The San Francisco 49ers have arguably the worst roster in football. It’s a wonder how they won even two games last season. It’s now Kyle Shanahan's and John Lynch’s turn to try to take a terrible team and make it one that can compete in the often-competitive NFC West.
They have the second-most cap space at $92 million, so bringing in a top-flight free agent or two is certainly a possibility. They need a receiver, defensive tackle and offensive linemen, all of which are fairly deep positions in this year’s free-agency crop.
Here are five players they should target this week when the market opens.
CB Stephon Gilmore (Bills)
The 49ers have discussed moving Jimmie Ward to safety, which leaves them even thinner at cornerback. Tramaine Brock and Rashard Robinson figure to be starters, but beyond that, they’re not very good in the secondary. Gilmore is one of the two best corners on the market and is a true No. 1 cornerback. He can match up with top receivers on the outside, something the 49ers don’t currently have on defense. Gilmore is also a willing tackler, which certainly helps hold receivers to minimal yards after the catch, as well as limiting running backs’ yardage on the edge.
OLB Nick Perry (Packers)
Ahmad Brooks is 32 years old and isn’t a pure pass rusher, and Aaron Lynch is hardly a dominant presence on the right side. The 49ers need that dynamic pass rusher to set the edge and get after the quarterback – something they haven’t had in some time. Perry has had one great season in the NFL, but he’s still just 26 years old and is just now entering his prime. With the 49ers’ big defensive line in front of him, he'd figure to see a number of one-on-one opportunities.
Andrew Weber-USA TODAY SportsAndrew Weber
WR Alshon Jeffery (Bears)
The 49ers re-signed Jeremy Kerley, but that hardly solves their woes at wide receiver. They need a big alpha who can handle bigger corners on the outside and make plays on the ball on 50-50 throws. Jeffery is going to be the most expensive receiver on the market, but fortunately for the 49ers they have money to spend. Jeffery would immediately make the entire offense substantially better, assuming he can stay healthy and on the field. Jeffery, Kerley and a draft pick would give San Francisco’s next quarterback a good receiving unit.
Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY SportsJeff Hanisch
NT Brandon Williams (Ravens)
San Francisco’s run defense was the worst in the league, allowing 2,654 yards on the ground – nearly 400 more yards than any other team. Williams is arguably the best run-stuffing defensive tackle on the market and would be a huge addition for the 49ers at nose tackle. He would free up linebackers behind him and command more attention on the interior, giving San Francisco’s edge rushers more one-on-one opportunities. The 49ers have Arik Armstead and DeForest Buckner, but neither plays nose tackle. Williams does.
G Kevin Zeitler (Bengals)
The 49ers need help on the offensive line, and outside of Joe Staley at left tackle, at just about every position could use attention. Zeitler is the top available guard this offseason, and being as young as he is (27 on March 8), he’s going to be expensive. Even if he gets $10 million to $12 million, he’s worth it. Zeitler is the type of player who can solidify an offensive line for years to come. The 49ers are going to need a strong line for their next quarterback – presumed to be a rookie – so Zeitler would be a good first step in that department.