There has been a frenzy of activity in the NFL these past few days, most notably the release of Peyton Manning, but that's not with this is about. The faithful out there are curious as to how the 49ers will duplicate their approach to last year's free agency with this year's crop of free agents.
As an added bonus, teams have been releasing key players left and right to clear up cap space for the future—or to make a legitimate go at Manning. A lot of the free agents out there have peaked my interest, but none more than the recent release of seven-time Pro Bowl guard Steve Hutchinson.
The Minnesota Vikings released Hutchinson, 34, along with fellow guard Anthony Herrera, as ESPN's Adam Schefter reported on Twitter. The 49ers are said to have a need at the right guard position, with Adam Snyder more or less providing as a stopgap in 2011—and a good one at that.
This is not a shot at Snyder, but after seeing how well Jonathan Goodwin performed after the 49ers acquired him from New Orleans, I'm curious.
And it isn't like the 49ers have an old offensive line. Joe Staley, Mike Iupati and Anthony Davis are relatively young, especially Iupati and Davis. Hutchinson probably has about two good years left in him, and I believe those years would be well spent with a contender.
At 6'5, 313 pounds, Hutchinson has arguably been the best guard in the league for the better part of a decade. He's a true professional, and the veteran leadership he brings would be invaluable to the younger guys learning the ropes.
It's a similar argument to why Reggie Wayne would be a good option at wide receiver, but that is likely out the window now since it's a certainty he will follow Manning.
I think Hutchinson would be a great value pickup on a short term contract, so that the 49ers can turn their focus to other positions of need like cornerback and wide receiver. If he's healthy and ready to go, I don't see why Jim Harbaugh and Trent Baalke wouldn't make a play for him. The price for Carl Nicks is likely to be high, and the 49ers might not be inclined to pay it.
Hutchinson would allow them to hit the pause button on finding a long-term solution to the right guard position, while adding firepower around Alex Smith and tightening up that secondary. With Iupati solidified at left guard, Hutchinson might be asked to move to right, but to play for a contending team like San Francisco, he might not mind.
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