5 free agents who may follow Brandon Staley to 49ers

Perhaps some former Rams and Chargers would be willing to join Brandon Staley in San Francisco now.

Los Angeles Chargers head coach Brandon Staley
Los Angeles Chargers head coach Brandon Staley / Stephen Maturen/GettyImages
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Brandon Staley isn't taking over as 49ers defensive coordinator, but he still may attract some soon-to-be free agents to the red and gold.

The San Francisco 49ers have a new defensive coordinator.

On Saturday, news broke that the Niners were promoting from within, naming defensive pass game specialist Nick Sorensen to the role that was vacated by former coordinator Steve Wilks last month.

But, in a parallel move, San Francisco is also hiring former Los Angeles Chargers head coach Brandon Staley as assistant head coach to head coach Kyle Shanahan. Staley is also likely to assume some other prominent role with the 49ers, too.

Staley's near-three years with the Bolts was rocky, at best. Yet he does come with a solid reputation as a defensive play-caller, namely from his 2020 season at the head of the Los Angeles Rams' top-ranked defense from that year.

And while his latter Los Angeles years weren't exactly filled with success, it's certainly possible he can help lure in some pending free agents to help bolster the Niners roster in 2024 and beyond.

Here are five who may now want to join San Francisco.

No. 5: Safety John Johnson

The 49ers appear to have their starting safety tandem in place for the future with Ji'Ayir Brown and Talanoa Hufanga. But Hufanga is coming off an ACL tear, and it's anyone's guess how effective he'll be at the start of 2024.

Rams safety John Johnson, who led that team in tackles in 2020 when Staley was there, spent his first four seasons as a starter in LA before playing with the Cleveland Browns in 2021 and 2022, then coming back to Southern California for another season with Los Angeles in 2023 where he only started eight games but had 42 tackles, two interceptions and six passes broken up.

At 28 years old, Johnson still has a couple more peak years in his body and could compete for a starting job right away while also beefing up the Niners' depth chart.