Brandon Jacobs to San Francisco 49ers: How the Move Shapes NFC Title Picture

Gary Davenport@@IDPSharksNFL AnalystMarch 29, 2012

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - FEBRUARY 05:  Brandon Jacobs #27 of the New York Giants looks on during warm ups against the New England Patriots during Super Bowl XLVI at Lucas Oil Stadium on February 5, 2012 in Indianapolis, Indiana. The Giants won 21-17.  (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)
Al Bello/Getty Images

The San Francisco 49ers came maddeningly close to their first Super Bowl appearance since 1995 last season, and after falling short against the New York Giants in overtime of the NFC Championship, the 49ers have taken major steps to upgrade their offense.

The 49ers have signed free agent wide receivers Randy Moss and Mario Manningham over the offseason and have agreed to terms on a one-year contract with running back Brandon Jacobs, according to a report in the Los Angeles Times:

"Brandon Jacobs became the second member of the reigning Super Bowl champions to join the team they narrowly beat to get there back in January.

"The running back, who has spent all seven of his pro seasons with the New York Giants, agreed to a one-year contract Wednesday with the San Francisco 49ers, according to multiple sources. He will be reunited with wide receiver Mario Manningham, who signed a two-year deal with the 49ers last week after spending the first four years of his career with the Giants."

Jacobs, who rushed for 571 yards and seven touchdowns a season ago, was released by the Giants after the two sides could not agree on a pay cut for the eighth-year pro.

While Jacobs is the fourth-highest rusher in franchise history, he had apparently fallen out of favor in the Big Apple due to his sometimes inconsistent play, according to Eric Branch of the San Francisco Chronicle:

"ESPN analyst Jerry Rice termed Jacobs 'soft' during the playoffs and even his teammates have made reference to what is perceived to be an inconsistent running style and motivation. After Jacobs' 18-carry, 72-yard performance in a November win at New England, Giants defensive end Justin Tuck said, "When that guy is motivated to play, he's tough, man.

"Added safety Antrel Rolle, "He ran like he had something to prove to us, which he did."

It's not certain what role Jacobs will play in the San Francisco offense, although it's safe to assume that he will function as a short-yardage and goal-line back, as well as providing injury insurance alongside second-year pro Kendall Hunter should starter Frank Gore, who has amassed well over 1,600 carries in his seven-year career, miss time, as has been the case in four of the past five seasons.

The signing of Brandon Jacobs may have been much bigger news a few years ago, as the 30 year old clearly isn't the punishing bruiser anymore that ran for over 1,000 yards and averaged five yards a carry in 2007 and 2008.

However, if nothing else, acquiring Jacobs was an excellent depth signing by San Francisco, and the recent bevy of offensive talent that the 49ers have brought on board demonstrates that the team has no intentions of relinquishing their hold on the NFC West any time soon.

As far as the Giants are concerned, the loss of Manningham and Jacobs to the 49ers is far from a deal-breaker, but the team is going to have to address the running back position in either free agency or April's NFL draft, as they are now perilously thin at running back behind Ahmad Bradshaw, who has had injury concerns of his own throughout his career.

This fact isn't lost on New York's general manager, but Jerry Reese told ESPN New York's Ohm Youngmisuk Wednesday that he's confident that the G-Men can weather this latest storm.

"The salary cap rules the world. If you have a lot of good players, you just can't retain them all. We feel like we have some players on the roster that can come in and step up," Reese said.

The gains made in free agency by the San Francisco 49ers and the losses suffered by the New York Giants may not be earth-shattering, but in any event it appears that if these two teams meet again in the NFC Championship Game this season, there will be an awkward reunion in store for some.