The San Francisco 49ers have already had a mix of good news and bad news during the 2023 offseason. But when it specifically comes to pursuing free-agent targets, a lot of it may depend on contract restructuring and through trades.
According to projections, the 49ers are the last team in the NFL that is not in the red when it comes to cap space. Not exactly an ideal position to be in for any team, but far more ideal than the 13 teams listed below them and the 49ers are already one of the most talented teams in the league.
Still, there are already clear needs.
But first, the good news. Losing stellar defensive coordinator DeMeco Ryans to the Houston Texans was a tough blow, but also something they fully expected. So after interviewing several candidates, San Francisco landed Steve Wilks, an excellent replacement who picked up the crumbling pieces so well for the Carolina Panthers after Matt Rhule was fired last season.
Now, for the bad news, which also leads to our first free agent target.
Related: 2023 San Francisco 49ers mock draft
Gardner Minshew, Quarterback
With Brocky Purdy’s right elbow surgery having already been postponed once, the reality of the 49ers needing a capable backup quarterback was probably already there. The team simply won’t know anything about what’s to come for Purdy until after the surgery is performed and evaluated. As for Trey Lance and his four career starts, well, that pretty much speaks for itself. He may very well light it up, but a perennial Super Bowl contender “hoping for the best” isn’t going to cut it.
That brings us to free agent Garnder Minshew, who served as a capable backup for the Philadelphia Eagles each of the last two seasons. He’s still just 26 years old and his career 44 touchdowns to 15 interceptions ratio are looking mighty good right about now.
While Minshew may be seeking a starting role rather than sitting behind Lance to start the season, he saw what happened with the San Francisco 49ers last season. Plus, it’s an attractive destination with an endless array of weapons on offense.
Dalvin Tomlinson, defensive tackle
It would be pretty shocking if the 49ers were comfortable with defensive tackle Javon Kinlaw heading into the 2023 season. With just 10 games played over the past two seasons and knee issues that don’t seem to go away, the hope for his “arrival” has declined.
So adding a player like Vikings’ defensive tackle Dalvin Tomlinson would be an incredible pickup. He’s an underrated disruptor that would allow others, like Arik Armstead, to find even more success.
Another major bonus Tomlinson brings to the table is staying healthy. In six seasons, he’s played 16 games in five of them. That’s the exact kind of reliability the 49ers have so desperately been seeking on the defensive line.
James Bradberry, cornerback
As amusing as it may be to see James Bradberry’s name as a target for the 49ers after the nonstop trash talk following the NFC Championship game against the Eagles — particularly from Deebo Samuel and Brandon Aiyuk — business is business. And we just don’t know yet what will happen with key San Francisco free agents Jimmie Ward and Emmanuel Moseley, the latter of whom is coming off an ACL injury.
The preference would clearly be to re-sign both Ward and Moseley, but you can’t just assume that’s going to happen with either player. All options need to be considered and the 30-year-old Bradberry could possibly be had on a short deal.
Related: Bold predictions for NFL free agency
Kelvin Beachum, right tackle
San Francisco 49ers right tackle Mike McGlinchey has been a pretty consistent one, albeit frustrating at times. Then again, there are probably about five offensive linemen in the entire NFL that rarely have a blip or a frustrating string of penalties.
But the reality the team faces with McGlinchey’s forthcoming free agency is that even if they want to re-sign him, the interest he will garner from teams so extremely needy at right tackle might price San Francisco right out of the market.
Enter Kelvin Beachum, a 34-year-old right tackle who played all 17 games for a horrendous Arizona Cardinals team last season. That’s the type of consistency you’re always looking for from any offensive lineman and for Beachum, it’s been that way since 2016.
The 49ers could probably get him on the cheap given his age and he could serve as a nice stopgap as they will surely look to find some gems in the upcoming NFL Draft.
And really, who wouldn’t want to line up on the same offensive line opposite all-world left tackle Trent Williams? He might even learn some new tricks.
Finally, it’s worth mentioning that the 49ers have 11 picks in the 2023 NFL Draft.
While they don’t have a first-round pick, don’t be surprised if they still manage to fill a few of these likely inevitable holes. General manager John Lynch and Co. have always had a knack for finding gold in the later rounds.