John Lynch had some advice for 49ers fans accustomed to dozing off during the team’s sleepy free-agency period.
“Stay awake,” he said.
“We need players,” the 49ers’ new general manager continued. “ … Everyone says the best way to go in (is to draft) the best players, but sometimes you can’t do that. You need certain positions. And we don’t want to be in that position everywhere. So there are certain things we have high on our priority list to get accomplished. We’re going to be aggressive in getting those guys.”
Lynch’s words were the latest proof of an attitude shift in San Francisco.
His predecessor, Trent Baalke, preferred to tread lightly in free agency and focus on the draft. It’s one of the reasons the 49ers have $77 million in salary cap space, the second-most in the NFL.
Lynch already has begun to eat into that cushion. He has signed three new players in the last two weeks, including defensive lineman Earl Mitchell, who Lynch said would play nose tackle in the team’s new defensive alignment.
He indicated the aggressive approach will continue when free agency begins next week. He said he and coach Kyle Shanahan have made “certain pieces” priorities.
Unlike Baalke, Lynch also spoke openly about the players with whom he is meeting in Indianapolis. For instance, he described a successful session Wednesday evening with Notre Dame quarterback DeShone Kizer, one of the top passers in the draft.
“This whole thing isn’t about an interview, but if you were grading him on that alone, he blew the doors off of it,” Lynch said. “He’s an impressive young man, and his film is very impressive.”
Before anyone starts thinking that the 49ers are zeroing in on Kizer, Lynch also praised quarterbacks Deshaun Watson (Clemson), Mitch Trubisky (North Carolina) and Patrick Mahomes (Texas Tech). He will talk to all of them at the combine.
Some observers thought Trubisky would measure 6-foot-1 or less on Thursday. Instead, he was officially listed at 6-2 1/8 and weighed 222 pounds, big enough to be a first-round pick.
“So he made himself some money today, I promise you,” Lynch said. “You can see – just like the other guys I talked about – why people like him. He grows on you. The more you watch him, the more you like him.”
Lynch mentioned transparency – which may have been a foreign word to the previous regime – several times during his media session. In that spirit, he went a bit further than Shanahan a day earlier in saying that the 49ers were looking at Jimmie Ward as a safety this year. Shanahan merely said Ward was capable of playing safety and cornerback, his 2016 position.
“Just being completely honest, we think he’s a good scheme fit for what we’re doing at the free safety position,” said Lynch, who played safety for 15 NFL seasons. “But we don’t know that until you put him there. It’s projecting. We think his traits, his skills, translate very well to that, but it’s such an instinct position.”