Miami Dolphins’ quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick fires a pass down field while Las Vegas Raiders’ defensive end has him by the face mask. The play went for a 34-yard gain and with a 15-yard penalty set up a game-winning field goal in the Dolphins’ 26-25 victory Dec. 26, 2020.

Miami Dolphins’ quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick fires a pass down field while Las Vegas Raiders’ defensive end has him by the face mask. The play went for a 34-yard gain and with a 15-yard penalty set up a game-winning field goal in the Dolphins’ 26-25 victory Dec. 26, 2020.


Whoever plays quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers in 2021 — yes, it’s likely going to be Jimmy Garoppolo — might have the best cast of weapons since Kyle Shanahan became head coach in 2017.

Star tight end George Kittle will be back after knee and foot injuries limited him to eight games, third-year receiver Deebo Samuel will look to be more consistent after appearing in just seven, and Brandon Aiyuk has a chance to develop into one of the better young wideouts in the NFL after netting 825 yards from scrimmage in just 12 contests as a rookie.

Pair those skill players with a running game that should have better injury luck — Raheem Mostert, Jeff Wilson Jr., Tevin Coleman and JaMycal Hasty combined to miss 28 games in 2020 — and the 49ers could have the makings of an offense reminiscent of 2019, when they ranked second in scoring and fourth in yardage.

But the offense doesn’t lack holes. And, of course, injuries are going to factor into the equation, which means roster depth remains a core concern.

So with free agency slated to kick off March 17, let’s take a look at some veteran options Shanahan might be considering to retool the offense. (We took a look at defensive options here).


Jacoby Brissett (Colts)

Ryan Fitzpatrick (Dolphins)

Andy Dalton (Cowboys)

The assumption here is the 49ers are looking to fortify the backup job behind Garoppolo (unless the Deshaun Watson suddenly becomes available at a palatable price for San Francisco), and there are a handful of viable options that would be upgrades over Nick Mullens and C.J. Beathard, who are both slated for free agency. Brissett has 32 starts under his belt and might be the most capable option on this list. Plus he’s just 28, younger than Dalton (33) and Fitzpatrick (38). Dalton has started 142 games and would be a candidate to keep the team afloat should Garoppolo deal with another injury, while Fitzpatrick is the type of player that might end up sparking the offense if Garoppolo sputtered. Though it’s unclear if Shanahan would want to ride that kind of roller coaster. Fitzpatrick in his career has 11 games with at least four touchdown passes and 18 games with at least three interceptions. Dalton is far more steady.

Running back

Aaron Jones (Packers)

Matt Breida (Dolphins)

Kenyan Drake (Cardinals)

James Connor (Steelers)

Jamaal Williams (Packers)

The 49ers regularly find rookie free agent running backs that show promise. Their current top trio, Raheem Mostert, Jeff Wilson Jr. and JaMycal Hasty all went undrafted, though it wouldn’t be surprising to see more premium resources devoted into the position this offseason for stability. That said, the 49ers took a sizable loss by investing in Jerrick McKinnon in 2018 before he missed two straight seasons with knee injuries. He was San Francisco’s only running back to appear in all 16 games in 2020, but he averaged just 3.9 yards per carry and let the world know on social media he wouldn’t be returning to the 49ers. Jones scored 30 touchdowns the last two seasons while working in a similar offense under Matt LaFleur with the Packers. Breida, of course, was traded by the 49ers to the Dolphins for a fifth-round pick last spring. Drake had over 1,000 yards from scrimmage and scored 10 touchdowns with Arizona in 2020 in his first full season as a featured back. Will the cash strapped 49ers be willing to pay Jones or Drake sizable salaries? It’s unlikely, but the team kicked the tires on Le’Veon Bell in 2019 before he signed with the Jets (even after adding McKinnon), indicating Shanahan isn’t entirely opposed to paying for running backs.


Kyle Juszczyk (49ers)

Michael Burton (Saints)

Anthony Firkser (Titans)

Juszczyk is a key free agent the 49ers will likely try to bring back. But it might be difficult given the salary cap constraints and the fact he might get an offer from the Jets and their new offensive coordinator, Mike LaFleur, who joined former 49ers defensive coordinator Robert Saleh in New Jersey. The Jets also have much more cap space than San Francisco. There might be a bigger philosophical question at play here. If Juszczyk leaves, might Shanahan shift his reliance on a fullback and use more three-receiver or two-tight end sets in 2021? Would that open up the possibility of drafting someone like Florida tight end Kyle Pitts to pair with Kittle? It’s a fascinating question and one that Shanahan has to be thinking about.

Tight end

Gerald Everett (Rams)

Hunter Henry (Chargers)

Jared Cook (Saints)

Jordan Reed (49ers)

The 49ers would love to have more pass-catching depth behind Kittle in the tight end room. They had a semblance of that with Reed last season, but the oft-injured veteran appeared in just 10 games and there wasn’t a chance to get a strong sample with him and Kittle available at the same time. Reed is a candidate to come back on a cheap deal, but would it be that much cheaper than a more-durable veteran? Henry will likely be the most expensive option on this list. He has over 1,200 yards and nine touchdowns combined over the last two seasons, while Everett or Cook could upgrade the backup situation behind Kittle and give Garoppolo another reliable target. Everett and Cook caught 41 and 37 passes last season, respectively, while Kittle’s backups Reed, Ross Dwelley and Charlie Woerner combined for 48.


Kendrick Bourne (49ers)

Corey Davis (Titans)

Willie Snead (Ravens)

Sammy Watkins (Chiefs)

Adam Humphries (Titans)

John Ross (Bengals)

It’s not a great time to be a free agent receiver. There are a ton of them hitting the market this spring while teams aren’t going to have the money to pay them as they have in years past. Plus, the incoming draft class is supposed to be as strong at the position as it was in 2020. Three wideouts could be off the board before San Francisco picks at No. 12. The good news? Veterans could be had on cheap, short-term contracts. That could be important if Shanahan starts relying on more three-receiver looks. Davis is likely the most-expensive option on this list, while the others could be had at relative bargains, including Bourne. Watkins still has speed and would be a good complement to Samuel and Aiyuk as a No. 3 option, while Ross would be a low-risk reclamation project to play a similar role Shanahan used to carve out for speedster Marquise Goodwin. Humphries is another option that might work in the slot.

Offensive tackle

Alejandro Villanueva (Steelers)

Cam Robinson (Jaguars)

Russell Okung (Panthers)

Cameron Fleming (Giants)

The 49ers will make bringing back Trent Williams their top priority in free agency. But there’s a chance a team with more cap space (like the Colts or Jaguars) will make him an offer San Francisco can’t match. That would leave Shanahan to fill a massive void, but would also leave some financial flexibility to add a quality veteran (either at tackle, pass rusher or cornerback). Villanueva and Okung are both 33 but would be serviceable replacements. Robinson is just 26 and was the 34th overall pick in 2017 draft from Alabama. He was taken with the pick the 49ers had before trading up for Reuben Foster. Fleming might want to leave New York because Nate Solder is back after opting out in 2020, and the team has long-term plans for last year’s first-round pick, Andrew Thomas.

Interior offensive line

Corey Linsley (Packers)

Nick Martin (Texans)

Alex Mack (Falcons)

David Andrews (Patriots)

Ben Garland (49ers)

Gabe Jackson (Raiders)

Jon Feliciano (Bills)

Austin Blythe (Rams)

Linsley will likely break the bank and become one of the league’s highest paid centers following his first-team All-Pro season in 2020, but he would make sense for San Francisco if Williams signs elsewhere. The team has a clear need at center with Weston Richburg likely on his way out after it was revealed this week that he had hip surgery this offseason, his third procedure since he last played for the 49ers in Dec. 2019. Mack is a popular name given he played for Shanahan previously, but he’ll turn 36 in November. Garland would be a low-cost option to come back to the 49ers but he appeared in just five games in 2020 due to injury. Jackson and Feliciano are less-likely options to provide upgrades at right guard, but the team could decide to make that spot a priority after struggling to find a reliable option last season. Blythe would be a fit after playing center in a similar offense with the Rams.

Chris Biderman has covered the 49ers since 2013 and began covering the team for The Sacramento Bee in August 2018. He previously spent time with the Associated Press and USA TODAY Sports Media Group. A Santa Rosa native, he graduated with a degree in journalism from The Ohio State University.

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