A breakdown of the San Francisco 49ers' 2019 free-agent signings.
Kwon Alexander, linebacker
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.
Coleman a great value signing for 49ers
Chris Mortensen, Louis Riddick and Tedy Bruschi see Tevin Coleman as a great value signing for San Francisco.
Tevin Coleman, running back
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.
Jimmie Ward, defensive back
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.
Jordan Matthews, wide receiver
The 49ers signed Jordan Matthews to a one-year deal on Thursday. Here's a closer look at the wide receiver who spent last season and four of the past five with the Philadelphia Eagles:
What it means: After parting ways with Pierre Garcon and struggling to get production from the receiver corps in 2018, the Niners were always going to address the position this offseason. Matthews offers a solid, reliable veteran who can play in the slot or outside. Matthews won't be the last addition to this group for the Niners this offseason, but he could become a factor in the offense. At 6-foot-3, 215 pounds with 16 of his 22 career touchdowns coming inside the opponent's 20, Matthews could also help the Niners improve their woeful red zone offense.
What's the risk: As with most free-agent signing in the second wave, Matthews comes with some health issues in his past. He's previously had thumb, knee and ankle surgeries and his production has dipped considerably over the past two years from a strong first three seasons. Matthews won't be expected to become the Niners' top option but he will have to be healthy and produce in order to earn playing time over the younger, developing wideouts the Niners already have.
Jason Verrett, cornerback
The 49ers signed Jason Verrett to a one-year deal worth up to $3.6 million on Thursday. Here's a closer look at the cornerback who has spent the previous five seasons with the Los Angeles Chargers:
What it means: The Niners invested heavily in the front seven but are well aware of their need to bolster their secondary as well. With most of the top proven defensive backs off the board, San Francisco was willing to roll the dice on a one-year "prove it" deal for Verrett. Head coach Kyle Shanahan said Verrett can play in the slot or outside and Verrett said he expects to compete outside, which should give him an opportunity to compete for a starting job right away opposite Richard Sherman.
What's the risk: The 49ers undoubtedly needed help at cornerback and, potentially in the slot. Verrett could be the answer but to do so he will have to do something he's essentially never done in the NFL: stay healthy. Verrett has played in just five games over the past three seasons because of multiple leg injuries. He missed all of last season with a torn Achilles and knee injuries forced him to miss the bulk of the 2016 and 2017 seasons. Aside from the 14 games he played in 2015, Verrett has never played more than six games in a season.