San Francisco 49ers

49ers' post-free agency depth chart; what this means for the draft

The 49ers still have $45 million to spend. Who's next in line for an extension?

The 49ers still have $45 million in salary cap space, among the top 10 in the NFL, and that money is being saved to re-sign their own players. San Francisco 49ers insider Matt Barrows tells you who the top 3 candidates are for re-signing.
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The 49ers still have $45 million in salary cap space, among the top 10 in the NFL, and that money is being saved to re-sign their own players. San Francisco 49ers insider Matt Barrows tells you who the top 3 candidates are for re-signing.

The 49ers addressed some of their biggest needs—cornerback, interior offensive line, running back and pass rusher—in free agency, meaning they are not compelled to take any one position in the draft. Still, some spots remain stronger than others.

With the first week of free agency complete, here's a look at San Francisco's depth chart with an eye toward next month's college draft.

Quarterback: Jimmy Garoppolo, C.J. Beathard, Nick Mullens.

If all goes according to plan, the 49ers will turn Beathard into a version of Garoppolo, i.e., a backup quarterback with trade value before he becomes a free agent in 2021. Would they bring in a quarterback next month? It's hard to see them doing so until the end of the draft or after the draft. Over/under on passes tailback Jerick McKinnon, a one-time quarterback, takes in a game this season: 1.5

Running back: McKinnon, Matt Breida, Joe Williams, Raheem Mostert, Jeremy McNichols, Kyle Juszczyk (fullback), Malcolm Johnson (fullback).

Given his salary, McKinnon clearly goes into the season as the starter. Breida has a significant edge on the others for the role of No. 2 back. In fact, his chief competition may come from a running back the 49ers take in the draft. Who? There are several who fit, including San Diego State's Rashaad Penny and Oregon's Royce Freeman. The third round, where the 49ers have two selections, seems like the sweet spot for this pick.

Receivers: Pierre Garcon, Marquise Goodwin, Trent Taylor, Aldrick Robinson, Kendrick Bourne, Victor Bolden Jr., DeAndre Carter, Max McCaffrey, Aaron Burbridge.

The 49ers like the top of their receiving corps but could add a bigger bodied player during the middle rounds of the draft where there are several candidates. That said, the 49ers would love to see one of their own, longer-framed players, Bourne, make a leap this offseason.

Tight end: George Kittle, Garrett Celek, Cole Hikutini, Cole Wick.

The 49ers showed mild interest in former Eagles free-agent tight end Trey Burton, who ended up going to the Bears. In Kittle and Celek, the team has two players who can block and catch passes equally well. The wild card is pass catcher Hikutini, who was poised for a bigger role when he was injured late last season.

Offensive tackle: Joe Staley (LT), Trent Brown (RT), Garry Gilliam, Darrell Williams Jr., Pace Murphy, Andrew Lauderdale.

The 49ers haven't drafted a tackle in the first round since Anthony Davis in 2010 and haven't taken a left tackle since 2007. With that left tackle, Staley, now in his mid 30s (and signed for two more seasons) and the team uneasy about a big money deal for Brown, could this be the year to cross that big-ticket item off the list? With Brown recovering from shoulder surgery, Gilliam and Williams seem likely to get a lot of work in the spring and summer.

Guards/centers: Laken Tomlinson, Joshua Garnett, Weston Richburg, Zane Beadles, Erik Magnuson.

Tomlison enters the offseason as the favorite at left guard and a reshaped Garnett the favorite on the right side, but there's likely to be plenty of rotation and competition at the two spots. Beadles and Magnuson can play all five spots along the line of scrimmage. Could Notre Dame's Quenton Nelson fall to the 49ers at pick No. 9? With so many teams eying quarterbacks, it seems there's at least a possibility.

Interior defensive line: Solomon Thomas (LDE), Earl Mitchell (NT), DeForest Buckner (DT), Ronald Blair, Sheldon Day, D.J. Jones.

Along with quarterback and fullback, this is an area in which the 49ers are unlikely to make any significant addition. With Tank Carradine now with the Raiders, Thomas is the favorite to start at "big end" and to move inside next to Buckner on passing downs.

Defensive end: Arik Armstead, Jeremiah Attaochu, Cassius Marsh, Eli Harold, Pita Taumoepenu.

As it stands now, Armstead is the favorite to be the "Leo" defensive end on base downs. The 49ers must decide whether to pick up his fifth-year option by May 3. If they choose a defensive end—Marcus Davenport or Harold Landry are the top candidates—in the first round next month, they would have an easy answer on the Armstead conundrum.

Outside linebacker: Eli Harold, Dekoda Watson, Pita Taumoepenu, Jimmie Gilbert.

This is another position that would be affected if the 49ers choose a defensive end with their top pick. If that's the case, Harold might go back to the outside-linebacker spot (it lines up on the line of scrimmage outside the "big end") he played last year. If the team drafted Virginia Tech's Tremaine Edmunds, would they play him here or at his college spot, middle linebacker?

Inside linebacker. Malcolm Smith (WLB), Reuben Foster (MLB), Brock Coyle, Elijah Lee, Mark Nzeocha, Donavin Newsom, Boseko Lokombo.

The 49ers have faith that Foster can overcome the police-blotter issues that marked his first offseason away from college. Would they use a first-round pick—Georgia's Roquan Smith, for example—on an inside linebacker as a hedge? Coyle played well at middle linebacker last year and the team likes Lee's potential as well.

Cornerback. Richard Sherman, Ahkello Witherspoon, K'Waun Williams, Greg Mabin, Channing Stribling, Tyvis Powell, Trovon Reed.

Sherman's addition means the 49ers don't have to take a cornerback high in the draft. But it doesn't necessarily mean they won't take one, either. Both Minkah Fitzpatrick and Denzel Ward are considered top 10 picks. Fitzpatrick seems to fit the 49er mold a bit better than Ward, but both would have to be considered in play with the No. 9 pick.

Safety. Jimmie Ward (FS), Jaquiski Tartt (SS), Adrian Colbert, Dexter McCoil, Don Jones, Chanceller James.

The 49ers are solid at this position, although they must soon make long-term decisions on Ward and Tartt, both of whom are entering the final year on their contracts. Colbert can player either of their positions and likely will see plenty of action in non-base packages this year. It will be interesting to see how James bounces back from last summer's ACL tear. A strong safety, he seemed to have a legitimate shot at making the 53-man squad before he got hurt.

Specialists: Robbie Gould (kicker); Bradley Pinion, Jeff Locke (punter); Kyle Nelson (longsnapper).

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