Potential free agent targets for 49ers
Lynch starting his work early
The NFL’s free-agent signing period begins March 9, and the 49ers figure to be far-more active than they were a year ago under then-GM Trent Baalke.
In fact, new 49ers GM John Lynch has already added two veterans with NFL experience – players who had been released and were available to sign before the start of the new league year. The 49ers filled a need on the defensive line with the signing of defensive tackle Earl Mitchell to a four-year, $16 million contract.
Here are five other players the 49ers could target when free agency begins:
RB Chris Thompson, Washington
Thompson, 26, was a fifth-round draft pick while Mike Shanahan was Washington’s head coach and Kyle Shanahan was the offensive coordinator. He played in four games as a rookie as a return specialist.
He is a restricted free agent because he was cut prior to the 2014 season (when the Shanahans were gone). He was re-signed late in the season but is not accredited with an accrued season.
Thompson (5 foot 8, 195 pounds) is a nice fit as a third-down back in Shanahan’s scheme to go along with Carlos Hyde. He carried 68 times for 356 yards and two TDs last season, but is a valuable pass-catcher out of the backfield with 49 receptions for 349 yards.
LB Keenan Robinson, N.Y. Giants
He was a fourth-round pick of Washington in 2012, but sustained some injuries that set back his career. In 2014, he recorded 109 tackles in 13 starts in Washington.
Robinson, who turns 28 in July, had a strong season with the Giants last season. (New 49ers defensive line coach Jeff Zgonina was the Giants assistant defensive line coach last season.)
The 49ers need help at inside linebacker. Robinson (6-3, 238) had a strong season as the middle linebacker in the Giants’ sub packages, but he could easily become an every down player for the 49ers.
WR Pierre Garcon, Washington
Garcon turns 31 in August, but he showed he still has something left. He is coming off the second 1,000-yard season of his nine-year NFL career.
His best season came in 2013 when Kyle Shanahan was Washington’s offensive coordinator. He caught 113 passes for 1,346 yards and five touchdowns. Garcon is a good complement to Torrey Smith, who would be the speed threat on the other side.
Garcon can also help mentor any young receivers the 49ers might select in the draft because of his knowledge of Shanahan’s system.
QB Matt Schaub, Atlanta
The 49ers will unquestionably be looking to add quarterbacks via all available options: free agency, trade and the draft. Regardless of whatever moves are made at this position, Schaub would appear to fit.
He turns 36 in June, so he would not be considered a long-term starter. He might not even be a short-term starter. But Schaub knows Shanahan’s system. He had his best seasons under Shanahan with the Houston Texans.
He could be the backup to a veteran. He could be the backup to a rookie. He could even be the bridge starter until a young player is ready to take over. The 49ers need somebody for this role. Schaub and Brian Hoyer are the most logicial options.
DE Jabaal Sheard, New England
Aside from quarterback, the 49ers’ biggest position of need is pass-rusher. Since the club parted ways with Aldon Smith, the 49ers have not been able to generate any consistent pressure on opposing quarterbacks.
The 49ers have some good pieces for the defensive line with DeForest Buckner, Arik Armstead, Quinton Dial and Mitchell. But what they lack is a pass-rusher. Shanahan and 49ers defensive backs coach Jeff Hafley know Sheard from their time together with the Browns in 2014.
Sheard, who turns 28 in May, has 36 career sacks in six NFL seasons. At 6-3, 265 pounds, Sheard would fit the 49ers’ scheme as an edge pass-rusher who is five years younger than Ahmad Brooks.