San Francisco 49ers

49ers free agency roundup: Big financial decision appears to pay off

San Francisco 49ers offensive tackle Trent Brown (77) during an NFL football game against the Arizona Cardinals, Sunday, Oct. 1, 2017, in Glendale, Ariz.
San Francisco 49ers offensive tackle Trent Brown (77) during an NFL football game against the Arizona Cardinals, Sunday, Oct. 1, 2017, in Glendale, Ariz. AP

This post will be updated throughout Monday as the NFL kicks off its unofficial “legal tampering” period of free agency. Deals with pending free agents and trades can become official when the 2019 league year begins Wednesday 1 p.m. Pacific time.

It took nine minutes for former 49ers tackle Trent Brown to agree to a historic deal to return to the Bay Area.

Brown, who was traded away by San Francisco to the Patriots after the first round of the 2018 NFL draft, agreed to a $66 million contract over four seasons to join the Oakland Raiders. It was first reported by ESPN at 9:09 a.m. after the legal tampering period opened at 9 a.m. on the west coast.

The move proves to be a massive financial windfall for the 49ers, who were hesitant to give Brown a lucrative second contract which was a key reason in deciding to use its first round draft pick last spring on Mike McGlinchey. Brown started two seasons for the 49ers after getting taken in the seventh round of the 2015 draft. He slipped largely because of questions about his weight and work ethic, which persisted during his time with San Francisco.

McGlinchey took over Brown’s starting job at right tackle and excelled as a rookie in 2018. He ranked as Pro Football Focus’ second-highest graded rookie offensive lineman behind his former college teammate Quenton Nelson of the Colts, who was named a first-team All-Pro.

McGlinchey’s rookie contract is worth $18,341,876 over his first for seasons, according to Overthecap.com, roughly $47.7 million cheaper than Brown’s deal with Oakland if fully realized (Brown’s $16.5 million average per season makes him the highest-paid offensive lineman in football).

McGlinchey’s contract comes with a fifth-year option for 2022 which would pay him the average of the 10 highest paid offensive linemen. McGlinchey is eligible to sign a contract extension following his third NFL season in 2020.

It’s unknown what Brown will cost the Raiders against the salary cap in 2019. McGlinchey will cost San Francisco just under $4.2 million, roughly $12.3 million less than Brown’s average annual salary. That difference could be crucial as Kyle Shanahan and John Lynch wade into the free agent spending period.

It’s believed the 49ers are interested in Seahawks free agent safety Earl Thomas, who wants $15 million over the next two seasons, according to a report from NFL Media.

Update (10:47 a.m.):

The 49ers are planning to sign Buccanners linebacker Kwon Alexander to a four-year, $54 million contract, according to NFL Media. Alexander suffered a torn ACL in October but is widely considered one of tthe bes free agent inside linebackers available.

San Francisco has a clear void at the position after releasing linebacker Reuben Foster in November before a game against, oddly enough, Tampa Bay.

Update (12:16 p.m.) 

Former Giants safety Landon Collins is poised to sign a massive deal with stay in the NFC East, according to NFL Media, signing a six-year, $84 million deal with Washington. 

Collins’ $14 million average annual salary would rank tops in the NFL among safeties, perhaps re-setting the market for possible 49ers target Earl Thomas, who reportedly wants $15 million per season. 

San Francisco entered the day with $66 million in space before giving Alexander a contract reportedly worth $13.5 million per season. 

Update (12:28 p.m.)

The Lions are going to sign former Patriots pass rusher Trey Flowers, giving him a five-year contract worth $16 to $17 million, according to an ESPN report.

Flowers is widely considered the top defensive end free agent on the market, making it likely players such as Justin Houston (Chiefs) and Ezekiel Ansah (Lions) would command less per season. The 49ers have an obvious need along the edges which they might address both in free agency and the draft. 

Ohio State’s Nick Bosa is considered the favorite for San Francisco with the No. 2 pick in the draft April 25. 

Update (1:53 p.m.)

The Jaguars are making an addition that’s been rumored for weeks: they’re signing quarterback Nick Foles, as first reported by NFL Media. It’s a massive four-year, $88 million contract that includes over $50 million in guarantees, according to ESPN

For context, Jimmy Garoppolo in 2019 is slated to cost just north of $19 million in cap dollars with $7.2 million in guarantees, according to Overthecap.com. That would rank 22nd among all NFL quarterbacks for the coming season (assuming Foles’ number is greater). Garoppolo is affordable going forward because San Francisco gave him $37 million in the first year of his five-year, $137.5 million contract he signed Feb. 2018.

Update (4:33 p.m.)

Texans free-agent safety Tyrann Mathieu is joining the Kansas City Chiefs on a three-year, $42 million contract, according to an ESPN report. Mathieu’s $14 million per season would match the deal signed by Collins with Washington earlier in the day as the highest among NFL safeties. 

The signing is another indication Earl Thomas could likely make $15 million per season, although it’s worth noting Jane Slater of NFL Network reported Friday the 49ers had yet to reach out to Thomas’ camp.

“My source (with the 49ers) tells me that they haven’t even engaged in conversations with Earl Thomas,” Slater said, according to 49ers Webzone. “He’s looking for a $14 million deal (average salary). He wants to get paid more than Eric Berry was in Kansas City.”

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