San Francisco 49ers: 5 Veterans Set to Be Released That the 49ers Should Pick Up
With the culmination of the NFL Combine, fans eagerly await what will be considered one of the more anticipated NFL drafts.
Will the Indianapolis Colts shut the door on the Peyton Manning era with the selection of Andrew Luck? Will there be a frenzy to move up to grab Baylor phenom Robert Griffin III? The draft will answer these questions and more.
Around this time of the offseason, everything is focused toward the draft day (or weekend)––and rightfully so. Teams always look to get younger, and this year will be no different.
Organizations, no matter the emotional ties, will look to release veteran players. It's the circle of life in the NFL. Whether it is for financial reasons or slip in production, front offices want to stock their rosters with as much young talent as they can find.
The 49ers are no different. They will look to release a few veterans of their own. Both Maurice Norris and Shawntae Spencer––likely through trade, though––are prime examples.
One man's trash is another man's treasure; an idiom that has lasted forever. The 49ers benefited from this process with the pickup of Carlos Rogers last season.
Teams will be looking for the same impact Carlos Rogers provided the Niners in their magical 2012 run.
I've provided a list of players who could be released. This is purely speculation—of my own—and none of the players selected have actually been released—as of yet.
Here are five veterans the 49ers should consider.
Donald Driver (WR)
With the band of receivers in Green Bay, is Driver expendable? Yes and no.
If Ted Thompson pulls the trigger, it won't be due to production.
Driver's cap hit will be a little over $5 million in 2012.
Thompson will either restructure Driver's contract or release the Packers legend. I suspect the latter.
Driver could bring veteran experience to a young Niners receiving corps. He should help both Alex Smith and Michael Crabtree.
Driver would likely play the slot in Roman's West Coast scheme.
Derrick Morgan (DE/OLB)
This may be a surprise selection, considering Morgan was selected in the first round of the 2010 NFL draft.
At the fresh age of 23, Morgan is far from being considered a veteran in the NFL.
There haven't been many rumors regarding Morgan's release, but the Titans must be frustrated at his lack of production in the last two seasons.
Injuries have played a part, but when healthy, Morgan has shown little to nothing in the pass-rush department.
A change of scenery is not the only thing Morgan may need. I believe Morgan can make the transition to an OLB in a 3-4 scheme. He currently plays as an end in a 4-3 scheme.
If Morgan is released and can successfully make the transition to a OLB, it would make 49ers free agent Ahmad Brooks expendable.
Brooks will demand a sizable raise. With the emergence of Aldon Smith, I doubt the 49ers would overpay for Brooks' services.
Leon Washington (HB)
Washington's cap figure will be a little over $3 million.
If Lynch re-signs, it would make little sense to have two huge cap figures tied down to running backs.
If Washington is released, the 49ers should pounce on this opportunity. The 49ers may lose Ted Ginn in free agency, making a pickup like this mandatory.
Before Ginn's arrival, the 49ers had one of the worst special team units in the league.
Brad Seely, the 49ers special teams coordinator, has done wonders with this unit. Losing a featured return man like Ginn could weaken the best special teams unit in football.
At the right price, Washington could be a steal for the 49ers.
Jammal Brown (OT)
Jammal Brown will have a cap figure of over $4 million in 2012.
The Redskins will release Brown if they select an OT in this year's draft.
With several OT prospects like Riley Reiff of Iowa and Jonathan Martin of Stanford, the Redskins will have a plethora of younger—and cheaper—options to consider.
If the 49ers sign the former Pro Bowler to a reduced price (in the range of what Rogers received last season), they should have a steal.
With the apparent struggles of Anthony Davis in pass protection, Jim Harbaugh and Greg Roman could smartly kick the third-year veteran inside at guard. Davis is a natural mauler and would fit naturally opposite stud guard Mike Iupati.
Brown is a smooth technician in pass protection and could contribute to the 49ers' young and upcoming offensive line.
Hines Ward (WR)
Hines Ward will not look to retire after a rather disappointing season last year.
Ward recorded 381 receiving yards in the 2011-2012 season, his lowest total since his rookie year.
The Steelers have their hands full trying to re-sign restricted free agent Mike Wallace, and they may look to release the little-used Ward.
Ward will have a cap figure totaling over $4 million.
Ward will likely not return to the Steelers next season, and that could benefit the 49ers. Similar to my proposal with Donald Driver, Ward could make a difference with the 49ers' young receiving corps.
He would play behind Crabtree and possibly Josh Morgan (if healthy) but would come at a reduced price. The 49ers would still have to purse a WR in free agency or the draft, but Ward would certainly not hurt as a possible veteran addition.