49ers could make their defense truly elite by adding this free-agent Pro Bowler

Justin Simmons is still out there.
Denver Broncos safety Justin Simmons (31)
Denver Broncos safety Justin Simmons (31) / Perry Knotts/GettyImages

The 49ers don't have many defensive weaknesses, but there's an easy upgrade still available to them on the free-agent market.

The San Francisco 49ers should, barring a 2020-like swarm of injuries, boast yet another top-notch defense in 2024.

However, as general manager John Lynch and head coach Kyle Shanahan have always said, the Niners will never cease to upgrade all positions possible when possible.

One of the few areas of the defense where there remain some question marks heading into the new season is within the secondary, specifically at safety. Currently, San Francisco has four prime candidates for the two starting jobs: Talanoa Hufanga, Ji'Ayir Brown, George Odum and the rookie, Malik Mustapha.

But Hufanga is coming off a torn ACL suffered in the second half of 2023, while Odum is primarily a special teams ace. Mustapha has yet to prove anything at the NFL level.

So, why not dip into the free-agent market, specifically if there's someone who could be of vital service?

49ers could grab Justin Simmons to boost defense to another level

It's anyone's guess why two-time Pro Bowl safety Justin Simmons is still unsigned.

Perhaps it's because he's 30 years old, but the four-time second-team All-Pro is still playing at a high level, evideced by the second of those two Pro Bowl nods coming at the end of his 2023 campaign.

His availability enticed Sports Illustrated's Albert Breer, who admitted the 49ers would be an ideal fit:

"I love the idea of Justin Simmons in either the Vic Fangio–style of defense he’s played in for the Broncos since 2019, or in a Seattle Seahawks–type of defense. That’s why I’d really love to see him as the center fielder in the Niners’ defense—which has historically played the Seattle three scheme, and also just brought aboard Brandon Staley (whom Simmons knows well) from the Fangio tree. Houston would be another fun fit for Simmons, for some of the same reasons."

The plausibility of adding Simmons would make sense, schematically, from Breer's perspective. The former Denver Bronco could act as that single-high safety in San Francisco's traditional Cover 3 defense, which would allow for either Hufanga or Brown to stay closer to the line of scrimmage where they are better suited.

Plus, it'd remove pressure off Mustapha from having to deliver right away, thereby allowing his own development to come along slowly.

The longer Simmons waits into the offseason, the better the chances of him signing a cheaper free-agent contract.

Currently, according to Over the Cap, the 49ers have $31.46 million in cap space, which would be more than enough to take a one-year flier on a player of Simmons' ilk.

In doing so, the Niners could ensure their safety room would be toward the upper echelon in their bid to win a Super Bowl now.

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