SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- Here are some moves the San Francisco 49ers should consider when free agency opens at 4 p.m. ET Thursday:
Add a big-ticket item or two: The 49ers have the second-most cap space in the NFL so they can afford to chase top free agents. Of course, that doesn't mean they should spend for the sake of spending. Any high-priced additions should be younger players heading toward their prime who can still be effective by the time the Niners have had a chance to rebuild. Looking at this year's market, those types of players aren't abundant but there are some who fit the description. Houston cornerback A.J. Bouye (25), New England defensive end Jabaal Sheard (27) and linebacker Dont'a Hightower (26), Buffalo cornerback Stephon Gilmore (26), Chicago receiver Alshon Jeffery (27) and Cleveland receiver Terrelle Pryor (27) are players who make sense. The Niners probably won't break the bank and go on a wild spending spree, but they can afford one or two from that list and still have plenty left over to help elsewhere.
Find a steady veteran hand at quarterback: The Niners are in the midst of a complete makeover of their quarterback room, which means they need to find multiple quarterbacks this offseason. It remains to be seen when they can find their long-term starter or where he will come from but it would serve them well to find an established veteran to bring some stability to the group. Even better, they could find a veteran with experience in coach Kyle Shanahan's offense who could provide leadership and guidance for the other quarterbacks who will inevitably come on board. To that end, there are two obvious options set to hit free agency: Atlanta's Matt Schaub and Chicago's Brian Hoyer. Schaub worked with Shanahan in Houston and Atlanta, and Hoyer spent time with Shanahan in Cleveland. Either would be a sensible, cost-effective option who can help the 49ers through this transitional period.
Get a head start on reshaping the culture: While we're on the topic of players who speak Shanahan's language, the Niners shouldn't stop with one of those veteran quarterbacks. One phrase that inevitably comes up when hiring a new coach is "establishing a culture." It goes beyond simple knowledge of a system and extends to how players are supposed to go about their business. One way to get that process jump started is to add players who have a history of helping in that area and have a history with the coach. In Shanahan's case, there are multiple free agents he has worked with in recent years that would be good pickups not only for their ability on the field but for what they can do in the locker room. Atlanta fullback Patrick DiMarco and tight end Jacob Tamme would both be helpful in this regard and neither figures to be overly expensive.