), LB, Arizona; Matt Kalil, LT, Minnesota; Dre Kirkpatrick, CB, Cincinnati; Eddie Lacy, RB, Green Bay; T.J. Lang, G, Green Bay; Kelvin Sheppard, LB, New York Giants; Logan Ryan, CB, New England; J.C. Tretter, C, Green Bay; Kendall Wright, WR, Tennessee.

49ers' head coach Kyle Shanahan takes pride in speed of offense

49ers' head coach Kyle Shanahan takes pride in speed of offense

SANTA CLARA – If there is any validity to Matt Ryan’s complaint that former Atlanta Falcons offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan struggled getting play calls to his quarterback in a timely fashion, it is difficult to find much evidence.

The past two seasons, only three teams went through an entire season without the play clock expiring on offense. The Falcons under Shanahan went without a delay-of-game penalty both of the past two seasons. The Denver Broncos of last season were the only other offensive unit in the NFL that was not penalized for the play clock hitting :00.

“Any play-caller that you talk to that’s usually one of the most important things and something I pride myself on a lot, is how quick can you get a play call into a quarterback,” said Shanahan, who will remain the playcaller for the 49ers while also serving as head coach.

"And the quicker you do the more comfortable it is, not just for him but the entire offense. They’re not panicked. They’re being able to move to the line. And with me as a coordinator personally, I try almost every situation to get it in as fast as possible. And I can be honest, there’s sometimes I do better than others. There are sometimes I don’t do it as good. There’s sometimes I do it real good.”

Shanahan said he took a lot of pride in the fact that the Falcons avoided any delay-of-game penalties the past two seasons. He said Ryan deserves credit, too.

“I was really proud of those guys on offense, which is a lot of credit to Matt and the rest of the guys, that regardless when we did get it in, two years straight without a delay of game and being the only team to even do that one year I think was a pretty impressive task,” Shanahan said. “We did a good job of that as a whole.”

In a recent interview with Pete Prisco of CBS Sports, Ryan was critical of Shanahan’s timeliness in delivering the play calls in the Falcons' collapse in Super Bowl 51. (It did not appear the Falcons' offense was scrambling to get to the line of scrimmage and get the ball snapped after the built a 28-3 lead.)

“Kyle's play calls -- he would take time to get stuff in," Ryan told Prisco. "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.”

Shanahan said on Thursday that he wants his offense to play fast. Shanahan said he sets his offense so there is no need to audible out of a play if the defense is geared to stop the primary option on a particular call.

“If it’s not the perfect play, there’s usually four other options that you’ve just got to adjust to and either get an incompletion or get a smaller gain,” Shanahan said. “But, it’s not, ‘Hey, if I don’t call the perfect play, you check and get us into the perfect play.’

"I’ve been in systems like that and it’s just what your opinion is, and there’s really no right answer, but I was pretty happy with how our system worked in Atlanta. And I’ve been confident with players playing fast and not putting so much pressure on them to fix every play that the coordinator calls. I like to put a little more on myself and I want them when I do call a bad play, we’ll give you an answer."

Shanahan will continue to call the plays from the sideline. Quarterback Brian Hoyer said he insisted on working on the radio communication during the offseason program. Hoyer played in Shanahan's offense in 2014 with the Cleveland Browns, and he said that experience should help him relay the calls more smoothly to his teammates in the huddle.

"I kind of have a method of I want to be just outside the huddle when the play is coming out," Hoyer said. "I don’t want to be in the huddle trying to give the play while he’s talking to me. I want to hear him say the play in my helmet, take a second, get in the huddle and then call the play.

"Back in Cleveland when I was just learning the system I was just trying to repeat what he was saying, get it to the team and then as I’m walking to the line of scrimmage think of the play. Whereas now, I hear the play coming in and I can paint a picture of what Kyle is trying to emphasize on that play, and then relay it to the rest of the offense and break the huddle and go. We’ve been doing that I think pretty much since day one is using that coach-to-quarterback communication.”

49ers receive early vindication on selection of Reuben Foster

49ers receive early vindication on selection of Reuben Foster

SANTA CLARA – General manager John Lynch received the text message Wednesday from Dr. Tim McAdams that might have come as a surprise to many of the teams that passed on linebacker Reuben Foster during the draft.

The 49ers’ team physician declared Foster’s surgically repaired right shoulder is ready to play football. The 49ers are scheduled for their first practice of training camp on Friday, and Foster will be a full participant.

“We feel great about our doctors, our medical program here,” Lynch said on Thursday, as the 49ers reported to training camp. “Our trainer, Jeff Ferguson, is as good as there is in the league. Dr. McAdams, world-renowned. He has the Stanford name behind him.

“We challenged him numerous times. From his observation, the shoulder was good.”

Foster’s tumble to the back end of the first round was widely blamed on his shoulder condition. The 49ers traded with the Seattle Seahawks to select Foster with the No. 31 overall pick. Almost immediately, the 49ers were scrutinized for making the selection.

ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported some teams did not even consider drafting Foster. One “well-placed source with knowledge of the injury” told Schefter that Foster’s surgery “didn’t take.”

The 49ers’ willingness to clear Foster for the first day of camp is a reality that appears to be in stark contrast to the opinions around the league that Foster’s shoulder would require additional surgery. The 49ers expect Foster to be ready Sunday for the first padded, contact practice of training camp.

“We pride ourselves in doing all of our due diligence, not afterward, but before we make the decisions,” Lynch said. “We’d done exhaustive research on Reuben Foster in a lot of different areas. Medically was one area.”

Coach Kyle Shanahan said he the nature of Foster’s injury convinced him that even the worst-case scenario, in the big picture, was not so bad. Foster sustained a torn rotator cuff in Alabama’s national semifinal game against Washington and played the championship game against Clemson with the injury.

“I was proud of our doctors for putting themselves out there and giving their honest opinion about what they felt,” Shanahan said. “They feel it is healed, and it’s going to be good. I respect them for doing that. They went against the norm on that, and that isn’t always easy.

“(I’m) pretty confident when it is a shoulder injury, if it doesn’t heal the right way or it’s done wrong, you have to re-do a surgery, yes, it’s time, but it’s not going to affect the guy we saw on tape.”