The news is unlikely to trigger a flurry of season-ticket sales, but the 49ers signed their first outside free agent Thursday: former Eagles quarterback Thaddeus Lewis.
Lewis, Cowboys free-agent running back Lance Dunbar and Cardinals free-agent guard Ted Larsen visited the 49ers facility Thursday, the second day teams were able to sign outside players.
That list of names – none headliners – confirms that general manager Trent Baalke is sticking to his policy of treading lightly in free agency despite a roster that lacks talent in key areas and despite having more than $50 million in salary-cap space.
On Wednesday’s first day of free agency, the 49ers locked up some of their own free agents, including nose tackle Ian Williams, who agreed to a five-year deal worth more than $5 million per season. They also made offers to two restricted free agents, linebacker Michael Wilhoite and guard Jordan Devey.
Lewis, 28, did not take any snaps last year for Philadelphia, but he gives new 49ers coach Chip Kelly and quarterbacks coach Ryan Day someone familiar with their system, which will be valuable early in the offseason.
Lewis, who played at Duke, entered the league as an undrafted free agent in 2010. He’s been on the Rams, Browns, Bills and Texans rosters, and he started five games for Buffalo in 2013.
The 49ers now have four quarterbacks signed for 2016. The others are Blaine Gabbert, Colin Kaepernick and Dylan Thompson, although Kaepernick has been the subject of trade talks.
Lewis said his ability to read defenses and make quick decisions makes him a good fit for Kelly’s up-tempo offense.
“You have to make that split-second decision because you’re going fast,” Lewis said. “That comes from your preparation (from) the whole week, knowing what the defense is going to be in when they’re uncomfortable or on their heels.”
Kelly also is familiar with Dunbar, 26, because the Eagles played the Cowboys twice a season for the past three years.
Dunbar, at 5-foot-8, is similar to Kelly’s former Eagles running back, Darren Sproles. Dunbar tore his ACL and MCL in October, and his availability for the beginning of the season is in doubt. His visit centered on his physical examination at Stanford Hospital.
Larsen has played both right and left guard since being drafted by New England in 2010.
He was near the bottom of Pro Football Focus’ ratings last year – 77th of 82 guards after being 59th out of 78 in 2014.
Still, Larsen, 28, also is receiving interest from division rival Seattle, which needs to replace starting guard J.R. Sweezy after he signed with Tampa Bay. Larsen was scheduled to travel to Seattle on Thursday evening and visit with the Seahawks Friday.
The 49ers also lost a guard to free agency when Alex Boone opted to join the Vikings. The list of candidates to replace him includes Devey, Marcus Martin, Erik Pears, Ian Silberman, Brandon Thomas and Andrew Tiller.