49ers five biggest offseason needs

San Francisco 49ers tight end George Kittle catches a pass during the second half of the NFC Championship NFL football game between the Philadelphia Eagles and the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday, Jan. 29, 2023, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

The open tampering period of NFL free agency begins on Monday. Here is how I rank the 49ers top position of need and why.

5.) Center

Jake Brendel stepped into the 49ers starting lineup in 2022 and didn’t miss a game. Brendel is set to be an unrestricted free agent and may end up outside San Francisco’s price range.

If they lose Brendel, San Francisco will be without a true center on their roster.

Nick Zakelj and Jason Poe are two options currently signed with the team. A sixth-round pick in 2022, Zakelj was a four-year starter at tackle for Fordham. He spent time during his rookie season working at center and guard.

Poe dazzled scouts during last years Senior Bowl and scouting combine with his athleticism. Listed at 6’1”, Poe is shorter than a prototypical NFL offensive lineman. However, he drew rave reviews from Trent Williams after the two worked out together last offseason. Poe more than held his own throughout training camp and preseason while playing guard, earning a spot on the 49ers practice squad.

Another internal option for San Francisco would be to re-sign Daniel Brunskill. Brunskill has made starts at every position along the line of scrimmage since joining the 49ers in 2019.

4.) Right Tackle

Starting right tackle Mike McGlinchey is set to become one of the most sought-after players in free agency, likely placing him out of San Francisco’s price range.

“Could he miss his market? Sure,”49ers general manager John Lynch said from the NFL scouting combine in Indianapolis. “Then would we be interested? Of course we would. But I don’t see that happening. I see him being a coveted player.”

The 49ers have Colton McKivitz and Jaylon Moore on the roster as potential replacements.

McKivitz has made just five starts in three years with the 49ers. While he would be a step down from McGlinchey, San Francisco has a track record of being able to make due with unheralded linemen.

Daniel Brunskill was mentioned as a possibility at center, and he could be an option at right tackle as well. Brunskill made seven starts at right tackle for the 49ers in 2019.

3.) Defensive End

Finding a pass rusher who can get to the quarterback opposite Nick Bosa is one of the 49ers top priorities this offseason. Bosa recorded a career high 18.5 sacks in 2022. The next closest 49er was Samson Ebukam with five.

Aside from Bosa, the only defensive end returning for San Francisco is Drake Jackson.

The 2022 second round draft pick had three sacks in the first six games. From there it was all downhill for Jackson who was not active for any of San Francisco’s playoff games.

2.) Tight End

George Kittle is one of the best tight ends in the game. From there the cupboard is pretty bare for the 49ers. Charlie Woerner is the only other tight end signed for 2023. A sixth-round selection in 2020, Woerner had two targets in 201 offensive snaps this past season, he dropped both of them.

With Ross Dwelley and Tyler Kroft set to be free agents San Francisco needs to add a few tight ends to the roster.

1.) Safety

Safety is the only position where the 49ers don’t have a young player waiting to step into the starting lineup.

Jimmie Ward lost his starting spot to Tashaun Gipson last season. Once he recovered from a hamstring injury suffered in training camp Ward spent the year playing in the slot. Both are pending free agents.

San Francisco does have George Odum returning. However, the veteran safety has made just ten career starts. Odum earned second team All-Pro honors in his first season with the 49ers for his play on special teams.

Bonus: Kicker

Robbie Gould told Adam Schefter over the weekend that he will test free agency and be kicking for a new team in 2023. Gould has never missed a kick in the postseason.

The last time the 49ers won a Super Bowl they had a rookie kicker.

This article has 11 Comments

  1. Jack,
    I’m surprised no DT, other than Kinlaw they have no one who is a run stuffer on the roster. In my opinion H. Ridgeway is an excellent run stopper and pushes the pocket reasonably but he is a FA and if signed he is a rotational player who is good for no more than 18-20 plays. I would put the need for a DT over TE and possibly even S as long as they sign Gipson. I believe how you rate the need for DE or DT is who do you like more D. Jackson or K. Davis. I believe that they can fill the needs at TE, C, S and PK through the draft and or by players already on the roster. I think they need to fill the needs at RT, DE and DT through FA.

    1. I think production at the DT position can be made up for in the aggregate. I mean sure it’s nice to have the versatility of a 3 down player that can stuff the run and rush the passer. That was the intention with Kinlaw. But the reality is that for most teams that’s a luxury. Run stuffers like Ridgway can be found fairly easily. Muarice Hurst is another possibility (assuming he’s comeback from a bicep injury)Pass rush production can come from rotating in power Ends like they did with Omenihu and Kevin Givens (who I think was originally an End?) and maybe Willis (if they resign him) can be rotated inside in a pass rush package.

  2. Center- I’m not sold on JB having done enough to command a big payday. I trust the FO if they believe Poe or someone else on the roster can fill in. Last year we were fretting not just the C position, but also both Guard spots…….it turned out to be just fine.
    RT- Same as above, it will probably someone on the roster. Im sure we will draft someone…..but rookies usually sit for a year. MM likely priced his way out. If we were to break the bank on the RT position…..id rather spend it on Orlando Brown. However he might cost closer to Trent Williams $$……and probably wouldn’t play RT, only LT. Could probably get an accomplished vet for less than MM will command if were not comfortable with in house options. Cap casualties, aging vets, ring chasers etc.
    D-end- there are MANY accomplished pass rushers about to hit the market! Clark, Floyd , Dupree just a few names i heard yesterday. I wouldn’t be surprised if this is where we splurge in free agency. Bring in a guy to teach and rotate with Drake Jackson.
    TE- i keep hearing how this draft is stacked with good TE’s! We will draft 1-2 for sure. Will we trade up to do so???
    S- im hearing Jesse Bates might be our FA target. It makes sense. He wont be tagged, the Bengals drafted his replacement last year. He might not be the tackler JWard is…..but he excels in coverage and is a ball hawk! He is only 25. It makes sense to spend a little more $….to get a player that is better and much younger.

    1. I don’t think Brendel will get a big pay day. I think he’ll probably get $2M-$3M as an adequate starter at a position of need in the NFL. So something like $12M /3Yrs/$4M guaranteed with a $800K cap hit in the first year.

  3. There’s lots of talk about Zakelj and Poe. But both have yet to even take a snap (or in this case snap the ball) at Center in a game. At least McKivitz and Moore have actually played Right Tackle in games as backups.

    Isn’t Brunskill’s best position at Guard and maybe swing tackle? Burford is still a liability. I’d rather have Brunskill in there at Guard.

    PFF Scores
    Trent Williams – 93.0
    Mike McGlinchey – 71.5 (free agent)
    Colton McKivitz – 69.3
    Daniel Brunskill – 69 (free agent)
    Jaylon Moore – 66.3
    Jake Brendel – 64.9 (free agent)
    Aaron Banks – 62.7
    Spencer Burford – 49.6
    Jason Poe – N/A
    Alfredo Gutierrez – N/A

  4. I think resigning Ridgeway is one of the most important FA signings. After he was injured the run D suffered. He won’t cost much. I think they should sign/draft another big run stopper to go along with HR. Then they should sign Arden Key, he should come cheap and he could rotate on passing downs inside with K. Davis. On the O line I think Brunskill should start at either C or RG but I don’t think they have anyone on the roster to replace McGlinchey. At S resign Gipson, resign and move Moseley to nickle and have him compete with Womack. Draft a couple of S to backup Gipson and Hufanga. If they resign/sign those players they should draft.
    2 TEs
    2 S
    1 OT
    1 DE
    1 DT
    1 PK
    1 OLB
    1 QB
    Not in that order

  5. Don’t you think Quarterback is the 49er’s biggest offseason need? Either QB1 or QB2.

    I don’t care if the pie in the sky projections have Purdy coming back at the beginning of the season. He isn’t going to be ready. He won’t have taken any meaningful snaps when he comes back. He will not have been part of training camp and preseason. In fact, I think the 49ers will be lucky if he’s ready in October….lucky! And even then you can’t expect the guy to come in cold because he’s been recovering from an injury. He came in last year after spending his time in practice actually playing QB and throwing the ball.

    Whoever the 49ers consider as an additional QB in 2023 has to be considered as a challenger for Lance as the starter and/or be willing to sit behind Lance. Purdy’s time will come. I can see him sliding in there later in the season….especially with the 49er’s history of going through QBs.

    1. If Purdy has the brace operation, he will likely be physically ready by the start of the regular season and he’ll be either the 1 or the 2. In this case they just need a cheap but experienced 3. This is the mostly scenario. We should know soon.

  6. This column of these ‘big off-season needs’..and the next column about the 9ers needing to go all in on Lamar Jackson?…. really? Yeah, let’s sign Jackson to a yacht full of money contract, and give up draft choices…then play him behind a line minus a Center and RT…makes complete sense to me

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