The San Francisco 49ers have many decisions to make this off-season in order to stay competitive in the ever improving NFC West. With the waiver process for NFL teams commencing this past Monday, there have been no signs of any pending moves from the 49ers front office this week. The 49ers don’t need much to improve, so I will take a look at possible off-season moves for the 49ers in the next month and a half.
Obviously there are some needs on both sides of the ball, but as a whole, the roster remains intact. Colin Kaepernick will need more receivers to be a truly effective quarterback and defensive backs have been an obvious question mark for years. The 49ers could use additional picks to fill in backup tight ends, fullbacks, lineman and return specialists. The 49ers have 11 picks in the draft and as many as 6 picks in the first 3-rounds of the draft.
The 49ers will have 10 unrestricted, 2 restricted and 1 exclusive rights free-agents to deal with this off-season. The 10 restricted free agents will be the big concern and whom to bring back. The names on the list are Anquan Boldin (WR), Donte Whitner (S), Phil Dawson (K), Mario Manningham (WR), Tarell Brown (CB), Johnathan Goodwin (C), Kassim Osgood (WR), Eric Wright (CB), Colt McCoy (QB) and Anthony Dixon (RB).
Undoubtly the top 3 would be Donte Whitner, Anquan Boldin and Phil Dawson. I do believe Phil Dawson returns in 2014, but Anquan Boldin is a question mark, and I have no idea how or what Boldin will decide to do. He’s 33 and at a $6m price tag, who knows what it will take to bring him back. My guess is the 49ers bite the bullet and re-sign Boldin for 2 years, because who else will they have besides Michael Crabtree? Quinton Patton?
Donte Whitner could be difficult to land. The 28 year-old strong safety is probably a player the 49ers will part ways with and look to replace in the draft. I believe his price tag will be too high when it’s all said and done. The move would most certainly hurt the 49ers secondary should they let him go. Whitner was a leader and really the toughness in the 49ers secondary. Without Whitner the 49ers will be soft and inexperienced. The outspoken safety has also recently posted to Twitter, “Expendable?”, possibly hinting to something ominous down the line. A few days after losing the NFC Championship game Donte Whitner posted “It’s been a pleasure.” He quickly followed that Tweet up with, “My last tweet had nothing to do with football …. “
The other question is what to do with the 33 year old cornerback Carlos Rogers. I don’t see Rogers returning unless he takes a pay cut. His pricetag of $6.6m will rise to $8m and may do better for the Niners elsewhere as they could save roughly $5m if they cut Rogers. Rogers recently discussed, with Niners Nation, a possible pay cut he says he thinks the team wants him to take, and that is understandable from the 49ers front office point of view, though Rogers would argue, “The last three years, I played the most snaps on this whole team, period”
Re-negotiations with running back Frank Gore have also speculated a pay cut or possible release. Gore had 1,000 yards rushing again, but disappeared in the NFC playoffs. The 49ers have some depth with LaMichael James and Marcus Lattimore returning after missing the entire 2013 season recovering from his second major knee injury. I could see the 49ers logic in retaining Anthony Dixon for 2014, but it would hurt to lose Gore with only 1 year remaining on his contract. I don’t see the Niners dropping Gore to re-sign fan favorite Anthony “Boobie” Dixon, so most likely Dixon will be shown the door out. I see the 49ers looking to the draft for another running back.
From the 10 unrestricted free-agents, I don’t see the 49ers bringing back Tarell Brown, Eric Wright, Colt McCoy, Kassim Osgood, and Mario Manningham. All positions can be filled with draft picks that would better suit the 49ers in the long haul. Of this list, Manningham has to be the biggest disappointment, suffering injuries limited his time during his stay in San Francisco. Johnathan Goodwin is another interesting question mark. While Goodwin started all 16 games last season and was very good at his position, his price tag to re-sign may be steeper than the 49ers want to pay out, so I also see the Niners going with a draft pick to replace Goodwin.
There are also questions whether or not the 49ers will re-sign head coach Jim Harbaugh, even though he has 2 years left on his contract. Quarterback Colin Kaepernick’s contract extension has been brought up, even though Kap has 1 year left. Kaepernick recently spoke with Matt Barrows on KNBR radio in Sacramento about possible contract negotiations, “I think it’s a balance. You want to be paid fairly … but at the same time, you have to realize, if we want to get Anquan Boldin back, if we want Donte Whitner to come back, we’re going to have to make moves to get them back. And there has to be room for everyone. And that’s something I ‘m going to let my agent and the organization try to figure out.”
Well spoken from a quarterback trying to improve his leadership, but I don’t think it’s necessary at all to re-sign either just yet. Kap has to prove his worth and with the 49ers Super Bowl window closing, Harbaugh will undoubtly look to help his quarterback improve over this off-season to ensure the 49ers get their money’s worth on every penny spent to keep both Harbaugh and Kaepernick together.
After all, it was Harbaugh who pretty much hitched his wagon to Kaepernick the moment he gave him the starting nod in 2012 when Alex Smith went down. Harbaugh will be forced to hitch his wagon to Kaepernick again depending on how Kap does in 2014. Either Harbaugh will ride with Kaepernick for a few more years in San Francisco, or the Harbaugh/Kaepernick experience will have been just another fad and the two will ride out together. I prefer the before mentioned outcome not the latter, but I assume we shall know where the 49ers stand with Harbaugh, Kaepernick and the other 49ers looking to negotiate contracts, in the months to come.