The 49ers’ biggest free-agent need is at cornerback.
And that is where the organization appears to be taking its biggest swings.
The 49ers are contacting representatives of the top free-agent cornerbacks on the market Monday morning at the outset of the NFL’s open-negotiating period, league sources told NBC Sports Bay Area.
The top available cornerbacks on the market are generally considered to be New England’s J.C. Jackson, Tampa Bay’s Carlton Davis, and Carolina’s Stephon Gilmore.
The 49ers currently are approximately $11 million over the league’s 2022 salary cap, according to the NFL Players Association.
The 49ers are likely in the process of working on salary conversions with some of their top-paid players to get under the salary cap and create enough room for the club to make moves at the start of the free-agent signing period.
The new league year begins Wednesday, at which point free agents can sign with other teams, trades can be executed, and all teams must be under the cap.
San Francisco 49ers
The 49ers’ top two cornerbacks at the end of last season, Emmanuel Moseley and Ambry Thomas, are under contract for the upcoming season. The club is prepared to offer a top-of-the-market deal to add a No. 1 cornerbacks, one source said, but the 49ers are prepared to move on quickly if the price becomes exorbitant.
The next group includes former 49ers cornerback D.J. Reed (Seattle), Charvarius Ward (Kansas City), Casey Hayward (Las Vegas), Darious Williams (Rams), Bryce Callahan (Denver), Desmond King (Houston) and Steven Nelson (Philadelphia).
The 49ers have three notable free-agent cornerbacks of their own in Jason Verrett, K’Waun Williams and Dontae Johnson.
Verrett opened last season as a starter before sustaining a torn ACL in Week 1. The 49ers consider Williams one of the top nickel backs in the league. Johnson has been a valued backup in the secondary because of his versatility.
The 49ers’ top free agents are guard Laken Tomlinson and defensive tackle D.J. Jones.
Both players are expected to generate a lot of interest on the open market and present huge challenges for the 49ers to retain.
The 49ers invested a second-round draft pick last year in guard Aaron Banks, who would be expected to take over if Tomlinson is not retained.
And the 49ers hope Javon Kinlaw will return strong after knee surgery and step into the lineup as the 49ers’ base defensive tackle if Jones signs elsewhere.