The March 13 kickoff date for the NFL free agency period is just around the corner—and surely there are a few surprises in store.
For some NFL franchises, it's a chance for a clean slate—an opportunity to bury past failures and lure in some of the league's elite talents with fat paychecks, as well as increased playing time on the gridiron.
The wrong financial commitment carries the potential to hamper a team for years. The right one, though, can take a team to that coveted "next level." Be it merely a seat at the NFL playoff table, or a chance to hoist the Lombardi Trophy.
But the best franchises are not the ones run by overzealous owners with a sweet tooth for big-money veterans, as teams that handle their business through the NFL draft aren't pressured to spend loosely in free agency.
It's safe to say San Francisco has done just that in recent years, loading its roster with an even blend of successful draft picks and reasonably-priced free agents. Once that talent-laden roster was finally paired with an adequate coaching staff, the return to relevance ensued.
So, if you're hoping for the 49ers to throw the bank at a rising star searching for a new home, don't.
They'll assess their needs and attack the market with a patient, well-planned approach. It worked last year (though, granted, 2011's lockout-delayed offseason sparked a bit of free-agent chaos), and it should continue to bear success moving forward.
With that said, here are four free agents the 49ers should be keeping an eye on this spring.