• Bret Rumbeck

What’s Left in Free Agency: Potential Offensive Targets Still Available to 49ers

Image Credit: Matt Stone/Boston Herald

Building a Team with a Box of Scraps

Everyone kept asking you for razor blades. Actually, he had two unused ones which he was hoarding up. There had been a famine of them for months past. At any given moment there was some necessary article which the Party shops were unable to supply. Sometimes it was buttons, sometimes it was darning wool, sometimes it was shoelaces; at present it was razor blades. You could only get hold of them, if at all, by scrounging more or less furtively on the 'free' market.

George Orwell. 1984. Part 1, Ch. 5.

Scrounging is an apt word for the second and third wave of NFL free agency.

Too often, the days after the start of free agency is more like standing in a Soviet breadline than a Las Vegas dinner buffet. A few lucky teams get the top tier players, while the remainder of the league stands out shivering in the frozen Siberian night.

“How about this breadline, Comrade?” asks one general manager to another.

“Maybe there’s something hiding back in the pantry. A heel of bread, or a few potatoes. Possibly a sack of flour. Something nobody knows about,” replies the other general manager, nearly hallucinating from the pangs of starvation.

For example, any team now in need of a free agent quarterback is better off signing a sixth grade Pop Warner phenom. The idea of a general manager and head coach trying to sell Mark Sanchez as a “much-needed addition to the roster who will make us a better team” is insulting.

Fortunately for the San Francisco 49ers, the team does not require Sanchez’s “talent.”

It may feel like the 49ers are standing in an icy Russian winter, but the team still can bring in quality free agents to pack the roster.

Here are three available players the 49ers should consider signing.

Guard Josh Sitton

Ten-year veteran guard Josh Sitton has been a consistent pass blocker for the bulk of his career. In 2013 and 2014, he earned pass blocking grades of 93.6 and 94.9 from Pro Football Focus, playing over 2,300 snaps. He also earned First Team All-Pro honors in 2014.

Last season with Miami, Sitton played in one game before being placed on injured reserve due to a torn rotator cuff.

I understand the rumors that he may end up playing for the Jets, but he checks off all the boxes that 49er executives love: he’s coming off of injured reserve, he’s on the back-end of his career, and his skill set isn’t as good as it was a few years ago.

Give this man a contract!

Like it or not, the 49ers need to continue to improve the interior offensive line. At worse, Sitton beats out Najee Toran and Erik Magnuson and ends up as the backup guard. At best, he outplays current guard Mike Person during the preseason and starts 16 games for the 49ers.

Quarterback Tom Savage

The 49ers have a small back-up quarterback controversy simmering softly on the stove. Nick Mullens outplayed third-year quarterback C.J. Beathard in the latter half of the 2018 season, but not all of Mullens’ play was due to talent.

I do not want Tom Savage to be a 49er. I do want head coach and offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan to challenge Beathard during training camp, and Savage is the right man for the job.

Beathard often looked lost in Shanahan’s offense, with slow reads and feet looking as if they were trapped in the Molasses Swamp.

Mullens brought leadership into the huddle and on the field. Beathard does not give off the vibration that he wants to be a leader of men. Sure, he’s tough as nails, but I do not see the same commanding presence that Mullens brings.

Tom Savage is not a good quarterback, but he’s good enough to show up and try and earn a roster spot.

Wide Receiver Chris Hogan

Sometime in April 1997, an incredibly gorgeous girl decided that she wanted to talk to me. Not just talk, but listen and walk around with me. Of course, I did nothing about it because there was no way a woman who ran the 200-meter hurdles wanted to hear me ramble about the greatness of Pearl Jam.

Five years later, she and I got reacquainted, and she asked me in a puzzled tone why I didn’t ask her out back then.

A similar situation exists between the 49ers and veteran wide receiver Chris Hogan.

The 49ers signed Hogan as an undrafted free agent in late July 2011. In typical 49er fashion, the coaching staff couldn’t figure out how to use or develop Hogan, so the team released him on September 3, 2011. Hogan bounced around for a few years, and until latching on with the Buffalo Bills and the New England Patriots.

In typical Patriot fashion, the coaching staff figured out how to develop Hogan and made him into an intermediate and deep threat.

Indeed, Hogan averages 32 catches per year for an average of 435 yards and 3 touchdowns. These are not earth-shattering numbers. But adding Hogan certainly brings a different threat to the wide receiver corps.

The 49ers have speed in Marquise Goodwin, an insane route runner in Dante Pettis and an underneath slot receiver in Trent Taylor. What’s missing is an X-receiver who can out out-muscle a defensive back for a jump ball. Hogan fits that profile to the letter.

We still have a lot of time between now and the start of training camp, which means the 49ers can continue to find the right players to fill the roster.

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