John Lynch couldn’t be happier with the way that the 2017 NFL season went for the San Francisco 49ers. No, the 49ers didn’t end up making the NFL playoffs, but they did finally acquire a franchise quarterback.
After years of question marks at the quarterback position, Jimmy Garoppolo was acquired from the New England Patriots. It was a move that made perfect sense and paid off down the stretch. In the five games that Jimmy G started for San Francisco, they won all five and the offense looked dangerous.
Looking ahead at the upcoming NFL offseason, the 49ers have a chance to get themselves back into playoff contention. It may not be in 2018, but with the right moves, the 49ers making the playoffs could very well be a reality by the 2019 season.
San Francisco hasn’t been a highly-coveted free agency destination in recent years, but that could be changing. Now that they have Garoppolo, players could look at the 49ers and see a team that has a legitimate chance to work their way back into contention in the near future. Being a part of that process could be an intriguing opportunity for quite a few players.
All of that being said, which free agents should the 49ers look to target this coming offseason?
Le’Veon Bell, Running Back
First off, let’s start this one off by saying that Bell isn’t likely to leave the Pittsburgh Steelers. He could end up signing long-term or being franchise tagged, but he has made it very clear that he does not want to be franchise tagged and would sit out the season, according to ESPN. If the Steelers can’t lock him up and decide to let him test free agency, the 49ers need to go all-out to sign him.
Paul Richardson, Wide Receiver
San Francisco won’t even have to look outside of the NFC West to pick up some much-needed wide receiver help. Paul Richardson hasn’t been able to make a big name for himself yet, but he showed flashes in 2017 with 44 receptions for 703 yards and six touchdowns. He would be a great target for Garoppolo and at 25 years of age could be a big piece long-term for the 49ers.
Malcolm Butler, Cornerback
Adding a lockdown cornerback should be a priority for the 49ers this offseason. Malcolm Butler may not end up being the answer, but he certainly would make sense. Butler won’t come cheap this offseason, but the 49ers should look into signing him to see if there is a deal that can be worked out.
Zach Brown, Linebacker
Zach Brown was a huge piece for the Washington Redskins in 2017, racking up 127 total tackles and 2.5 sacks. San Francisco could use a veteran leader like Brown leading the way. Brown is one of the top linebackers available on the market and the 49ers should at least set up a meeting with him.
D.J. Fluker, Offensive Line
Finally, adding some help to the offensive line would be a wise move for the 49ers. They need to protect Garoppolo at all costs and D.J. Fluker can help them accomplish that task. He will have quite a few potential suitors, but the 49ers should give him an aggressive offer.