Through nearly a week of the free-agent signing period, the 49ers have added six players this offseason who have chances to get onto the field and make a contribution.
Here’s a breakdown of the 49ers’ additions and their projected roles on the team:
WR Torrey Smith: The 49ers handed out the richest free-agent contract to an offensive player in franchise history – surpassed only by cornerback Nate Clements’ deal in 2007. Smith is the speed threat on the outside that should complement Anquan Boldin and Vernon Davis while providing quarterback Colin Kaepernick with a top down-field target. The 49ers signed Smith to a five-year, $40 million contract, including an $8 million signing bonus, to replace Michael Crabtree in the starting lineup.
RB Reggie Bush: With Frank Gore’s departure to the Indianapolis Colts, the 49ers wanted a less-expensive veteran to help share the load. Carlos Hyde is envisioned as the team’s primary back. Bush and Kendall Hunter are in line as change-of-pace backs. With some changes on the offensive line and Kaepernick spending time working on his mechanics this offseason, the 49ers hope to be able to implement more screen passes into the play-calling. That’s an area in which Bush excels.
CB Shareece Wright: The 49ers did not make much of an effort to re-sign Chris Culliver or Perrish Cox, who combined for 28 starts last season. The 49ers opted to sign Wright, who started 27 games the past two seasons with the San Diego Chargers. Wright (5 foot 11, 182 pounds) has a chance to win the starting job opposite of Tramaine Brock. But he’ll have to compete against Dontae Johnson, Chris Cook and, perhaps, other young players for the role.
DL Darnell Dockett: The 49ers released Ray McDonald in December, and Justin Smith has yet to make a public decision on whether he plans to return for a 15th NFL season. Dockett’s play against the run was not a strength over his past couple seasons with the Arizona Cardinals. He could be part of a rotation on base downs while settling into a role as a situational pass-rusher. He appears to be a strong option as a pass-rusher from the defensive tackle position on the 49ers’ four-man line in nickel situations.
OL Erik Pears: He has started games at every spot on the offensive line, except center, in his eight-year career. Pears' starting days are probably over, though it’s possible he could insert himself into the competition at left guard. (Brandon Thomas appears to be the early favorite to replace left guard Mike Iupati.) More than likely, Pears will compete against Jonathan Martin to serve as the 49ers’ backup tackle.
WR Jerome Simpson: Anquan Boldin, Torrey Smith and Bruce Ellington are all but assured spots on the 53-man roster. Quintin Patton also stands a good chance at winning a roster spot. Simpson, a six-year veteran who was out of the league last season, will battle against Trindon Holliday and a bunch of younger guys, including an expected draft pick or two, for a spot on the team. Simpson has the speed to stretch the field, but he does not provide value in the return game.