San Francisco 49ers: Julian Edelman

The San Francisco 49ers' interest in DeSean Jackson ended the same way as their other pursuits of veteran wide receivers this offseason. Jackson is heading elsewhere.

ESPN's Adam Schefter reported Jackson agreed to a three-year deal with the Washington Redskins late Tuesday night. The 49ers reportedly made a late run at Jackson. The only way the 49ers were going to be able to land him if is the Redskins didn't come through with a big offer. That didn't happen.

It was no surprise the 49ers were interested in Jackson, who was cut by Philadelphia on Friday. He is a field-stretching receiver and that is one of the 49ers' few needs. However, it was difficult to fathom the 49ers would win the Jackson sweepstakes because of a lack of salary-cap room. The 49ers currently have just $4.1 million under the cap with some big-money deals looming in the next year.

The 49ers looked at receiver Julian Edelman, Hakeem Nicks and Emmanuel Sanders to no avail this spring. As with Jackson, it all came down to finances.

The 49ers will no doubt turn their attention to the draft where they are expected to take a receiver as early as the first round.
The San Francisco 49ers' options for a free-agent receiver shrunk Saturday when, as expected, Julian Edelman returned to the New England Patriots.

The Bay Area native visited with the 49ers on Friday. However, the pursuit was considered somewhat tepid. Edelman wasn’t a natural fit for the 49ers, anyway. He is a slot receiver and that’s a role Anquan Boldin occupies nicely.

The 49ers need a speed receiver and that’s why they are talking to Pittsburgh’s Emmanuel Sanders. He was supposed to visit the team Saturday night.

There is a possible hurdle for Sanders. ESPN.com’s Scott Brown is reporting some teams are worried about Sanders’ lingering foot issue, and it could affect his price tag. The 49ers, who currently have less than $4 million in salary-cap room, likely wouldn't pay Sanders much, anyway.

If the 49ers go on to look at other receivers in free agency, potential options are James Jones, Santonio Holmes and Sidney Rice.

Meanwhile, the San Francisco Chronicle reported that Seattle cornerback Walter Thurmond is planning on taking other visits. He was in San Francisco on Friday. The 49ers are still interested in him.
Free agency is entering its fifth day (it only seems like 43) and the San Francisco 49ers have been busy making roster changes. Let's take a look at what has gone on so far:

Returning free agents: Receiver Anquan Boldin, kicker Phil Dawson, cornerback Eric Wright.

Departed free agents: Safety Donte Whitner (Cleveland), cornerback Tarell Brown (Oakland), running back Anthony Dixon (tweeted he is signing with Buffalo on Saturday).

Released: Cornerback Carlos Rogers.

Free-agent addition: Safety Antoine Bethea (Colts), Cornerback Chris Cook (Vikings).

Acquired in trade: Quarterback Blaine Gabbert from Jaguars; tackle Jonathan Martin from Miami.

Who are they interested in? Cornerback Walter Thurmond (Seattle),receivers Julian Edelman (New England) and Emmanuel Sanders (Pittsburgh).

Remaining 49ers free agents: Center Jonathan Goodwin, receiver Mario Manningham, quarterback Colt McCoy, receiver Kassim Osgood, cornerback Perrish Cox.

Starting lineup changes: Bethea for Whitner; likely Daniel Kilgore for Goodwin.
The San Francisco 49ers' net for another veteran wide receiver is getting wider.

Sanders
Pittsburgh's Emmanuel Sanders is set to visit the 49ers on Saturday, according to a report by ESPN's Adam Schefter. Sanders is also visiting with the Chiefs on Friday. The Sanders' visit follows a San Francisco visit by New England's Julian Edelman.

Also, the 49ers are reportedly interested in Giants' free agent Hakeem Nicks. Both Edelman and Nicks are getting a lot of interest in the free-agent market.

While Sanders may not have the name recognition as Edelman or Nicks, I think he might be a better fit for the 49ers than the other two. He is a speedster and, thus, he is more of a field stretcher than the other two receivers -- all of which is the 49ers' biggest need. I think he'd fit in well with San Francisco starting receivers Anquan Boldin and Michael Crabtree. The group would surely be an upgrade from last season's receiving crew in San Francisco.

Sanders also may be more cost effective for the 49ers than Edelman and Nicks. That is important for a team that has less than $4 million in salary cap room and a team that's also trying to find a veteran cornerback.

In early February, ESPN NFL Insider Adam Caplan pegged Sanders as a good fit for the 49ers. Sanders, who will turn 27 on Monday, had 67 catches for 740 yards and six touchdowns last season. It was Sanders' best season in four NFL campaigns.

If the 49ers don't sign Edelman, Nicks or Sanders, other available free agents include Steve Smith, James Jones, Santonio Holmes and Sidney Rice.
The San Francisco 49ers' interest in free-agent receivers Julian Edelman, who is visiting the team today fresh off a 105-catch season in New England, and Hakeem Nicks, says this: the team is clearly interested in using more three-receiver sets.

After all, it’s not like Anquan Boldin (who just signed a two-year, $12 million extension) and Michael Crabtree (who is in his prime) are going to see decreased roles in the offense.

The NFL is a league of three-receiver sets, although the 49ers did not subscribe to that theory. According to ESPN Stats & Information, the 49ers were last in the NFL using three-receiver sets in 2013. They ran three-receiver sets on just 205 snaps. Green Bay ran the most in the NFL with 817 three-receiver sets.

The interest in Edelman and Nicks, both impact players, shows the 49ers want to get closer to Green Bay in that regard.
Let’s look deeper into the San Francisco 49ers’ interest in free-agent receivers Julian Edelman of New England and Hakeem Nicks of the New York Giants.

Odds of landing them: There is competition. The Patriots want Edelman back and Cleveland has been connected to him as well. Nicks is visiting Indianapolis on Friday. Carolina is also interested. The 49ers don’t have a ton of salary-cap room, so they have to get creative in a deal with either player.

Nicks
Edelman
Who else is out there if Edelman and Nicks don’t end up with 49ers: The top available receivers include Steve Smith, James Jones, Santonio Holmes, Sidney Rice, Emmanuel Sanders and Jerome Simpson.

Who is the best fit? Probably Nicks because he is an outside receiver. Landing him on a short-term deal to see if he can become a top-notch player again could be smart. Don’t get me wrong; Edelman is good as well. You don’t catch 105 balls in a season if you’re not talented. But Anquan Boldin is essentially a slot guy as well. Still, I’m sure the 49ers could find ways to make it work.

How Crabtree, Boldin and the draft figure: Crabtree is a free agent next year and Boldin is 33. So, even if the 49ers sign Edelman or Nicks, I can still see them taking a receiver early in the draft.

Kaepernick factor: I’m sure quarterback Colin Kaepernick is paying attention. This passing offense could be nasty with Boldin, Crabtree, tight end Vernon Davis and Nicks or Edelman. It would open it up. It could also behoove Kaepernick to wait to get his contract done until next year. He could put up big numbers with another top weapon.

Should Seattle worry? Yes. The 49ers must get better on offense to beat Seattle. That was the reason why the 49ers couldn’t overtake Seattle in 2013. A big-time offensive weapon could even the playing field.

Scout's thoughts: “I was a little surprised to be honest, especially after the re-signing of Boldin. Quinton Patton also shows some promise, but this would be a heck of a receiver corps if is Patton is your No. 4. I would think if they were in the market for WR though, that they would be looking for a pure speed guy, which isn't Nicks or Edelman.” -- ESPN analyst Matt Williamson
On Wednesday night, we looked at reasons why it appeared the San Francisco 49ers were exploring the wide receiver market in free agency.

However, ESPN’s Adam Schefter dropped a bit of a bombshell on Thursday. Schefter reported that New England slot receiver Julian Edelman will visit the 49ers on Friday. Schefter also reported the team is interested in Giants receiver Hakeem Nicks.

Both players will likely be fairly costly and the 49ers don’t have a ton of salary-cap room. But Perhaps the market is dropping and the 49ers are looking to see if they can get a relative bargain.

Nicks may fit better because he is an outside guy. Anquan Boldin, although he is a starter, thrives as a slot man. However, adding either Nicks or Edelman would give the 49ers another strong weapon as the 49ers try to catch up with Super Bowl champion Seattle in the NFC West.

A passing offense featuring Michael Crabtree, Boldin, Vernon Davis and one of these two players would be daunting and it would certainly help quarterback Colin Kaepernick stay on the upswing.

It will be interesting to see how these pursuits play out and whether the 49ers can find a way to fit one of these two receivers into the offense.

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