2014 Team Needs: San Francisco 49ers

After four long campaigns the 49ers find themselves at a bit of a crossroads with what to do with their free agents which Jeff Deeney covers for you here.

| 3 years ago
2014-Teams-Needs-SF

2014 Team Needs: San Francisco 49ers


2014-Teams-Needs-SFFor the third consecutive season, the San Francisco 49ers advanced to the NFL’s version of the Final Four, and for the third year in a row their season ended in heartbreaking fashion, this time via the left hand of nemesis Richard Sherman.

With a couple defensive contributors coming up on a free agency, and several other key starters who have contracts expiring after the 2014 season including quarterback Colin Kaepernick, this is a key offseason for general manager Trent Baalke.

Baalke and the 49ers have a history of not being aggressive during the first wave of free agency, choosing not to overpay while filling holes either through the draft or with players who may have fallen through the cracks and can be had at a better value.

Potential Cap Casualties

Per overthecap.com, the 49ers are currently just over $10 million under the salary cap heading into free agency. The 49ers have been very shrewd with the cap under Baalke’s tenure, so they don’t have a lot of fat that can be trimmed, but here are a couple options below that could free up some more cap space.

–  Carlos Rogers has a $6.25 million base salary and an $8.1 million cap hit in 2014, and barring him taking a drastic pay cut he will not return to San Francisco in 2014. Releasing him would shave $5.1 million off the cap.

–  I would be extremely surprised if Frank Gore is not back next season, but as much as he has been the pulse of the 49ers offense for some time, $6.45 million is a lot to pay a running back who will be 31 in May. Baalke has gone on record stating he doesn’t feel that Gore needs to take a pay cut, but logic dictates otherwise.

–  Sending Rogers on his way and reducing Gore’s salary could save the 49ers approximately $8 million going forward. With Colin Kaepernick, Aldon Smith, Michael Crabtree, and Mike Iupati all having deals expiring after this season, the 49ers will likely not be able to keep everyone they want, but the more cap room they can create will help in retaining a majority of their top talent.

Team Needs

Safety

Donte Whitner had a tremendous contract year in 2013, dramatically improving his coverage numbers from the previous season.

Season (incl. playoffs)

Coverage Grade

QB Rating Allowed

Catch Rate

TDs Allowed

2013

+12.7

61.8

52.0%

2

2012

-1.9

130.6

77.8%

12

While the 49ers would like to keep Whitner at the right price, after watching Dashon Goldson get a five-year, $47.5 million contract from Tampa Bay last offseason, it’s quite likely that someone on the open market will be willing to overpay Whitner as well. It’s a strong possibility the 49ers will have to go shopping for a new starting safety.

Free Agent Fix: Chris Clemons has allowed only two touchdowns total in coverage the last two years despite playing 98.5% of the Dolphins’ defensive snaps. One red flag is that Clemons’ grade against the run took a dip from +4.4 in 2012 to -3.6 in 2013. He is coming off a one year, $2.75 million deal, and would be a cheaper replacement at safety if Whitner is shown the money elsewhere.

Wide Receiver

San Francisco was able to bring back Anquan Boldin before he hit the market, but the 49ers could still use some speed and depth at this position. In addition to looking on the free agent market, the draft in May looks to be top-heavy at wide receiver, so there’s a strong likelihood the 49ers may use one of their early draft picks to fill this need as well.

Free Agent Fix: A name that still brings pain to many 49ers fans from his 108 yard kickoff return in Super Bowl XLVI is Jacoby Jones. Jones deep-threat ability (Jones’ aDOT of 15.7 was 5th highest among wide receivers with 50+ targets) would be a great fit as the lone receiver in the 49ers’ 22 personnel package. With LaMichael James possibly being the odd man out at running back, Jones also provides an option as both a kick and punt returner as well.

Cornerback

With Carlos Rogers likely a cap casualty and Tarell Brown likely to test the open market, the 49ers head into free agency thin at cornerback. Tramaine Brock is set at one starter while Chris Culliver, who missed all of the 2013 regular season with a torn ACL, is currently penciled in at the other outside corner.

Rogers’ role with the 49ers would have him slide to the slot in the nickel package, and with him likely gone and dime back Perrish Cox is also a free agent, the 49ers could use some help in the slot as well as some overall depth.

Free Agent Fix: Cornerback may be one of the deepest groups in this free agent market, so it’s possible the 49ers may be able to bring in a contributor without having to break the bank. Captain Munnerlyn ranked 11th among cornerbacks in 2013 with a +10.1 overall grade while lining up in the slot on roughly two-thirds of his pass plays. Munnerlyn earned a +3.8 grade against the run last year, and also led all cornerbacks with four sacks, while racking up ten QB pressures on just 32 blitzes.

 

 

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