Free agency kicks off Feb. 27, but the 49ers can solidify their plan of attack on Thursday. That is the deadline for teams to designate their “franchise player.” So the 49ers will know which players will and will not be available later this week.
GM Scot McCloughan believes the free-agent signing period is for filling needs. The draft, he has said, is a time when he wants to select the best players. Maybe later, such as the fifth, sixth and seventh rounds, a team can reach a little at a position of need, he says.
As close as I can tell, the 49ers have a little more than $25 million in salary cap room, and that’s before the club saves money with the release of tackle Jonas Jennings and the new contract (or release) of quarterback Alex Smith. That should create another $10 million.
The 49ers will have to hold back about $12 million for draft picks and insurance, but that still gives them plenty of money to make a free-agent splash.
One thing I had not considered until now: New team president Jed York is going to want to be aggressive. This is his first offseason in charge, and it does not seem to be his nature to sit back and watch. He is going to want to create some excitement around the team before the draft, so perhaps we should expect the unexpected.
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The event, which is for season-ticket holders, is sold out. But it will also be available for viewing on a live webcast at 49ers.com.
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Thus far, only a couple potential unrestricted free agents have received the franchise tag. The Giants have franchised RB Brandon Jacobs, and the Patriots did the same with QB Matt Cassel.
The 49ers have no reason to use their franchise tag. But there are plenty of teams around the league that have decisions to make that could affect the 49ers, such as . . .
–Panthers: Will they franchise DE Julius Peppers, who wants to play OLB in a 3-4 scheme? Peppers said he will demand a trade if the Panthers use the tag on him. If the Panthers do not franchise Peppers, they might slap the designation on OT Jordan Gross.
WR T.J. Houshmandzadeh might be a player of interest to the 49ers, but the Bengals have the option of tagging him. (Update: The Bengals have tagged K Shayne Graham, so Houshmandzadeh will likely hit the open market.)
–Rams: The 49ers are looking for a safety, and O.J. Atogwe is a young play-maker. However, it seems highly likely he’ll be tagged.
–Buccaneers: The same could be said for S Jermaine Phillips. But the Bucs might choose instead to secure the services of WR Antonio Bryant.
–Ravens: They have a lot of options, all with linebackers. Terrell Suggs, Ray Lewis and Bart Scott are all scheduled free agents. Doubt the 49ers would enter bidding wars for Lewis or Scott, but Suggs is an intriguing possibility.
–Dolphins: S Yeremiah
–Browns: S Sean Jones is 26, and he’s had 14 interceptions in his three seasons as a starter. However, he might not be going anywhere.
–It’s doubtful the 49ers would go big after a cornerback. The Raiders’ Nnamdi Asomugha and the Texans’ Dunta Robinson are candidates to be locked up.
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I will be leaving for the NFL scouting combine in
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Bryant Young last week said he turned down an offer from the 49ers because he preferred the idea of coaching in college, the Chicago Sun-Times reports.
Young was around the team a lot in training camp. From what I’ve gathered, the 49ers made it known they wanted him to be part of the organization but the sides never talked about a specific role. He and his wife attended Notre Dame. He and his family spent the better part of last year traveling the country, allowing Young plenty of time to ponder his future.
“The more I looked at business opportunities, it didn’t fire me up like coaching did and working with young men,” he said. “That’s the thing that never really went away. This is something I have a passion for. … I want to be able to share what I know and give back to the game.”
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