The 49ers had a very successful free agency period because of how well they did retaining their own top free agents. While there’ll surely be more additions and subtractions throughout the offseason, there are a number of players still available on the free agent market that could help San Francisco improve their roster before the draft.
Cornerback depth is still a need, though they’ll likely address that in the draft. Defensive end is another glaring weakness on the roster, and this year’s draft class is not deep enough that the 49ers can easily find an impact player on Day 2 or 3.
Fortunately for San Francisco a few defensive ends are available who could help the club in 2021. They headline our list of free agents the 49ers should kick tires on this offseason:
DE Melvin Ingram
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It’s a bit of a surprise Ingram is still available. He’s dealt with some injury problems that limited him to only 20 games the last two years, but he’s been incredibly productive when he does play. He has 49 career sacks in 113 games, and hadn’t had fewer than 7.0 since 2014. Ingram didn’t notch a sack in seven games in 2020. A rotational edge rush role in the vein of Dee Ford could suit Ingram though if he’s looking for one more big payday next offseason, and the 49ers could provide that opportunity.
DE Ryan Kerrigan
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The four-time Pro Bowler is past his prime and a year older than Ingram, but he still posted 11 sacks in 28 games over the last two years. Kerrigan has already transitioned to a rotational role on a good defensive line, and he’d fit in nicely as a productive veteran presence in a group that needs some depth.
DE Everson Griffen
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Griffen turns 34 in December and his days as a productive every-down player are well behind him. Given what the 49ers are working with at the defensive end spot going into the draft though, a veteran who put up 6.0 sacks in 14 games with two teams last year wouldn’t be a bad addition on a one-year flier.
DE Alex Okafor
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Okafor just turned 30 and he’s never been a super productive pass rusher. His career-high in sacks is 8.0 and that came during his second NFL season in 2014. However, he’d fit in nicely in a Ronald Blair-type role where he can fill a number of responsibilities on the defensive line on top of working as a pass rusher. The 49ers are aiming to re-sign Blair per NBC Sports Bay Area, but Okafor would be a nice alternative if the deal with Blair falls through.
CB Casey Hayward
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Cornerback became a less pressing need with the returns of Jason Verrett, Emmanuel Moseley and K’Waun Williams. That group hasn’t been the picture of health and consistency though, which makes a productive veteran like Hayward a worthwhile add. He may not start, but having him in reserve in the event Verrett or Moseley is unavailable would be good insurance the 49ers don’t have.
OL Ben Garland
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San Francisco should bring back Garland so he can fulfill the role he was supposed to fill – a versatile, reserve offensive lineman who can start in a pinch. The 49ers wound up needing him to be a full-time starting center, which is suboptimal. Having his versatility as a reserve would help San Francisco’s offensive line depth immensely.