San Francisco 49ers: 4 free agents to steal from AFC South

Defensive end Justin Houston #50 of the Indianapolis Colts (Photo by Chris Unger/Getty Images)
Defensive end Justin Houston #50 of the Indianapolis Colts (Photo by Chris Unger/Getty Images) /
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Gareon Conley, Houston Texans
Gareon Conley #22 of the Houston Texans (Photo by Carmen Mandato/Getty Images) /

In this hypothetical 49ers breakdown for NFL free agency, here are four free agents from the AFC South the Niners would enjoy plucking away.

While the San Francisco 49ers‘ exact 2021 schedule isn’t known, we do know the Niners will have both a last-place schedule ahead of them this year and will face both the NFC North and AFC South in divisional play.

San Francisco will host the Indianapolis Colts and Houston Texans this year while traveling to take on the Tennessee Titans and Jacksonville Jaguars.

True, NFL free agency doesn’t work like this. But what if the 49ers could grab one pending free agent from each one of those AFC South teams and add that player to their own 2021 roster? Keep in mind, the Niners have just under $25 million in available cap space, according to Over the Cap, which isn’t bad compared to a number of teams around the league. But the amount will still limit general manager John Lynch’s efforts to a large extent.

With the franchise-tag deadline now passed, and those unsigned players now poised to hit the open market, let’s look at four ideal AFC South free agents San Francisco would like to target this offseason.

player. 10. . Cornerback. Houston Texans. Gareon Conley. 4

49ers Free-Agent Target No. 4: Cornerback Gareon Conley

While 49ers fans would like nothing more than to purge quarterback Deshaun Watson from the Texans, he’s not a free agent and therefore not eligible for this list.

Houston’s pending free agents aren’t overly inspiring, perhaps pointing out some of the team’s struggles in light of an underwhelming finish last year under former head coach and general manager Bill O’Brien.

That said, the Niners do need a complete makeover of their cornerback room with Richard Sherman, Jason Verrett, Ahkello Witherspoon and K’Waun Williams, among others, hitting the free-agent market. San Francisco succeeded with an injury reclamation project with Verrett last year, and perhaps it could do so again with the Texans’ cornerback, Gareon Conley, a former first-round NFL Draft pick of the Oakland Raiders back in 2017.

Conley missed all of 2020 with an injury, and he’s dealt with injury setbacks for much of his career.

Yet the 6-foot-0 Conley has managed a better-than-60.0 Pro Football Focus grade in each of his three full seasons despite playing on some putrid defenses, so it isn’t as if he can’t contribute. While he’s had just four interceptions over his career and isn’t necessarily a ballhawk, he is someone with both experience and youth on his side at 25 years old.

Having missed all of last year, he’d likely come on the cheap, too, which is an added bonus to help round out the depth chart.