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The 49ers don’t have to break the bank to improve the team. While names like Earl Thomas and Le’Veon Bell dance through the minds of 49ers fans everywhere, there are many more players hitting free agency that may help the team at positions of need while providing salary cap flexibility.
Adrian Amos - Safety
Amos is hitting free agency after having the best season of his four-year career. He’s been a fixture in Chicago’s secondary since being selected in the fifth round of the 2015 draft and blossomed into a game changer under former defensive coordinator Vic Fangio. Amos finished the season with 65 tackles and three interceptions, both career highs. According to Pro Football Focus he was ranked at the seventh best safety in coverage with a grade of 85.5, and an overall grade of 82.7, good for eighth overall. Amos will be heading into his age 26 season and while he may command more money than Earl Thomas on the open market, he is four years younger and doesn’t bring along the injury concerns.
Pierre Desir – Cornerback
Desir has bounced around during his five-year career, playing for three different teams over that span and not really catching on until this season. Coming into 2018 Desir signed a one-year, $1.75 million “prove it” contract with the Indianapolis Colts. He delivered his best year as a pro, playing 1,055 total snaps with 681 of those in coverage. He turned those numbers into a 77.7 score from PFF, good for 17th in the league at cornerback. Desir has the size the 49ers covet at the cornerback position, coming in at 6’1”, 198 pounds. He could likely be brought in on a low-value contract and push Ahkello Witherspoon and Tarvarius Moore for the spot opposite Richard Sherman.
Jordan Hicks – Linebacker
Hicks is a rangy inside linebacker that has been a centerpiece to a very good Philadelphia Eagles defense over the last four years. With his 4.68 40-yard dash and 6.78 3-cone, he possesses the speed and agility to play either the Mike or Will position in Robert Saleh’s defense. Hicks has been an elite talent at linebacker during his career, finishing with a PFF score of 76 or higher in three of his four seasons in the NFL. While he hasn’t had an interception in the last two seasons, he’s amassed seven interceptions through his career and has shown himself to be more then capable of covering both running backs and tight ends in space. The downside with Hicks is his availability, he’s played 16 games only once in his career and battled an Achilles and calf injury last season. Hicks is a high risk/high reward option at linebacker, while his injury history is something to be considered, it could also drive his price down and offer the type of value signing the team is looking for.
Andy Levitre – Guard
The 49ers recently re-signed right guard Mike Person to a three-year, $9 million contract. Person was an effective right guard last year and adds value as a backup to center Weston Richburg.
Richburg had offseason surgery on his knee and quad and is expected to be a full go by the time training camp starts. If not, then Person is expected to fill in, and this is where Levitre could come in. Levitre is coming off a 2018 season where he was limited to just two games with a triceps injury, but prior to that, Levitre had a long and productive career in the NFL, playing 10 seasons and dropping below a PFF grade of 70 only once. He played two years under Shanahan in Atlanta and is familiar with his outside zone running scheme. With his age, and coming off an injury-shortened 2018, the team could conceivably sign Levitre to a modest contract to compete with Person for the right guard position and not invest too much money into the two players with their combined salaries.
The 49ers roster isn’t as far away as their 4-12 record last season would suggest. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t holes to fill, but in doing so it’s important to remember that it’s unrealistic to sign the best player at every position. There are budget players that provide value that the team can chase this offseason, so what they have the money to land the big ticket players when they’re available.
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