SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- By the time the 2018 NFL league year officially began Wednesday afternoon, free agency was all but over. At the very least, the first wave had already passed and most of the shelves were already picked clean.
While the San Francisco 49ers weren't making the splashiest of moves, they landed center Weston Richburg and running back Jerick McKinnon, the two players general manager John Lynch said were the team's top priorities. Add in the signing of cornerback Richard Sherman and the retaining of many of their own players -- including quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo -- and it already has been a busy offseason.
So, what comes next for the Niners?
“There’s still a couple of things in the works," Lynch said. "Kind of the first wave is gone and there’s still guys out there and so we’re in contact with a few players. But this is what we set out, like priorities, let’s get these guys taken care of. And like I said, it was tough. We had to compete in a big way for these guys [Executive vice president of football operations] Paraag [Marathe] did a tremendous job getting it through the finish line. I do feel like in many ways, that these two are up here today, but really for us this whole offseason, it’s about Jimmy, it’s about Marquise [Goodwin], it’s about Richard Sherman, it’s about Cassius [Marsh] and Garry Gilliam and Brock Coyle. And so, we feel like we’ve improved our team greatly and that excites us.”
More than likely, the 49ers will make some more moves in free agency as they look for hidden gems who can compete and contribute. But with most of the heavy lifting out of the way, let's reset the table at what has been done and what is left to do:
Added: Richburg, Sherman, McKinnon, P Jeff Locke, DE Jeremiah Attaochu.
What's still needed
The Niners have done a solid job of filling needs in free agency, adding a cornerback, running back, center and potential "Leo" edge rusher. Those were arguably four of the team's biggest needs, though a guard was probably more important than a center. With Kilgore on his way to the Dolphins and Richburg installed as the center, it wouldn't be a surprise to see the Niners explore the market for guards.
There isn't exactly a lot to choose from at that position, although the Giants' Justin Pugh is available. Pugh has visited Arizona. He has been injury prone in his career but could be the type of guy worth giving a look. The same is true of Indianapolis' Jack Mewhort. Dallas' Jonathan Cooper is another guard who could fit the scheme. As it stands, the 49ers have Laken Tomlinson, Joshua Garnett and Erik Magnuson as players capable of competing for two spots, but that's not likely to be enough. Even if the Niners can find a veteran on the free-agent market like they did with Fusco last year, don't be surprised if they address the position again relatively early in a draft that has a number of Day 1 starting-caliber guards.
In a similar vein, the addition of Attaochu at defensive end, Sherman at cornerback and McKinnon at running back and the retention of Coyle at linebacker probably won't preclude the Niners from addressing those spots in the draft. That's especially true at edge rusher, where the Niners need a legitimate difference-maker. If there's one available at selection No. 9, it wouldn't be a surprise if that was the move. Corner and running back will have to wait until the middle rounds, unless a top player slips early on. Regardless, the Niners like to treat the draft as a place to add the best talent they can find while filling needs in free agency. They haven't checked all of those boxes and some of their additions aren't solutions on their own, but they've done enough to feel comfortable using their first pick on the best player available who isn't a quarterback, kicker, punter, long snapper, fullback or center.
As for wide receiver and tight end, it's a bit of a surprise the Niners haven't been more involved despite rumored interest in everyone from Allen Robinson to Terrelle Pryor. Nothing seems imminent here, though if there's a bigger target who might be able to fill a defined role and won't cost much, perhaps it gets revisited. The draft seems like the most likely avenue for any additions here.
-- Any further additions are unlikely to include big name players. In other words, don't expect to see recently released guys such as Tyrann Mathieu, Michael Crabtree (obviously) and Ndamukong Suh in scarlet and gold next season. The better bet is that any new faces added from here fit a similar mold to Attaochu, which is to say players who could be scheme fits and have underachieved elsewhere but land in the Bay on short, cheaper deals with a chance to prove themselves.
-- Some have wondered why the Niners didn't hang on to Kilgore and let him compete at guard while offering depth at center. Shanahan explained on Thursday.
"We see Dan as a center," Shanahan said. "I think he does also. I don’t think that’d be fair to put him at guard. This situation with Dan was one of the hardest things I’ve gone through as a coach. I’ve got the utmost respect for Dan. I think he is a good player and he’s even a better person. That’s why this was so tough, but when we had the opportunity to add a center of Weston’s caliber and improve our interior like that ... We wanted to do very right for Dan and his wife, and Miami is something that they were interested in too and something we were communicating with him and his agents on. I think it was a tough situation, but I think we all respect each other a lot and I think we all feel the same about each other. And even though it was a tough few days, I think he’s in a very good situation for himself where he’s going in and he’s very needed and I know he’s going to a team, just talking to [Miami Dolphins head coach] Adam [Gase] earlier today, that wants him badly. I think it ended up right for both sides in the long run.”
-- The Niners remain in a holding pattern on linebacker Reuben Foster. Foster is still awaiting a decision from the Santa Clara County District Attorney's Office on whether he will face charges for suspicion of domestic violence, criminal threats and possession of an assault weapon.