San Francisco 49ers: 4 Skill Position Free Agents Not Worth the Gamble in 2012
As with any business venture, general managers of NFL franchises seek quality returns on their investments—in this case, the players signed through free agency.
And more specifically, San Francisco 49ers GM Trent Baalke and the free agent class of 2012.
That quality return entails everything from wide receivers filling up the stat sheet, to running backs moving the chains on third-down, to defensive backs shutting down the opposition’s aerial attack.
All as long as the particular player’s production contributes to the success of the team—i.e., winning football games.
This article highlights the players available on the market that will do just the opposite.
Baalke and the rest of the 49ers organization must abandon any notion of signing these men if they wish to continue their winning ways in 2012.
Matt Flynn, QB, Green Bay Packers
Not so fast, Mr. Flynn.
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
I figured I’d begin with quashing the outrageous considerations of signing anyone other than Alex Smith, or, perhaps in a pipe dream, a fully healthy Peyton Manning.
Matt Flynn raised his stock astronomically with his performance in the final game of the regular season against the Detroit Lions.
He passed for a ridiculous 480 yards and six touchdowns. Both qualified for the most all-time in Packers franchise history—a remarkable feat for a seventh-round draft pick playing in the shadow of Brett Favre and Aaron Rodgers.
This performance—along with a three-touchdown, 100.2 QB rating effort in a near victory over the Patriots in 2010—caught the attention of NFL front offices around the league looking for an upgrade at the quarterback position.
Don’t be fooled.
He threw for over 300 yards in his first two career starts in 2009, and produced 100-plus quarterback ratings in two wins in 2010.
Then, once given the reigns as the starting QB in Arizona, he compiled a whopping 2-6 record before getting injured for the second-consecutive season.
Expect much of the same from Flynn if a team rashly makes him its starter. He may have gleaned ample knowledge in his clipboard days under the tutelage of Rodgers and head coach Mike McCarthy, but he is not ready or qualified to be a full-time NFL starting QB.
Matt Flynn = would-be terrible ROI for the 49ers.
DeSean Jackson, WR, Philadelphia Eagles
The face of an inflated ego?
His playmaking ability astounds, but his attitude is abhorrent.
Jackson is a blazing, deep-ball threat and a tremendous special teams asset.
He’s also the ultimate diva-boy wide receiver that scoffs at being a team player when contractual negotiations aren’t to his liking. He lacks work ethic and professionalism. He shudders at the idea of running a crossing route over the middle in front of a headhunting safety.
In other words, he is completely incompatible with the blue collar, Jim Harbaugh-led 49ers.
The Niners undoubtedly need a severe upgrade at wide receiver—preferably one that can successfully return kicks as a legitimate dual threat (something that Ted Ginn is not).
Career averages of 1,300-plus total yards, five total touchdowns and receiving and return averages of 17.8 and 10.6, respectively sure look nice.
Alligator-arming and taking plays off do not. Neither does the exorbitant eight-figure contract he will surely demand from his future employer.
Peyton Hillis, RB, Cleveland Browns
Well, he's real good at this.
Larry French/Getty Images
Part of me salivates at the idea of the old school, Larry Csonka-like nature of Peyton Hillis in a San Francisco 49ers uniform, especially one coached by Jim Harbaugh.
Who would not appreciate this bruising man-beast of a back that steamrolls defenders and hurdles over approaching tacklers?
He also seems like a no-nonsense, hard working type that Harbaugh covets, not to mention someone that could fill in for Frank Gore as an every-down or short-yardage situational back.
Just one problem: the Madden Curse.
The year 2011 was a nightmare follow-up season to his 1,177-yard, 11 touchdown campaign in 2010—something surely attributed to his gracing the Madden video game cover.
Multiple hamstring injuries, a dubious battle with strep throat and a 3.6 yards-per-carry average add up to one forgettable 2011.
I’d say it’s a harbinger for bad things to come in future seasons. There’s just no escaping the curse.
Stay away 49ers.
Terrell Thomas, CB, New York Giants
11 interceptions in three seasons show promise.
Al Bello/Getty Images
I presume many of you are scratching your heads right about now.
Terrell Thomas—umm, who?
Before trashing his right ACL over the summer, Thomas put up rather impressive numbers in 2009 and 2010.
From the start of his career in 2008, every season’s output improved the following year—that is, until his knee blew up before the start of 2011.
He had a knack for getting his hands on the ball (21 passes defended and five interceptions in 2010), and not shying away from tackles (101 in 2010).
San Fran might be tempted to sign Thomas to a low-risk, incentive-based minimal contract to bolster the depth of the cornerback position. There would certainly be substantial upside for an excellent ROI.
Despite having ample space under the salary cap for 2012, the 49ers would be best served not investing any money into this young and talented player with an unpredictable lower right appendage (two ACL tears).
The Niners should address this need through the draft, preferably investing in a cornerback with two fully functioning ACLs, not one.