Now that the confetti has settled on another NFL season, and now that the San Francisco 49ers enter another long off season, it’s time to address some of the needs on the team for next year. While we have already covered who will leave and why, it’s only fair to look at what will be available to the 49ers in free agency or the draft if they let certain players test the market. And there are some big time names on the free agent market this year, names that could change the face of a franchise and alter roles on the team if the 49ers are crafty enough to land them.
With Alex Smith sure to leave the team for a starter role somewhere else, the 49ers will be on the market for a back up quarterback to fill his void. Yeah they have a third string quarterback in Scott Tolzien that undoubtedly wants the job, but in his two years of experience he has not seen the field. So it would probably be in their best interest to look outside of the organization. And there are a lot of quarterbacks on the market this year that would fill a back up position. Most notably Tavaris Jackson, Derek Anderson, Jason Campbell, Josh Johnson, Brady Quinn, Matt Moore, David Carr, Matt Leinart, Byron Leftwich, and Rex Grossman. If there is one name that stands out from the rest it’s probably Moore. He played very well as a starter for the Miami Dolphins before losing his job to a superstar rookie. Moore is young and talented with a tremendous upside, and the price may be in the 49ers wheelhouse.
An even deeper free agent pool is in the wide receiver category. And while the 49ers don’t absolutely need a wide out this off-season, if Mario Manningham and Kyle Williams come back healthy, there is no harm in adding a big name to the roster. Especially if the 49ers have the cap room left from the departure of Alex Smith and a few others. Notable receivers on this year’s market are Wes Welker, Victor Cruz, Danny Amendola, Mike Wallace, Dwayne Bowe, Brandon Stokely, Greg Jennings, Domenik Hixon, Julian Edelman, Devery Henderson, Brian Hartline, Johnny Knox, Austin Collie, David Nelson, Kevin Ogletree, and Donnie Avery. It’s such a deep pool, that half of those guys would make Michael Crabtree the number two wide out on the 49ers team. But getting such a big name might be difficult; it would cost a lot to wrap up some of these guys. But stranger things have happened through trades. If the 49ers lose the salary of Randy Moss and Ted Ginn Jr. they get close to having the cap space to lure a Welker or a Cruz. And if they release Smith and a few others, they just might be in the ballpark for one of those upper echelon guys.
The 49ers will probably also be on the market for a kicker after they release a struggling David Akers this off season. Unfortunately, signing a good kicker in the free agent market is very difficult. NFL teams that have talented kickers tend to wrap them up pretty quickly and convincingly. So finding one in free agency that is not struggling is probably not gonna happen. Kickers that are left by their teams in free agency are there for a reason; they didn’t perform well enough to warrant a new contract. The 49ers will more than likely look for a kicker in the draft. They have 14 total picks in the 2012 draft, that’s a lot, and using just one for a decent kicker is not out of the question. As a matter of fact, since over half of those draft picks wont make the team anyway, it’s fair to say that they could be used as trade bait for a kicker of quality. Who knows, that many picks could be used as trade bait for a great many things.
Being that Ginn Jr. will not be resigned this off-season, as he is looking for a bigger role with a team, the 49ers will probably on the market for a punt return specialist, especially if Kyle Williams doesn’t return 100%. But again, just like kickers, most teams don’t let the real good ones get away. Unfortunately for Ginn Jr., most return specialist play a much more expanded role on their teams than just punt returner. It’s not good for him, but it’s good for the 49ers. That means if they replace him with another return specialist, that person will be more likely to help the team in other areas. What kind of amazing pick up would Wes Welker be? A number one receiver, that has led the league in receptions for five of the past six years, and he is a punt return specialist. It’s a pipe dream sure, but it’s a good one for the 49er faithful. Aside from free agent punt returners, the 49ers could choose to move LaMichael James into that role as well, he is already receiving kick offs. And if Williams comes back at full strength, he is not too terrible at the position either. More than likely the 49ers will stay with what they have, let Ginn Jr. walk, and make due, unless they get a shot at a multi talented return specialist.
The last area that the 49ers may have some concerns in signing is a back up tight end. Delanie Walker will more than likely test the free agent market and the 49ers will have to fill his role. Walker was good too, it’s not just a role that can be filled with just any tight end. They have to have big play abilities and be willing to play second fiddle to the 49ers starting tight end Vernon Davis. The market is deep at tight end this year, but mostly by tight ends with talents that are equal to a starter role, not a back up. That being said, they lose the cap space if Walker leaves, so they just might be able to convince a mid level tight end with potential to the line up.
Either way you look at it, the roster for the 2013 49ers, especially on the offensive side of the ball, just may look a lot different. They just might even see new leaders on the team as well. The 49ers upper management is a crafty group of executives, so there doesn’t seem to be anything out of their realm of possibilities.
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