Jim Harbaugh had the 49ers within one game of the Super Bowl
The San Francisco 49ers finished the 2011 season with a record of 13-3 and made the playoffs for the first time since 2002. After defeating the Saints, the 49ers played the eventual Super Bowl champion New York Giants in the NFC Championship Game.
The 49ers were right in the game and could have won it, except for a couple of major gaffes by punt return man Kyle Williams. Ultimately, the Giants prevailed 20-17 in overtime and moved on, while the 49ers looked to stock up for next season.
The 49ers had a truly great season, and head coach Jim Harbaugh was named AP Coach of the Year. Now the Niners must make some decisions on their own free agents, some 20 in total, and also look at acquiring other free agents on the market to bolster their roster.
This article will first look at five of the 49ers' own free agents that they likely don't plan to have back. Then, we will look at five other players on the market, who would also be a poor fit for the 49ers.
For the free agents formerly on other teams, I will focus on those players that the 49ers might actually consider.
Madieu Williams has played one season in San Francisco
The San Francisco 49ers have several of their own free agents that they want back. Others are unlikely to be re-signed. Madieu Williams is one of those players unlikely to be retained.
Williams opened the season as the starting safety, as Dashon Goldson was out with an injury. He was ineffective and had trouble in coverage. Once Goldson was able to return, which occurred after the Dallas game, Williams was relegated to special teams only and rarely saw the field.
Williams' demotion went further than just the starting job, as he did not play in the 49ers' nickel or dime packages. He was also not a great special teams player and is therefore unlikely to be brought back by the 49ers.
Reggie Smith has played for four years with the 49ers
Reggie Smith was once a promising young safety. Now, it appears his opportunity may have come and gone with the 49ers.
Smith has played four seasons in San Francisco and has not distinguished himself or been able to crack the starting lineup.
Now a free agent, Smith is unlikely to be re-signed by the 49ers.
Moran Norris has been surpassed by Bruce Miller
In 2011, however, Norris battled injuries and was surpassed by rookie Bruce Miller. Norris will be much more expensive than Miller, and at his age, will not be re-signed by the 49ers.
Ted Ginn is a better return man than receiver
When the 49ers acquired Ted Ginn two years ago, they hoped he would give them a deep threat at the wide receiver position. That never materialized, and after these two seasons, Ginn is a free agent and will not likely return to San Francisco.
In two seasons with the 49ers, Ginn caught only 31 passes for 383 yards and one touchdown.
Ginn was much more valuable as a kickoff and punt return man. He is a poor wide receiver and is not worth his asking price.
Chilo Rachal lost his starting job at right tackle.
Chilo Rachal has played four seasons with the 49ers and has not improved. Early this season, he lost his starting job at right guard and was replaced by Adam Snyder.
Once Snyder replaced Rachal, the 49ers offensive line instantly improved. When Rachal got into the lineup due to injuries to other linemen, he did not perform well.
The 49ers invested a second-round draft pick for Rachal, and he simply has not developed into the kind of player that can be counted on. He will not be back with the 49ers next season.
Roy Williams is available at wide receiver
Wide receiver is the position of greatest need for the San Francisco 49ers, and Roy Williams is available.
He has played nine NFL seasons, and at the age of 30, has seen his best years. In the past five seasons, Williams has failed to catch more than 38 passes in any one of them.
At his age and with declining productivity, Williams is not a good fit for the 49ers.
Pacman Jones could help bolster the secondary for the 49ers
It's possible that Adam "Pacman" Jones could help the 49ers by adding depth to the defensive backfield and as a return man. However, the off-field issues he always seems to encounter are not worth the risk or the headache to Jim Harbaugh and the 49ers.
In 2012, Jones will be entering his sixth NFL season. After playing 15 games in his first two years with Tennessee, Jones has not played more than nine games in any of his most recent three seasons. He also used to be a dangerous return man, but that part of his game has declined.
I would like to see the 49ers acquire another solid cornerback and sign Carlos Rogers to give them three good corners, but Jones is not the answer.
In a previous article, I included DeSean Jackson on a list of wide receivers that would be a good fit for the 49ers. Truth be told, he still could be; however, he is also a very risky acquisition.
Jackson will command big money and has two major flaws that concern me. He is not the type of receiver that likes to catch the ball over the middle in traffic. He strongly prefers the deep ball, which is not Alex Smith's forte.
In addition, Jackson has a huge ego, has been known to frequently complain and generally be a nuisance for his head coach. Jackson is the epitome of the diva wide receiver, and unless Jim Harbaugh is absolutely confident that he can get Jackson to tone it down, it's best to steer clear of him.
Harbaugh was successful in getting Michael Crabtree to become more professional and lose his excessive "me first" attitude. If the 49ers bring in Jackson and his ego runs wild, like it has in Philadelphia, it will also have a negative effect on Crabtree, who may revert back to his old ways.
Jackson has played four years in the NFL, with two 1,000-yard seasons. He has never had less than 900 yards receiving, but he's worn out his welcome with the Eagles.
Jackson has also been an explosive punt return man in the past, although his average last year was only 6.7 yards. Still, I believe that he could help the 49ers in this role.
There is a big upside with Jackson, but there is also huge risk. I don't think that's a risk the 49ers should take.
Brandon Lloyd played 11 games with the Rams in 2011
Brandon Lloyd began his career with the 49ers in 2003 and played three seasons in San Francisco. He showed the ability to make some spectacular plays, but he was also very inconsistent.
Lloyd did not run good routes and frequently seemed to take plays off. He also was not a good blocker in those years with the 49ers.
I must admit he has improved in these areas and had a breakout season in 2010 for the Denver Broncos. Lloyd caught 77 passes for 1,448 yards and 11 touchdowns. His yardage total actually led the league.
Denver proceeded to trade Lloyd to the St. Louis Rams after only four games into the 2011 season. Lloyd bickered with management about his contract, and both sides quickly became fed up with each other.
Lloyd has talent, but he's played for five teams in his nine-year career. This often has to do with his attitude, as he seems to wear out his welcome wherever he goes. I do not see the 49ers bringing back this headache, as once was enough.
Peyton Manning will not be back with the Colts
Peyton Manning is not yet a free agent, but I am convinced he will be quite soon. The Indianapolis Colts have fired their head coach and general manager and are heading in a new direction. That direction will include Andrew Luck, not Manning.
Manning is a future Hall of Fame quarterback but will not be paid the $28 million bonus for the 2012 season by the Colts. Manning missed the entire 2011 season due to having surgery on his neck.
The medical reports are favorable with regard to his spine, but Manning still needs more nerve regeneration in his triceps to occur. Although some doctors have cleared him to play, there is a major risk in signing him.
Manning will undoubtedly go to a team that is a Super Bowl contender, if it had a top-flight quarterback. The Jets are the first team that comes to mind, but many have speculated that the 49ers should try to sign him once he comes available.
Manning will be extremely expensive, probably in the range of $16 to $20 million per year. Signing Manning would mean the 49ers probably would be unable to keep some of their own free agents, like Carlos Rogers, Ahmad Brooks, Adam Snyder or Dashon Goldson.
As great as Manning is, there are still concerns about his health. I fear that one big hit could end his career, and that is simply too big of a risk for the 49ers to take.
At best, Manning probably has only two or three years left. Whoever gets him would be taking a big risk, and I don't believe that's the right approach for the 49ers to take.
Harbaugh and Smith were a great pair
Alex Smith flourished under Jim Harbaugh, and he helped guide the 49ers to their best season since 2002. I believe the 49ers will re-sign Smith and continue to bolster other areas on their roster.
Smith has become a solid NFL quarterback and has proven that he can win games in the clutch. With Harbaugh's continued guidance, Smith should continue to improve.
The 49ers have some important roster decisions that will shape the look of the team heading into the future. They are on the right track, however, and the future is bright in San Francisco.