American Football

49ers free agency wishlist at each position of need:


San Francisco 49ers v Arizona Cardinals
Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images

Is it time to scrap the Moneyball approach opposite of Bosa?

With the excitement and buzz around the NFL Combine, it’s easy to forget that free agency opens in just over a week. The 49ers currently don’t have much cap space, approximately $8 million, but will likely create more space through restructures to address their needs through free agency before filling out the roster in the draft.

With plenty of options in free agency for the 49ers to improve, these are the best-case scenario signings at each position of need:

Quarterback: Andy Dalton

The best-case scenario at quarterback for the 49ers is not having to worry about who the QB2 – or QB3… or QB4 – is again. With Trey Lance and Brock Purdy having a combined 17 games played between the two, Kyle Shanahan will likely want to bring in a veteran presence.

Look no further than Dalton. Shanahan was reportedly upset the 49ers couldn’t land the veteran when the Bears signed Dalton before the 2021 season, but will get another chance in the upcoming market.

Dalton has been a backup since leaving the Bengals in 2021, playing in 33 games in the last three seasons with the Cowboys, Bears, and Saints. His numbers haven’t been the worst, throwing for 40 touchdowns and 26 interceptions over those 33 games, with a passer rating of 87.9.

With his experience as a starter and backup, Dalton would be the safest option behind Lance to open the season.

Right tackle: Mike McGlinchey

What better option is there than to keep the status quo? McGlinchey ranked as the 12th-best free agent and best right tackle available, according to Gregg Rosenthal of He’s been the 49ers’ right tackle when healthy since the 49ers used the ninth overall pick on the Notre Dame product in the 2017 draft, and turned into a more than serviceable NFL tackle.

McGlinchey will hit the market for the first time in his career, after he played 2022 under the fifth-year option, and will generate plenty of interest. With Shanahan-style offenses like the Packers, Jets, and Dolphins in need of a tackle, the 49ers might be priced out in the McGlinchey market but should do what they can to retain him.

Defensive tackle: Dre’Mont Jones

Daron Payne would have been the option here before the Commanders placed the franchise tag on him, but Jones shouldn’t be considered a consolation prize.

The 49ers have favored run-stopping defensive tackles since trading DeForest Buckner like Javon Kinlaw, Arik Armstead, and D.J. Jones, but it’s time to add another pass-rusher into the mix.

Jones will enter his age-26 season in 2023 and will hit the market after leading the Broncos with 6.5 sacks despite missing the last four games last season due to a hip injury.

The 49ers had a combined three sacks from their defensive tackles last season, two from Kevin Givens and one from Hassan Ridgeway, and Jones’ presence alone would give the 49ers a viable pass rush option in the middle.

The Broncos can still place the franchise tag on Jones and even if they don’t, his market will be plentiful with a projected contract worth $17 million annually, according to Spotrac. With the 49ers likely trying to replace Kinlaw, Jones’ age and talent will be appealing.

Edge: Zach Allen

The 49ers have taken a Moneyball approach across from Nick Bosa, getting production out of low-cost moves such as Samson Ebukam, Charles Omenihu, and Arden Key. Bringing in Allen would be the end of that.

The Cardinals selected Allen 63 picks after the 49ers took Bosa in the 2019 NFL Draft, with 11.5 sacks and 84 pressures in 45 career games played. Allen’s projected market could fetch him a three-year deal worth $9.3 million annually, likely to be within the 49ers’ price range when free agency opens. With Allen entering his age-26 season just like Bosa, Kris Koucerk would have the chance to mold the duo into one of the better pass-rushing duos in the league.

Safety: Jessie Bates III

If the 49ers do make a splash move in free agency, Bates might be the option. The 49ers had an interest in Bates last offseason, but never got the chance to pursue him after the Bengals placed the franchise tag on the safety.

After years of having coverage safeties like Jimmie Ward and Jaquiski Tartt, the 49ers have emphasized having more ball hawk types in the secondary. The 49ers let Tartt walk last offseason in favor of Talanoa Hufanga and moved Ward to slot cornerback in favor of Tashaun Gipson. The move worked, with Hufanga and Gipson combining for nine interceptions last season, one more than Tartt and Ward combined for from 2015 to 2021.

Bates’ 14 interceptions since entering the league in 2018 are the ninth-most in that span for safeties, with a career-high four interceptions in 2022. His most valuable asset to the 49ers might be his clean bill of health, only missing three games over his five seasons at a position the 49ers have struggled to stay healthy at.

He won’t come cheap with a projected $14 million average value, per Spotrac, but he could be the final piece on an already good defense, making the price well worth it.

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