Buying or Selling Every San Francisco 49ers Free Agent
Keep or cut loose? That’s the question the San Francisco 49ers front office faces for 19 roster players who are now free agents. Safety C.J. Spillman was the 20th, but he was re-signed last Friday.
For some, such as quarterback Alex Smith and offensive guard Adam Snyder, the answer is easy—an unqualified yes. For others, like wide receiver and return man Ted Ginn Jr., the answer is more difficult.
I looked at this issue before the playoffs and have since changed my tune on a few players because readers challenged me to think some more. So without further delay, here is my second take on free agents who should stay and who the 49ers should encourage to seek their fortunes elsewhere.
Tramaine Brock, Cornerback
While filling in for the injured Tarell Brown, Brock gave up a touchdown to the New York Giants’ Mario Manningham in the NFC Championship.
Although disappointing, it's certainly not a mortal sin, considering Manningham’s experience and ability. Brock, a second-year player, spent the season behind Pro Bowler Carlos Rogers, and we really haven’t seen what he can do.
My read in January was “maybe,” and that’s still my read today.
Ahmad Brooks, Linebacker
Brooks showed himself as a critical member of the 49ers linebacking corps. A sure-handed tackler, he did a sturdy job of covering the outside opposite Parys Haralson.
The Niners should bring him back for a long time.
Blake Costanzo, Linebacker
Here’s a player I’ve reconsidered thanks to my readers’ comments.
I initially viewed him as a journeyman, expendable behind Patrick Willis, Larry Grant and Tavares Gooden. Readers, however, pointed out his exceptional play on special teams, and I took another look. Sure enough, Costanzo was a leader in the special-teams play that had so much to do with the 49ers’ success this year.
For that alone, I say re-sign him.
Ted Ginn Jr., Punt/Kick Returner
I’ve taken a bit of heat for this one, and with Ginn at wide receiver, I’m in full agreement—he offers little.
As a returner, though, he’s worth a contract. Ginn’s absence in the Giants game showed how much the team missed his talents as a return man.
He has the speed, moves and ability to find a seam and set up field position.
Dashon Goldson, Free Safety
Adam Schefter of ESPN has tweeted that the 49ers plan to use their franchise tag for Goldson at a cost of $6.2 million. I wrote previously that Goldson was worth every nickel of his $1.2 million salary, and I believe so even more strongly today.
He nabbed six interceptions and had scores of tackles. Along with fellow free-agent Carlos Rogers, he anchored the secondary and made the Pro Bowl.
The 49ers will do well to keep him for the long term.
Tavares Gooden, Linebacker
Gooden started the year as Patrick Willis’ backup, but when Willis went down with an injury, it was Larry Grant who stepped up and quickly made a name for himself.
The Niners are deep at linebacker and can afford to let Gooden go.
Larry Grant, Linebacker
Grant, a restricted free agent, did a phenomenal job of filling in for Patrick Willis when Willis was injured. In fact, the linebacking group barely missed a beat. He was a valuable addition to the team this year, and should come back for several more.
Joe Hastings, Wide Receiver
Hastings was promoted from the practice squad late last year as part of the revolving-door exercise at wide receiver.
With the embarrassment of riches at the position in this year’s free-agent market, the 49ers need to make room for a true game-breaker to pair with (one hopes) a healed Joshua Morgan.
Joshua Morgan, Wide Receiver
As I wrote back in January—and as many others have commented—the 49ers receiving game took a major hit when Morgan went down. Assuming the reports are correct and Morgan proves sound, the 49ers should re-sign him and re-energize the No. 1 wide-receiver position.
Moran Norris, Fullback
Especially with the emergence of Bruce Miller, the 49ers can afford to say goodbye to Norris.
He’s had a long and productive career, but he saw little action this season. After 12 years in the league, it may or may not be the end of the road for Norris, who has greatly exceeded the average run for an NFL running back (around three years). And who knows? He may catch on with another team and play another year or two.
Let’s hope so.
Justin Peelle, Tight End
Peelle showed limited effectiveness this year and is no better than No. 3 behind Vernon Davis and Delanie Walker.
With Stanford’s outstanding Coby Fleener lurking just down in Palo Alto on draft day—and possibly available when the 49ers get their first pick—the team would do well to say goodbye to Peelle.
Chilo Rachal, Offensive Guard
Quite simply, Rachal didn’t get it done this year. His problems were especially apparent when starter Adam Snyder missed a game and a half, forcing Rachal to fill in.
Replacing Rachal through the draft or with a trade should be a top 49ers priority. Snyder can’t play every offensive down, and the Niners need a stronger backup.
Carlos Rogers, Cornerback
Yes, Yes, Yes!
The change of scene from the Washington Redskins to the 49ers did Rogers a world of good. He snared six interceptions, including one for a touchdown, and made the Pro Bowl.
I imagine that performance exceeded all expectations in the 49ers front office. I wrote earlier that the Niners should give him a raise, and I repeat it today.
Alex Smith, Quarterback
He’s not a Pro Bowler, but his performance this year has earned him another contract.
As I wrote in my last column, the nagging question about Smith is “Which Alex will show up?” Will it be the dart-thrower who connected with Vernon Davis to beat the New Orleans Saints? Or will it be the gopher killer who couldn’t connect in the clutch against the New York Giants in the NFL Championship?
In any event, Smith deserves to answer the question himself next year.
Reggie Smith, Strong Safety
I passed on Smith earlier and do so again today. He spent the season behind Donte Whitner and was certainly adequate.
On January 27, however, Matt Maiocco of CSN Bay Area reported that a team source said Smith and the 49ers had agreed that Smith would seek opportunities elsewhere. If that’s the case, it could work well for both parties.
Adam Snyder, Offensive Guard
Snyder is a career-long 49er, and the team should wrap him up for the duration.
When he’s in, he’s one of the main reasons the 49ers offense dominates in the running game. When he’s occasionally out with an injury, as he was briefly this season, his absence is immediately noted—by opponents as well as the Niners.
It’s time for the team to make Snyder a 49er for life.
C.J. Spillman, Strong Safety
Last month, I said no; last Friday, the 49ers resoundingly said yes—to the tune of a reported $6 million over three years. Shows what I know.
Spillman was another player whose special-teams contributions I overlooked. Bring it on, C.J.!
Brett Swain, Wide Receiver
Swain, a former member of the Green Bay Packers, was signed after Morgan went down.
In five games, he contributed two receptions for 15 yards—not enough with so many outstanding wideouts available.
Will Tukuafu, Defensive Tackle
Second-year player Tukuafu was injured for three-quarters of the season, so the 49ers couldn’t really test him in battle. Depending on how his wrist has healed, the team might take a fly at him.
The defensive line probably doesn’t offer any starting spots, but a solid backup is always useful.
Madieu Williams, Safety
The 2010 winner of the NFL’s Walter Payton Man of the Year Award for his charitable endeavors, Madieu Williams is a good man and a good player who may or may not have a future with the 49ers.
A backup most of the season, he started three games when injuries dictated, notching nine tackles, including six solos. With fellow backup safety Reggie Smith reportedly poised to leave, Williams could logically return and contribute.