The NFL’s official signing period for free agents begins Thursday.
With more than $95 million in cap space, the 49ers have the second-most in the league behind the Cleveland Browns. So, they’re expected to be incredibly active as they overhaul a 2-14 roster.
That rebuild under new general manager John Lynch and head coach Kyle Shanahan has already begun with the team cutting wide receiver Torrey Smith on Tuesday morning. The move cleared $4.675 million in 2017 cap, according to Spotrac.
Smith caught just 53 passes over two seasons for the 49ers after signing a five-year, $40 million deal in 2015.
I would like to say thank you to the @49ers for allowing me to wear red and gold for the last 2 seasons. It didn’t go the way we wanted it to but I’m thankful for the relationships I was able to build. I had a great time in the locker room with my teammates and equipment staff. I’d like to apologize to the fans because you didn’t get to see me at my best. Regardless of what other may think, I believe the 49ers organization is first class and is heading in the right direction. I would like to say thanks to my man Dan…Bob..and all of the PR staff for showing love to my family. Furgie, the training staff and doctors for taking care of me. The community relations team is arguably the best in the country! I appreciate you all for allowing us to be a part of it and I will continue to support any way I can…it’s a million other folks I need to thank…from Hannah to Joanne..T Lloyd and Lil Kym…but I don’t have enough time. Jed keep up the great work I know how important it is to you to succeed. All the best to my boys and the new regime. One final shoutout to the janitors and the chef’s y’all were always great to me. Good luck next year. Stay Blessed!!!
Smith was a great presence in the locker room and by all accounts, one of the good guys in the NFL. He was the 49ers’ selection for the Walter Payton Man of the Year Award and was one of a handful of players to greet Shanahan and Lynch when they arrived in Santa Clara. Basically, there’s a reason Lynch said he has “tremendous class” in the news release announcing Smith was cut.
But the team can’t continue to pay for the mistakes of the former regime. And at that price tag, it was hard to justify Smith’s spot on the 49ers. He’s a good receiver who will make an impact on the right team with a good quarterback. The Niners aren’t that.
The new braintrust will have to replace his talent somehow. It’ll be with a mix of rookies and free agents. And apparently, one of their first priorities was adding Pierre Garcon, an older but solid receiver who can add depth, as reported Wednesday.
Here are the three most intriguing pick-ups the 49ers have been rumored to be talking to:
1. Alshon Jeffery
If he didn’t struggle to stay on the field — he’s missed 11 games over the last two seasons due to injury or suspension — he’d cost too much. But, he’s the most talented receiver available and would be a true No. 1 for the 49ers, who haven’t had someone in that role for almost a decade.
2. Terrelle Pryor
He’s young and a converted quarterback, but he did have more than 1,000 receiving yards last season, catching passes from truly bad passers. Pryor has the kind of potential Shanahan and Lynch should target because they’ll be around for a while and will be allowed the patience to let Pryor grow.
3. Kenny Britt
Britt will be 29 years old in 2017, and that should be as old as the 49ers should consider during their rebuild. But, he had a career year in 2016 and that was for the Los Angeles Rams, the only team the 49ers beat.
The most shocking stat about Stills: He’s 25 years old. Stills is a big-play threat, averaging 17.3 yards per catch last season and could fill the same role Taylor Gabriel played for Shanahan last season on the Falcons.
Injuries forced Woods into a more prominent role in the Bills’ offense and he proved he’s a sure-handed receiver who can keep drives alive. He’s also 25 and could validate himself as a second-round talent with a fresh start with a new organization.
Another high pick that hasn’t delivered on expectations. But he’s also young and a proven, electric kick returner. He may never be a major threat in the passing game, but he’s still worth a gamble.
Guys the 49ers should avoid
1. Josh Gordon
Gordon’s talent is undeniable, but it’s unclear when he’ll be available to play and if he’ll be able to avoid trouble when he is. He could end up being great for a team with proven leadership, but with rookies up and down the 49ers coaching staff roster, he seems like too big of a reclamation project.
2. Brandon Marshall
He’s going to be 33 in March. By the time the 49ers are competitive, he won’t be worth his contract.
3. Ted Ginn
Too old, too shaky a pass catcher.
Check out the Examiner’s guide to the 49ers’ quarterback search:
And remember, big changes are coming:
— Chris Wesseling (@ChrisWesseling) March 7, 2017