The 49ers signed 11 new players in the first two days of free agency yet still have a league-best $81.1 million in salary-cap space, according to the NFL players union.
The tabulation includes the team’s 51-highest player salaries. The Tennessee Titans are next with $55.3 million in cap cushion, followed by the Cleveland Browns ($53.3 million) and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers with $46.4 million.
Any cap surplus the 49ers have this year can be carried over into 2018, which is when the team could make a big move for a quarterback like New England’s Jimmy Garoppolo or Washington’s Kirk Cousins, both of whom are scheduled to become unrestricted free agents.
“We were fortunate that we had a lot of room (for free-agent signings) and we still have a lot more room,” general manager John Lynch said Friday. “So we’re in great position. … If we don’t use the room this year, we carry it over until next year. So we’re really excited about where we’re at.”
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Still, the 49ers appear to have more work to do. They have 67 players signed for 2017, meaning that between free agency and the draft they will add 23 more players. The problem is that the quality players quickly were snatched off the shelf when free agency began and that the players the team signs from here on out likely will be bargain-bin additions, including perhaps some of their own free agents.
Here’s where the 49ers are the most threadbare:
Offensive line – Lynch said last month that the offensive line was one of the areas that gave him confidence. Indeed, the team’s starting five from last season remains intact. But there is little to no depth at each position. A year ago, for example, the 49ers went through practices with three offensive-line units – first-team through third-team) with 15 players total. As of now, they have only eight.
Running back – The 49ers have three tailbacks from last season signed to their roster: Carlos Hyde, Mike Davis and Raheem Mostert. They also recently signed a fullback, Kyle Juszczyk, whom the team lists as a running back on its roster. That’s an indication the 49ers may use the 240-pound Juszczyk as a third-down back. But who would be the team’s primary runner if Hyde, who has missed games due to injury every season of his pro career, gets hurt again? The draft is considered deep at running back, or the team could re-sign either Shaun Draughn, DuJuan Harris or both.
Edge players – It’s unclear whom the 49ers will use at both edge positions: The strong-side outside linebacker spot, which plays on the line of scrimmage like a 3-4 outside linebacker, and the so-called “Leo” pass rusher spot on the other side. Ahmad Brooks might be the best fit for both. He turned 33 Tuesday. The 49ers likely feel they can find a good pass rusher in a draft that has plenty of them. Other candidates like Aaron Lynch, Eli Harold and Tank Carradine have been unreliable or have failed to bring much pass-rush punch.