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More than just a fullback? 49ers have big plans for Kyle Juszczyk

Kyle Juszczyk had 97 catches for 769 yards and five touchdowns in four seasons in Baltimore. Patrick Smith/Getty Images

SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- As the San Francisco 49ers continue to dive into the deep end of free agency, they appear set to add another player to their offense. ESPN's Adam Schefter reported Wednesday that, barring any snags, the Niners will sign fullback Kyle Juszczyk when the new league year begins Thursday at 4 p.m. ET.

New coach Kyle Shanahan's offense depends on versatile fullbacks to play multiple roles. After playing last season without a fullback, the Niners made landing Juszczyk a priority.

Terms: Not yet available, though annual value is expected to be high by fullback standards.

ESPN 150 ranking: No. 48

Grade: B+. As fullback signings go, you probably won't find many better than Juszczyk. A Pro Bowl selection last seaosn, he hasn't missed a game in four NFL seasons and is an excellent blocker, effective pass-catcher and still only 25. The only reason this move didn't receive an "A" is that it's expected to be a relatively heavy investment for the position, and even the most versatile fullbacks can have only so much impact.

What it means: Shanahan's offense is starting to take shape. With the expected additions of quarterback Brian Hoyer and receiver Pierre Garcon, Juszczyk is the first forthcoming signing who doesn't have a history with Shanahan. But in many ways, Juszczyk is a better fit than any of them. Shanahan's creative approach to play design and playcalling utilizes fullbacks better than just about any offense in the league. In two seasons with Shanahan in Atlanta, fullback Patrick DiMarco ran 7.4 routes per game and played 21 snaps per game. And while DiMarco was oft-connected to the Niners in the build up to free agency and the Niners expressed interest, they preferred Juszczyk because of his athleticism and versatility. Juszczyk had 97 catches for 769 yards and five touchdowns in four seasons in Baltimore, numbers that could increase in Shanahan's offense.

What's the risk: The extent of the risk here depends on the financial commitment the 49ers made to Juszczyk. Even if it is a relatively big deal, it doesn't figure to hamstring the 49ers moving forward. The only real risk here is that the Niners don't find enough ways to get Juszczyk on the field and get their money's worth. But Juszczyk checks a lot of boxes for the Niners; he's the type of player the new regime wants in the locker room and on the field.