As the San Francisco 49ers players clear out their lockers this week and adjust to the off season, there is still a lot of work to be done by the coaching staff and upper management when it comes to how the roster will look next season. Only days after their Super Bowl loss to the Baltimore Ravens there are numerous concerns being addressed by the media on the subject. The 49ers have been pretty silent thus far about contract negotiations with players, but it does highlight some very serious concerns that 49ers fans have.
The one player that the 49ers really need to wrap up into a long-term contract is safety Dashon Goldson. He has had one-year contracts the past two years, and was franchise tagged for the 2012 season at 6.2 million dollars. This off season he becomes an unrestricted free agent. While his statistics put him just outside the top 20 of defensive backfield players in the league, on the 49ers squad he is one of the leaders of the defense. He led the team in interceptions during the 2012 regular season with three and he was fourth on the team in combined tackles with 69. And what would the 49ers get to fill his role if they decide to let him walk? There are only 20 or so better players in the secondary in the entire league. The Goldson concern is probably their biggest concern in the off season.
The future of Alex Smith will probably not be with the 49ers next year. And while this has been covered time and again, there are still rumblings that he will indeed stay with the franchise. He is due a lot of money if they decide to keep him as a back up to Colin Kaepernick. Far more than what Kaepernick is signed for. There is no reason to keep Smith, it would free up a lot of cap space, and there is no statistical reason for the 49ers to keep two starting quarterbacks on their roster. The 49ers would be better suited to trade him for another position on the team that needs to be addressed. Like maybe a wide receiver or kicker or return specialist.
And speaking of return specialists, the 49ers punt returner Ted Ginn Jr. is up for contract negotiations this off season as well. And media reports have him, and more to the point, his father, disgruntled with his role on the team. Ginn Jr. obviously wants to more involved in the receiving game rather than just punt returns. As of right now he only returns punts, as he lost his job as the kick off returner to LaMichael James. And while Ginn Jr. is one of the better punt returners in the league, can the 49ers justify keeping him for only that purpose. In 2012 he caught only two passes, so there is not any likelihood that he gets more reps in that department. Suffice it to say the 49ers will more than likely let Ginn Jr. test the free agent market.
And what of the path set before Randy Moss? The future Hall of Famer was signed to a one year contract by the 49ers at the beginning of 2012 and is a free agent this off season. While Moss is an excellent mentor to the 49ers squad, his role on the team was never that valuable. He tied for fourth in receptions made by 49ers players. And that was with the injury to Kyle Williams, who saw his role in the passing game increase from last year. With Williams returning next year and with Mario Manningham returning from injury next year and with the 49ers 2012 first round draft pick A. J. Jenkins due to see more action next year, it stands to reason that Moss will not put on a 49ers uniform again. He has stated that he fully intends on playing again in the NFL next year, but more than likely it will be with another team.
There is also tight end Delanie Walker to consider. He is an excellent back up tight end to Vernon Davis, and he made some big plays for the 49ers during the regular season and playoffs. But he did not make enough catches to warrant a pay increase, which he most certainly will want. He only had 21 catches on the regular season, and most of those came when Kaepernick took over at quarterback. It’s fair to say that the 49ers could sign another tight end that can catch 21 balls, or even involve the third string tight end Garrett Celek more often next year. Point is, it would be much cheaper to let Walker move on, when another player can match the production.
David Akers is also in the hot seat this summer. Granted he is not a free agent, but more than likely he will be either traded or cut. After a stellar career, Akers has seen his talents diminish over the 2012 regular season. And after posting the worst season of his career, twice the 49ers had brought in kickers to challenge for the position. He kept the job, but one can only guess by the slimmest of margins. So after multiple missed field goals on the year the 49ers will probably choose to look elsewhere for kicker duties. It really does remain to be seen if Akers will play again in the NFL, his last year did not help to impress any teams out there.
And then there is Brandon Jacobs, the bruising running back that the 49ers picked up on a one-year contract at the beginning of the 2012 regular season. Unfortunately no one really knows, except the 49ers brass, what really happened to the relationship between him and the 49ers. Either way, he was suspended by the team near the end of the regular season after accumulated almost zero statistics on the season. No doubt he will be moving on, either the 49ers were not impressed with his talents or they were tired of his media hoopla.
This off-season the 49ers have some crucial decisions to make, and while they still stand to look tough going into next year, the team will have a lot of new faces on the roster.
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