A breakdown of the San Francisco 49ers’ 2019 free-agent signings.
What it means: This is the 49ers’ final penance for the swing and a miss that was drafting Reuben Foster in the first round in 2017. Releasing Foster — coincidentally the day they played the Buccaneers in November — created a massive hole at weakside linebacker alongside Fred Warner. In order to fill that spot, a position the Niners clearly value in their scheme, the Niners had to fork over a ton of money for Alexander in hopes he can be Warner’s running mate for the long term.
What’s the risk: Alexander is coming off a torn ACL that limited him to six games in 2018 and though he’s expected to be back to full strength for this season, he weighs just 227 pounds and has had previous injury issues. The Niners were attracted to Alexander’s athleticism and relative youth (he’s 24) but this is a lot of money for a player who has played more than 12 games in a season once in his four NFL seasons. Alexander also has a penchant for missed tackles, posting 70 from 2015 to 2017, most in the NFL in that time, according to Pro Football Focus.
Chris Mortensen, Louis Riddick and Tedy Bruschi see Tevin Coleman as a great value signing for San Francisco.
The 49ers agreed to sign Tevin Coleman to a two-year, $10 million deal on Wednesday. Here’s a closer look at the running back who spent the previous four seasons with the Atlanta Falcons:
What it means: This is a reunion between Coleman and coach Kyle Shanahan after the pair spent two years together in Atlanta. Shanahan is a huge fan of Coleman’s and it’s no surprise that he was interested in adding him to the mix in San Francisco. The question now becomes how the Niners will sort through a crowded group that includes Coleman, Jerick McKinnon and Matt Breida. The team can easily afford to keep all three but it would mean a heavy investment at the position. McKinnon is coming off an ACL injury and his guaranteed money has already been paid. The competition would be welcome and Coleman offers insurance in case McKinnon doesn’t recover fully, but the Niners could also use that money to invest elsewhere on the roster.
What’s the risk: This is a relatively cheap deal. Considering Coleman’s production in his previous two years in a Shanahan offense — he averaged 4.45 yards per carry, 13.18 yards per reception and scored 12 touchdowns while sharing touches with Devonta Freeman — there doesn’t seem to be much risk here. Coleman does only have one season in which he’s played all 16 games, but he’s never played fewer than 12 and hasn’t really dealt with any major injuries. Any risk might come more in the form of how touches are divvied up among the backs and how that’s received by those players in an increasingly crowded backfield.
The 49ers agreed to terms with Jimmie Ward on a one-year deal worth up to $5 million on Wednesday. Here’s a closer look at the defensive back who has spent the previous five seasons with the Niners:
What it means: Rather than dig deep to land a top end safety such as Earl Thomas, the 49ers look poised to roll with a group that bears a striking resemblance to last year’s. Yes, the Niners could still add some outside help but bringing Ward back means the current depth chart at safety hasn’t changed in any meaningful way, which is a concern for a secondary that struggled last year. Ward will likely have another chance to compete for the starting free safety job with Adrian Colbert, but he’ll have to prove he can stay on the field and produce for a full season in order to land a more substantial contract next offseason.
What’s the risk: Talent hasn’t really been a question with Ward. Health, or a consistent lack of it, sure has. Ward has finished four of his five NFL seasons on injured reserve with various injuries, including each of the past three years. In all, Ward has missed 29 games in five seasons and has appeared in just 27 of a possible 48 games in the past three. This is the definition of a one-year, “prove it” deal so there’s not much inherent risk in the deal itself or from a financial standpoint.