5 Questions San Francisco 49ers Must Answer in Offseason
The San Francisco 49ers will head into this offseason with a peace of mind unparalleled in the last decade.
And that's because of Colin Kaepernick.
The second-year quarterback has quashed any possible negativity about San Francisco's long-term quarterback situation.
Barring some freak injury, he will be the 49ers' starting quarterback for several years to come.
Meanwhile, it's a foregone conclusion that Alex Smith will be traded or released.
What we don't know is how many prominent coaches will leave in the offseason.
What we do know is San Francisco has several soon-to-be free agents, and this slideshow focuses on them and other important offseason quandaries.
Will 49ers Give Dashon Goldson an Expensive, Multi-Year Contract?
Dashon Goldson was franchised during last year's offseason, and it was likely because the 49ers were afraid he was a one-year wonder. The 28-year-old proved again this year that he's one of the best safeties in the NFL.
Goldson has been selected to the Pro Bowl the last two years and was named to his first All-Pro team this year.
San Francisco extended NaVorro Bowman and Ahmad Brooks during last year's offseason. With Patrick Willis under contract for a few more years, the 49ers need to focus on locking up Aldon Smith and Goldson long term as soon as possible.
It's possible that Goldson is the odd man out, that San Francisco will let him walk to save up money for long-term extensions of Colin Kaepernick and Aldon Smith. What seems more likely is that the 49ers keep him, either by giving him a big contract or franchising him again.
Will Delanie Walker Be Re-Signed?
Delanie Walker has been an integral part of the 49ers offense for the past several years. Yet in the 2012 regular season, he dropped far too many passes.
The most infamous of his drops is the one shown in the picture to the left. Had he caught this pass against the St. Louis Rams, the 49ers would have led by a touchdown with less than two minutes to go in the fourth quarter.
Instead, the 49ers settled for a field goal and eventually lost the game in overtime.
Walker will be a free agent in the offseason. I suspect San Francisco will look to re-sign him to a short, cheap deal.
If the 28-year-old demands more, general manager Trent Baalke might let him walk and look for a No. 2 tight end in the draft.
Who Will Start at Nose Tackle Next Year?
Isaac Sopoaga is about to conclude a five-year, $20 million deal. The nose tackle has been the anchor of San Francisco's run defense for the past two years.
Sopoaga has earned another quality contract, but I suspect it won't be with the 49ers. San Francisco might be hard-pressed to give the 31-year-old a multi-year deal when it already has so much money invested in its other defensive starters.
The 49ers could target Alabama's Jesse Williams or North Carolina's Sylvester Williams in the draft to fill the need and let Sopoaga walk.
Another option for San Francisco is to re-sign and promote Ricky Jean-Francois to the starting nose tackle role, but the former seventh-round pick might be a bit too small to consistently win at the point of attack.
Will 49ers Pursue a Free-Agent Wide Receiver?
The answer 49ers fans want to give is, "We don't need another wide receiver because A.J. Jenkins will step up next year."
It's possible that Jenkins does indeed live up to his potential, starting next year as the No. 3 receiver behind Michael Crabtree and Mario Manningham.
But if Jim Harbaugh doesn't trust him, the 49ers may look to add a free-agent wide receiver.
Randy Moss is an option, as long as he doesn't retire. But even if they sign Moss, the 49ers need a long-term plan at the position.
Manningham will be a free agent after the 2013 season, and Crabtree has a player option for the 2014 season. If Jenkins busts, San Francisco could enter the 2014 offseason without a quality wide receiver under contract.
Which Under-Contract Stars Will Be Extended?
The obvious answer to this question is Aldon Smith and Colin Kaepernick. The 49ers should lock them up as soon as possible, but under the new CBA, San Francisco can't negotiate with them until after their third year, so both will have to wait till the 2013 season concludes to begin talks.
After the 2013 season, the list of notable San Francisco free agents includes Justin Smith, Mario Manningham, Tarell Brown and Donte Whitner.
Of the four, the 49ers would be wise to target Smith and Brown.
The 49ers could offer a one- or two-year extension to the 33-year-old defensive lineman. He hasn't shown any major signs of slowing down, and apparently Pro Bowl voters agree.
At only 28 years of age, Brown is one of the best-kept secrets in the NFL. The talented cornerback has 29 passes defensed and six interceptions in the past two regular seasons combined.
Chances are Brown would be a hot name on the 2014 free-agent market. San Francisco could offer him a long-term extension to avoid losing him after the 2013 season.
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