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Five storylines to follow throughout 49ers offseason



© Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

The 49ers have enjoyed a productive offseason so far, adding proven players in free agency to bolster a young roster. There are still plenty of storylines to watch, however, concerning rule changes, player contracts, and the upcoming 2018 NFL Draft.

Let’s take a look at the hottest topics surrounding the 49ers’ offseason.

Is John Lynch done spending in free agency?

The 49ers entered free agency with more than $100 million in available cap space. General manager John Lynch and head coach Kyle Shanahan wasted no time addressing some of the team’s glaring weaknesses, signing cornerback Richard Sherman, running back Jerick McKinnon, and center Weston Richburg in a few days’ span. Lynch then added edge rusher Jeremiah Attaochu and guard Jonathan Cooper in the following week.

The 49ers added what they needed, but will Lynch continue to spend in free agency?

According to the most recent NFLPA cap report, San Francisco still has $47 million in cap room, the third-most in the league. The team will spend about $8 million to $9 million in next month’s 2018 NFL Draft.

It’s likely that Lynch will store a large chunk of San Francisco’s resources to retain DeForest Buckner, one of the top defensive tackles in the NFL. Buckner and San Francisco can begin negotiating for a multi-year deal next offseason.

Each rookie is required to sign a four-year NFL contract after being drafted, while the team decides whether it wants to pick up the player’s fifth-year option. The 49ers have until May 3 to decide whether they will retain 2015 draftees, including defensive end Arik Armstead and left guard Laken Tomlinson.

There are still some marquee free agents looking for a new home, including wide receiver Terrelle Pryor, which leads to our next topic.

When will a team sign Eric Reid?

Free safety Eric Reid is among the top available players. Reid is a five-year NFL veteran (all with the 49ers) and one-time Pro Bowler, leading to a question brewing around the league: why hasn’t he been signed?

There is growing speculation that teams won’t sign Reid because of his outspokenness on social activism. After kneeling for the National Anthem alongside Colin Kaepernick during the 2016 season, Reid has been one of the most forthright 49ers players on social issues.

On Tuesday afternoon, at Sherman’s introductory press conference with the 49ers, the All-Pro cornerback backed Reid, whom he called one of the NFL’s top-five or top-10 safeties.

“We are concerned because (Reid) has played at a high level for just about every year he has played in this league,” Sherman said. “He has made enough plays to sign with a team and to make his money. He deserves his money.”

It’s unlikely the 49ers will re-sign Reid, with safeties Jimmie Ward, Adrian Colbert, and Jaquiski Tartt currently under contract.

Reid isn’t the only proven safety still looking for a new team, however. Kenny Vaccaro and Tre Boston are among the other notable free agents at the position. NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport speculates that teams are waiting to sign these players until their price tags drop later in free agency.

But Reid’s situation has a different feel. Players around the league, including Sherman, have taken notice.

“I am praying that he gets picked up,” Sherman said. “But if he doesn’t, then I think there will be a conversation with the league office and the union on potential legal action.”

The Reuben Foster saga

On Jan. 13, 49ers linebacker Reuben Foster was arrested for marijuana possession. One month later, he was arrested again, this time for domestic violence, threats, and assault weapon accusations.

Foster starred in his rookie season after the 49ers selected him with the 31st overall pick in the 2017 NFL Draft. He won November’s Defensive Rookie of the Month award after totaling 30 tackles in three games.

His legal trouble has put his football career in a precarious situation, however. The Santa Clara County District Attorney’s Office is still reviewing his case and whether criminal charges will be pursued.

Lynch touched on the Foster situation on the Golic and Wingo radio show Wednesday morning.

“We’re monitoring it closely,” Lynch said. “We’ve had some really frank discussions with Reuben. Unfortunately, a lot of these things happen in the offseason, when we aren’t allowed to touch these guys. And that’s not an excuse, it’s just a reality.”

The NFL Competition Committee meeting

The NFL Competition Committee meets next Monday in Orlando. The group will review several issues, including the controversial “catch rule,” but the 49ers are specifically awaiting a decision on a bylaw they recently proposed with the Los Angeles Chargers and Arizona Cardinals.

According to Sports Illustrated Albert Breer, the bylaw states: “No team will be scheduled to play more than three away games with a scheduled kickoff time prior to 1:00 p.m. in the time zone of their home stadium (w/o consent).”

The thought is that West Coast teams suffer when they travel to the East Coast for 1 p.m. games due to jet lag. West Coast fans watch these contests at 10 a.m.

At least 75 percent (24 of 32) of NFL owners must approve the proposition for adoption.

Which players will the 49ers target in the 2018 NFL Draft?

Last year, Lynch aced his first NFL Draft as a general manager. The 49ers added several key contributors, including Solomon Thomas, Foster, Ahkello Witherspoon, Trent Taylor, and George Kittle.

San Francisco’s roster is much stronger one year later, thanks to a certain $137.5 million quarterback signing and productive free agency period. But the 49ers still have some issues to address in this year’s NFL draft, which begins on April 26.

It is highly possible that the Browns, Giants, Jets, and Bills choose quarterbacks before the 49ers pick at the No. 9 overall slot, which gives Lynch access to many of the draft’s top non-quarterback prospects.

San Francisco is still searching for a dominant edge rusher to pair alongside Buckner. The 49ers added Attaochu last week, but with 10 sacks in four career seasons, he hasn’t proven to be the game-changing pass rusher that is so valuable in the NFL.

Despite adding Sherman, the 49ers may look to bolster its secondary. Alabama defensive back Minkah Fitzpatrick has been linked to San Francisco in numerous mock drafts.

The 49ers seem content with their receiving corps after signing Marquise Goodwin to a three-year extension. Pierre Garcon will return after a neck injury sidelined him for half of the 2017 season. The 49ers could use the upcoming draft to add a big, physical red-zone threat.

Lynch may also target the interior offensive line and linebacker positions. Regardless of Foster’s availability, it makes sense to add another linebacker for depth purposes.

Brad Almquist is KNBR.com’s 49ers beat writer. For full 49ers coverage, follow Brad @bquist13.