The San Francisco 49ers are once again trying to rebuild a winner.
The first time the organization attempted something like this, Jim Harbaugh led the organization to a Super Bowl. The second time the “blue bloods” found a new head coach, Jim Tomsula wasn’t the answer. The third time, Chip Kelly thought he could win with both Colin Kaepernick and Blaine Gabbert at quarterback.
Ask the York Family how that worked out for them. Now, with a new head coach in Kyle Shanahan and a new general manager in John Lynch, the San Francisco 49ers are once again trying to reinvent the wheel. With that comes the need to find players who will learn the new system, put in the time and believe there is change on the horizon. While the Browns may have had the NFL’s worst record last year, the 49ers might have been the league’s worst organization.
This is not an overnight success story. It will take a year or two for this team to become competitive. But by moving the right chess pieces, there will certainly be hope on the horizon. The San Francisco 49ers finished last year 31st in total offense and 32nd in total defense. The good news is it can’t get any worse than it is right now. The team must be a player in free agency. Here’s a look at five players the team should target.
Mike Glennon, Quarterback – While I see a connection between Shanahan and Washington Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins, it’s Glennon I favor in this role.
The former third-round pick by the Buccaneers was solid in his starting roles with the team, but gave way to Jameis Winston and hasn’t seen the field much since 2014. He could be a solid, dependable signal caller. With his size and arm strength, he could become this team’s Matt Ryan in Shanahan’s offensive system.
Dont’a Hightower, Linebacker – The biggest question is how does one of the worst teams in the NFL sign one of the rising linebackers who just won a Super Bowl in New England? Hightower is a nice piece to the puzzle and someone to build around on defense.
If John Lynch wants to prove he is going to change the roster in the Bay area and find stars to come west, this could be the first domino to drop.
Robert Woods, Wide Receiver – Glennon is going to need a primary target to throw to. Woods could see an offer from five or six teams in free agency. I firmly believe where Kenny Stills lands will determine how Woods fares in free agency.
If Stills remains in Miami, then Woods becomes one of the top three free agent targets. There is also the chance he remains in Buffalo. The Glennon to Woods combination could be a real find by Lynch.
Jonathan Babineaux, Defensive Lineman – The Atlanta connection is alive and well in San Francisco. Babineaux is a tough, dependable veteran who gave his heart and soul to the organization and could be brought in to teach the younger players the same kind of instincts.
I like this move as it is for leadership purposes as well as the chance to prove he still has something left in the tank. This is certainly a low risk, high reward move.
Courtney Upshaw, Linebacker – Another transplant from Atlanta that could pay off. Upshaw played well for the Falcons last season and was a dominant figure in the playoffs. In the 49ers system, he could be a dominant linebacker with Hightower like they were at Alabama.
I also think this is a mid-level signing that won’t break the bank. There is still plenty of upside in Upshaw’s ability in my opinion.