No. 2: Linebacker Anthony Barr
San Francisco essentially has just one starting-caliber linebacker heading into 2019, Fred Warner. Perennial backup and special teams ace, Elijah Lee, flashed some promise last season. But he’s better suited to a reserve role. And fellow linebacker Malcolm Smith has been a disappointment since signing a lucrative free-agent deal in 2017.
Smith could be a cap casualty this offseason, too. Even if the 49ers retain his services, it would be wise for John Lynch to consider a strong addition.
A player to watch here is Minnesota Vikings linebacker Anthony Barr. A four-time Pro Bowler, Barr is only 26 years old and just hitting the prime of his career. His coverage skills haven’t been quite as good as they were a few years ago. But they’d be an upgrade over what Smith has to offer. And the Niners already have a good coverage linebacker in Warner anyway.
The Vikings are going to have some cap issues this offseason, which makes re-signing Barr something of a difficulty. And it’s yet another aspect that could help the 49ers lure in his services, as described previously, here.
Barr’s coverage abilities might be waning. But he’s an effective pass-rusher. Aligned as a SAM backer in a 4-3 Under base, Barr would get some additional pass-rushing duties off the strong side. Those would play to his strengths.