2013 NFL Free Agency: 5 Players Who Should Be on the 49ers' Radar
After this league year, there are some intriguing situations regarding contracts throughout the league that could result in some highly sought after free agents in 2013.
San Francisco will have some expiring contracts and players who don't work out, which could lead to them fishing around free agency for replacements and stop-gaps. But some one of a kind opportunities may present themselves, and the 49ers might again be forced to test the water.
It's worthwhile to note that the 49ers, in particular, do not aggressively pursue the high-priced free agents. An exception to this past offseason was Peyton Manning, but a few of the following players in this slideshow would warrant the same sort of attention, being elite players at their respective positions.
If the 49ers offense cannot take a serious step forward, the front office might explore some of these options if they're available.
Follow me through this piece as we take a look at some captivating potential free agents for the San Francisco 49ers in 2013.
1. Drew Brees, QB
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At the moment, there's the chance that record-setting, Super Bowl-winning quarterback Drew Brees could be a free agent once again.
There has been a tremendous struggle between Brees and the New Orleans' front office when it comes to getting a long-term deal done. But for one reason or another, Brees remains unsigned when this should be a seemingly urgent matter for the franchise.
Brees would be as sought out, if not more, than Peyton Manning was—there are no questions about Brees' health, and he's been nearly immaculate at the position. And if the 49ers asked about Manning, they will ask about Brees.
When they reached out to Manning, it was because they were fond of the idea of pairing an elite quarterback with the league's No. 1 defense.
Brees would have still had the necessary weapons to get the job done with San Francisco, and Randy Moss might want to stick around for another year if this were to happen.
One of Brees' favorite targets in New Orleans is Darren Sproles, and he could continue that dynamic through LaMichael James. He would also still have an elite tight end, going from Jimmy Graham to Vernon Davis.
Brees hitting the free-agent market during the offseason following Peyton Manning would be lightening striking twice, and the 49ers might try to capitalize.
The truth is we don't know how this drama between Brees and the Saints will end, but things could sure take an interesting turn after this season has elapsed. The chances are the Saints don't let Brees get away, but anything can happen between now and next offseason.
2. Mike Wallace, WR
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Entering 2012, we're seeing how loaded Jim Harbaugh likes his receiving corps to be. And with that said, Randy Moss and Ted Ginn Jr.'s contracts will expire after this year, which means the 49ers will have an eye out for at least one more capable receiver.
There's still no verdict on A.J. Jenkins either, so worst-case scenario, the Niners hit panic mode on the wide receiver position in 2013 with players like Justin Smith inching toward their mid-30s.
Mike Wallace could have been gotten by the 49ers this offseason, but at the price of a first-round draft pick. Had he been an unrestricted free agent, he was what San Francisco was looking for in a wide receiver, and the Niners might've pulled the trigger on a deal.
Wallace is a dominant receiver in the NFL, but like others on this list, would have a high price tag if he hit the market.
If Wallace does not extend with the Steelers, the 49ers could examine this possibility again.
However, San Francisco's receiving corps is expected to bounce back in a big way this upcoming season, and if that happens, Wallace would then be a luxury. Ideally, it would work out where Michael Crabtree and A.J. Jenkins are the two starters going forward, but anything can happen.
However unlikely, it's interesting to know that, if San Francisco's struggles at receiver somehow continue, a top receiver like Mike Wallace could possibly still be attained.
3. Jairus Byrd, S
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The 49ers have been hesitant to re-sign free safety Dashon Goldson.
Goldson, 28, made his first Pro Bowl in 2011 after posting a career-high six-interception campaign, along with 67 tackles. He's been a good player for the 49ers in two of his three seasons as a starter, but he occasionally takes chances. Now franchise tagged and unsigned, Goldson's future with the 49ers is uncertain.
Depending on how high management is on Trenton Robinson, the 49ers could look into free agency for Goldson's long-term replacement. In 2013, Bills safety Jairus Byrd is set to become a free agent and might be worth a look. A young player, at age 25, Byrd has had 13 interceptions in three seasons with Buffalo—nine picks in his rookie year.
The youth also means he's still very coachable, and if San Francisco feels he's a better fit in their system than Goldson, they could go in this direction.
4. Jake Long, OT
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If Jake Long somehow hit the 2013 free-agent pool and decided to play the market, teams would be after him like they were after Peyton Manning.
Great tackles—offensive linemen for that matter—never make it to free agency, so this would be a one-of-a-kind opportunity. There's the slight possibility that Long, 27, is tired of playing for a struggling franchise and believes his talents would be utilized best elsewhere.
The 49ers would have to sniff around because this is an offensive line that still allows an awful lot of sacks. Granted, they are improving, but considering the caliber player Long is, he would be too hard to ignore.
If Long decided he wanted to go to a winning team, Joe Staley is versatile and humble enough to move over to right tackle, sliding Anthony Davis inside at right guard, allowing Mike Iupati and Long to man the left side.
And if you're wondering about the competing youngsters currently on the 49ers roster, the center position should be up for grabs sooner rather than later with Jonathan Goodwin's deal set to expire in two seasons.
The likelihood is, of course, that Long re-signs with Miami.
If that's the case, the 49ers could always take a look at guard Andy Levitre of the Buffalo Bills. This former second-round pick would be a strong pick-up for San Francisco if the right guard position winds up being a bust in 2012.
Levitre is a left guard but could feasibly move to the right position with ease.
5. Josh Cribbs, WR/KR
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Ted Ginn Jr. will be playing out one-year in San Francisco, and once again, he could fish around free agency for a team that would be willing to give him more of a featured role as a receiver. If Ginn left, it would hurt the team from an offensive and special teams standpoint.
Josh Cribbs is a better receiver than Ginn and is also explosive as a return man. Cribbs would be able to fill the void left by Ginn and have real opportunities to contribute on offense. The 49ers have a wildcat package that was run by Kendall Hunter; Cribbs could come in and upgrade that package immediately.
Greg Roman also likes to call a healthy amount of end-around and fly-sweep runs with a receiver in motion. This role has been primarily Ginn's, but the 49ers could continue to get production from those plays with Cribbs in place.
The special teams aspect is important in the Bay, so this would not be wasted money if Paraag Marathe could get this done at a premium.