The Carolina Panthers recently released all-pro, pass-rushing defensive end, Julius Peppers and the 49ers should absolutely have interest. In fact, they should have so much interest that they should be able to recruit him to San Francisco.
There aren't many pass rushers in the league that have had the success that Peppers has had since he came into the league in 2002. He's averaged 10 sacks per year over that span, but if you take away one surprising off-year in which he only collected 2.5 sacks, he averaged 12 over the other 7 seasons. That's an element in which the 49ers have been consistently below league average ever since their success in the late 90's with Chris Doleman and Roy Barker. I'm getting visions of a Justin Smith/Julius Peppers tandem at D-end and that would be something special. Another huge positive, aside from the rock solid production Peppers would bring, is that he's a free agent and wouldn't cost the 49ers any draft picks to obtain. Now, Peppers is going to be one of the most sought after defensive free agents on the market this year, so by no means is it going to be easy for the 49ers to get him. I would like to see them take the same approach with him that they did Nate Clements a few years back in order to lock him up. The Niners haven't really been big players in free agency in recent years, and with the way the team is developing, this is going to be a very crucial offseason.
With Kurt Warner recently retiring, the NFC west is wide open. If the 49ers can add a few pieces that come in and help the team immediately (left tackle, pass rushing D-end, speed receiver/returner and maybe a DB) then they can easily put themselves in position to win their division, and it's not like they need to add a bunch of pieces either. A guy who I'd potentially like to see them add in order to fill their need for a kick returner and a guy to spread the field on offense is Joshua Cribbs. He scored on 4 kickoff/punt returns last season and wants to get more involved on the offensive side of the ball rather than just returning kicks. The Niners have some nice receiving options for Alex Smith, but they could use a guy who can burn, and beat a defensive back deep. Michal Crabtree is quick and can go deep, but he's not the fastest receiver out there and neither is Josh Morgan. Vernon Davis is actually the fastest guy on offense right now, and he's their tight-end. There are a few restricted Free agents who I'd love to see the Niners grab. Brandon Marshall likely isn't going anywhere, but imagine an offense with Crabtree, Davis, Marshall and Gore, I think Alex Smith would only have to be average to throw for 25 touchdowns. A little less of a long shot, but still a restricted free agent, is Malcom Floyd. He's lanky and fast and really broke out last season.
Stay tuned as we get into March, we'll start our NFL draft coverage, mock drafts and more. It should be an exciting draft for Bay Area football fans as the Niners have two first rounders (13 & 17) and the Raiders hold a pick in the top-10 (8). Off the top of my head, Dez Bryant would be a nice pick for one of the Niner's choices and for the Raiders pick, linebacker Rolando McClain is an all-around, special talent at middle linebacker and could anchor the middle of their defense! However, the combine showings have begun and things could definitely change in the next 6 weeks.