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The 49ers Need Wallace's Explosiveness
If you are one of two teams in the league that have not had a 1,000-yard receiver since 2003, something has to be done to upgrade the wide-receiver corps. You could also base the need for a wide receiver off what Michael Crabtree and other 49er receivers did in the playoffs, which was nothing.
In fact, Vernon Davis out-gained the other 49er receivers combined. Perhaps most importantly the 49ers will most likely bring Alex Smith back, which will not be cheap, and adding another wide receiver will give their expensive investment his best chance to succeed.
This year's wide receiver free-agent class is stacked. Names like Vincent Jackson, Dwayne Bowe, Stevie Johnson, Wes Welker and many other names could hit the market. But we have to remind ourselves that the flashy trades or flashy signings that we see in other sports are hard to come by in the NFL.
Most of these players already have received the franchise tag. One player who didn't is Marques Colston. The New Orleans Saints have several players with expiring contracts, including Drew Brees, and because Brees and the Saints weren't able to reach an agreement, the Saints had to use their franchise tag on him instead of Colston.
Colston has been consistently productive, but before the 49ers break the bank, they should consider that Colston's production could be a product of the system.
Will Colston put up the same numbers in an offense that runs multiple tight-end sets instead of multiple wide- receiver sets that the Saints ran?
Jackson is another option. The Chargers did not tag him and hope to sign him to a long-term contract. But the last time the Chargers tried to tag Jackson, he held out.
The Chargers will let Jackson test the market and try to match any offers he receives. In the meantime, the Chargers will begin releasing players to make enough cap room to re-sign Jackson.
Another possibility is Mike Wallace. I left him off the list on purpose. His situation is different. He's a restricted free agent whose team, the Steelers, might not be able to afford to keep him.
The 49ers should take advantage of the Steelers' salary-cap situation and pursue Wallace. He has the explosiveness the 49ers offense lacks.
It is true that Wallace will not come cheap, and I'm not just talking about the money, as the 49ers will have to give up a first-round draft pick to sign Wallace since he is a RFA. But how often do you get the chance to sign a young productive wide receiver who has not even maxed out his potential.
Under the new collective bargaining agreement, the cost of signing a RFA is less than it was under the old agreement. However, I doubt the 49ers will come away with Wallace. The Patriots and Ravens also will be be interested in him, and the 49ers have shown less and less interest in free agency over the years.
If the 49ers don't look to the offseason to upgrade the wide-receiver position, they could look to the NFL Draft. But this is one of the weaker wide-receiver drafts. The few wide receivers worth a first-round grade will most likely already have been picked when the 49ers pick at No. 30.
If the 49ers do pick a wide receiver at No. 30, it will most likely be a reach. The 49ers draft philosophy is based on drafting the best player available, not need. But if the 49ers saw Georgia Tech receiver Stephen Hill's combine performance, they could be convinced that Hill is the best player available when they pick 30th.
Before the combine, Hill was projected to be a second- or third-round pick. That all changed after Hill's combine performance. He is now considered a top-40 pick.
Hill tied for the fastest official 40-yard dash time, ran a 4.30 unofficially, ranked fourth in the vertical jump and first in the broad jump. He also impressed in the drills, making a highlight-reel over-the-shoulder catch.
Critics will point to his lack of production, but in George Tech's option offense, Hill was underutilized. Though it is true that Hill is not NFL-ready coming from that ridiculous offense, if fellow Georgia Tech receivers Calvin Johnson Jr. and Demaryius Thomas can be successful in the NFL why can't Hill?
Like Wallace, Hill and his 4.30 40-time would provide the explosiveness the 49ers offense needs. The 49ers need to hope that Hill's combine performance didn't boost his stock too much and that he won't be another receiver already off the board by the time they pick at No. 30.