Harbaugh: 'It feels great to have that many draft picks'
The feeling at the NFL owners meetings was that this draft could yield five or six safeties capable of starting as rookies. (USA TODAY IMAGES)
The 49ers have returning starters or have added a clear-cut option at all but one position.
Only free safety remains as a spot without an obvious answer among the players already on the 49ers' roster. And it's looking more and more as if the most serious challenger for a starting job will be added in five weeks during the NFL draft.
The 49ers have an opportunity to pile up at least one immediate starter at safety and several future starters in the draft with five selections within the first 93 picks. The feeling at the NFL owners meetings was that this draft could yield five or six safeties capable of starting as rookies.
"Our position is unique and real positive," 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh said. "We have 14 picks in the upcoming draft. It's an opportunity to really have an inflection point for our organization.
"So (general manager) Trent Baalke has to be on his 'A' game. This could make you. You could be the next Bill Polian, the next Ozzie Newsome. It all hinges on this draft. So it's exciting. Every one of those picks is going to be crucial."
The 49ers have $4.46 million in salary cap space, a league source said Friday, so the 49ers do not appear willing to invest a whole lot of money in any free agent. Plus, there are a dearth of free agents available at this point who will warrant a lucrative contract.
The league-wide interest in veteran cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha and safety Charles Woodson has been lukewarm, at best. The 49ers visited with both players a week ago. They remain unsigned. Even if one or both of those players ended up with the 49ers, there are no guarantees of starting positions. Asomugha also visited the New Orleans Saints. Woodson has not taken any other visits.
The 49ers are in line to return their top five cornerbacks. Carlos Rogers, Tarell Brown, Chris Culliver and Perrish Cox are under contract. Tramaine Brock has been tendered at $1.323 million on a one-year tender as a restricted free agent.
As Baalke told CSNBayArea.com this week, "We don't make promises. We don't make guarantees. We look at it like, 'We're bringing you in to compete.' You will earn that role on this team through competition. That's with every player."
The 49ers have a need for depth at several positions. Defensive end Israel Idonije is an option, reports Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network. The Chicago Bears are attempting to re-sign Idonije, and Rapoport reports, the Bears must "fight off the 49ers to make it happen."
Idonije is represented by agent Drew Rosenhaus, who was seen speaking with 49ers representatives throughout the week at the NFL owners meetings in Phoenix. Idonije, 32, recorded 7.5 sacks last season for the Bears.
Justin Smith, who faces another two months of rehabilitation after triceps surgery, and Ray McDonald appear set as the starters on the defensive line on either side of presumptive starting nose tackle Glenn Dorsey.