Aqib Talib, Robert Quinn among potential cap casualties for 49ers to monitor

SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- In the first year of their rebuild last offseason, San Francisco 49ers general manager John Lynch and coach Kyle Shanahan signed a large class of free agents in an effort to fill needs and create the opportunity to pick the best players available in the NFL draft.

For the most part, that meant ignoring older veterans closer to the end of their careers than the beginning, though there were a couple of late veteran additions such as defensive end Elvis Dumervil and guard Brandon Fusco.

This offseason, it's reasonable to expect the Niners to take a similar approach; however, it's also worth noting that the Niners now find themselves in a much different position than last year.

While the Niners still have plenty of needs at important positions, they aren't so far away from contention that plucking a veteran or two who might not be a long-term fix could make sense if the fit is right and the player can help right away.

With that in mind, here's a look at three veterans who could become available as teams look to create salary-cap space this offseason:

CB Aqib Talib, Denver Broncos

It's no secret the 49ers need help at cornerback, and with Dontae Johnson slated to become a free agent, finding someone to start opposite Ahkello Witherspoon will be a top priority this offseason. While that could come via the draft, finding a capable veteran would be particularly appealing as a way to take some of the pressure off Witherspoon as he enters just his second NFL season.

The 32-year-old Talib certainly qualifies, as he's coming off his fifth consecutive Pro Bowl appearance. Despite that, reports already have surfaced that the Broncos, who need to create some salary-cap flexibility in order to pursue a top quarterback option like Kirk Cousins, could trade or release Talib to save about $11 million.

If Denver can't trade Talib and he hits the open market, he'd likely have plenty of suitors, but the Niners will have more than $100 million in cap space to pursue any player they want. From a scheme standpoint, Talib has proved capable of fitting in just about any defensive system with man and zone coverage ability, and his 6-foot-1, 205-pound frame would match the bigger, more physical prototype of corner the Niners like in coordinator Robert Saleh's Cover 3 defense.

Of course, Talib doesn't come without some baggage. He has a history of suspensions and some off-the-field issues that might not make him the answer for a tightly knit locker room that quickly developed chemistry under Shanahan last year.

Fortunately for the Niners, vice president of player personnel Adam Peters was with the Broncos from 2009 to 2016 and can offer some valuable insight into how Talib might mesh with San Francisco should he become available and be an option that the 49ers want to explore.

DE Robert Quinn, Los Angeles Rams

Much like cornerback, there's no doubt the 49ers must spend some resources this offseason to find a difference-making pass-rusher off the edge. The Niners tied for 26th in sacks in 2017 with Dumervil leading the team in that category with just 6.5. In fact, the 49ers haven't had a player post double-digit sacks since 2012.

After spending high draft picks on defensive linemen such as DeForest Buckner and Solomon Thomas the past couple of years, the Niners are searching for someone who can fill the Leo position, the defensive end expected to be the team's best pass-rusher. Unfortunately, those types of dominant edge rushers are difficult to find and the teams that have them generally don't let them leave.

At this stage of his career and with a history of injury, Quinn isn't the dominant force he once was, but he still has the ability to get after quarterbacks, as evidenced by his seven sacks in the final six games of last season.

Although the Rams aren't exactly set with edge rushers themselves, they might have some difficult choices to make because they likely will spend much of their available space on their own free agents as well as take care of defensive tackle Aaron Donald. That puts Quinn in the crosshairs because letting him go would save $11 million.

It's no certainty that the Rams will part with Quinn since they have other options to save money, but if he does, the Niners could have interest in bringing him aboard. And, like with Peters and Talib, San Francisco has ties to Quinn with director of pro personnel Ran Carthon knowing him from his time with the Rams.

WR Dez Bryant, Dallas Cowboys

Bryant hasn't reached 1,000 receiving yards since 2014 and carries a $16.5 million salary-cap figure for next season. He's also coming off career lows in every major receiving category for a season in which he played all 16 games.

Considering the Cowboys aren't exactly flush with cap space, that has made Bryant's future in Dallas a consistent topic among Cowboys fans. The Niners' need at receiver isn't as pressing as other spots, but if they could find a big, physical type who could be a top red zone target for quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, they'd likely be willing to explore the possibility.

The 6-foot-2, 220-pound Bryant would seem to fit the description of that type of wideout, and the Niners would at least have to consider him as a fit if he were to hit the open market. Bryant, 29, is a big personality, but if Dallas released him, it's also a safe bet he'd have plenty of motivation to prove he still has a lot to offer.

Others to watch: Oakland Raiders LB Bruce Irvin, Philadelphia Eagles C Jason Kelce, Jacksonville Jaguars WR Allen Hurns, New Orleans Saints TE Coby Fleener.