49ers still Super Bowl contenders despite NFL free agency exits

49ers still Super Bowl contenders despite NFL free agency exits

SANTA CLARA — At first blush, NFL free agency cleaned out the top-caliber 49ers who hit the market.

Nine players committed to becoming ex-Niners by the close of Tuesday’s unofficial business, ahead of today’s start of the signing period.

That steady procession over the first 36 hours of contract talks, however, does not cripple the 49ers’ starting units. Not in the least.

It does serve as a reminder that more depth is needed for a potential 24-game march over the NFC hump and to the Super Bowl.

Even though they scored free agency’s greatest coup in signing defensive tackle Javon Hargrave away from Philadelphia, they’ll need reinforcements, both on the defensive front and at other spots.

They’ll also need new leaders to join their still-strong remaining ensemble.

Among those to leave are former captains at one time or another in their 49ers tenure: quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo (Raiders), Jimmie Ward (Texans), Mike McGlinchey (Broncos) and, possibly, kicker Robbie Gould (unsigned).

The remaining roster should be favored to repeat as NFC West champions, make a third straight NFC Championship Game, and thus contend for the Super Bowl, assuming the quarterback situation goes smoother than last season’s injury carousel. That’s a hefty assumption.

Why did so many of these departing 49ers land elsewhere? Opportunity. Money. Perhaps other motives. But they all took advantage of their time with the 49ers to prove themselves capable of producing winning football.

That must carry over to the next wave of reserves – or starters-in-waiting. The 49ers remain flush with proven stars and young talent, plus 11 picks in next month’s draft, so the reinforcements are coming.

Free agency did not compel the 49ers to rush out and spend on multiple veterans to fill starting roles, other than their defensive line’s interior with a big-ticket item in Hargrave (four years, $84 million).

Where are the holes in the 49ers’ lineup? Right tackle, defensive end, and nickel back. In-house candidates exist at each spot, so there shouldn’t be panic as those ex-49ers cash out of the Silicon Valley banking realm.

The 49ers haven’t gone cheap with their payroll, mind you. They’ve shelled out a Brinks truckload in recent years, with All-Pro and Pro Bowl honors bestowed on those market-defining stars such as Trent Williams, George Kittle and Fred Warner. Nick Bosa is next in line this summer.

Soruce : https://www.mercurynews.com/2023/03/15/inman-free-agency-exodus-hurts-49ers-depth-more-than-starting-units/

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