Looking at Day 1 of Free Agency from the San Francisco 49ers' Perspective
And just like that, the 2013 NFL free agency is off and running.
There were plenty of impact moves announced once the clock struck 4 p.m. ET. A lot of the teams that were active early were the teams behind the eight ball.
The Miami Dolphins made a quick splash, announcing the anticipated deal for wide receiver Mike Wallace. The former Steelers sprinter signed a massive five-year, $65 million contract, giving Miami their highly coveted deep threat.
GM Jeff Ireland was not finished with that move, as he moved onto Super Bowl champion linebacker Dannell Ellerbe. The ex-Ravens defender inked a five-year, $35 million deal to play football in sunny Miami.
This was a fraction of the buzz that flooded Twitter and the national sports networks on Tuesday late afternoon.
For the San Francisco 49ers, it was a fairly quiet period, with perhaps their biggest veteran acquisition coming before free agency began. On Monday, the Niners acquired wideout Anquan Boldin from the Ravens for a sixth-round draft choice in 2013.
Given the team’s stigma in free agency, this may turn out to be the most high-profile veteran they acquire. Although, there are plenty of opportunities that remain available, as they could look to fill needs before the draft.
Let’s recap Day 1 of the free agency from San Francisco’s front office.
A Farewell to Alex Smith
On Tuesday morning, the 49ers officially announced the finalization of the Alex Smith trade to the Kansas City Chiefs. The team received a second-rounder (No. 34) in 2013, and a conditional pick in the 2014 draft.
But this was far more than any normal transaction – it signified the end of an era and the beginning of something new.
Cam Inman of the San Jose Mercury News initiated a Twitter trend, #ThankYouAlex. The San Francisco fanbase was very warm and sentimental regarding Smith’s departure, hoping for the best in Kansas City.
The finest homage paid to Smith was by Samuel Lam, formerly of the San Francisco Examiner. Lam had the pleasure of covering Smith for part of his tenure with the Niners, and perfectly summed up his career to date in “A Proper Farewell to Alex Smith.”
During his time with the 49ers, the former No. 1 overall pick from 2005 experienced peaks and valleys, which ultimately shaped him into the quarterback he is today. He has become one of the most mentally strong and overall resilient players in the NFL.
In the big picture, his character has been defined by the adversity he has encountered. And hopefully, for Smith’s sake, that is a formula for success on his next journey with the Chiefs.
Delanie Walker was the first of San Francisco’s unrestricted free agents to find a new home. Not long after the 4 p.m. ET start to free agency, it was announced that the Tennessee Titans would sign Walker to a contract.
According to NFL insider Adam Schefter, Walker agreed to a four-year, $17.5 million deal that included $8.6 in guaranteed money. The greatest part of the agreement for Walker is that it would finally allow him the opportunity to start for an NFL team.
As the day progressed, San Francisco received a reminder that former 49ers Director of Player Personnel, Tom Gamble, is no longer with the team.
Now with his hometown Eagles, Gamble made waves on Day 1 by signing nose guard Isaac Sopoaga to a three-year, $12 million contract (via Matt Maiocco of CSN Bay Area). Sopoaga should play an intricate role in the rebuilding of Philadelphia’s 3-4 defense.
Gamble was not finished there either.
Ricky Jean-Francois is set to meet with Philadelphia on Wednesday, but is also expected to meet with other teams. As Sopoaga’s primary backup in San Francisco, Jean-Francois is now ready for featured role on a defensive front.
And with the re-signing of Ian Williams, the return of Jean-Francois seems highly unlikely. Like Delanie Walker, the Niners are expecting Jean-Francois to leave for a starting job elsewhere.
While Walker, Sopoaga and Jean-Francois all departed on good terms, Dashon Goldson seemed a little sour.
The All-Pro safety is San Francisco’s most coveted free agent, which was proven on Tuesday when the Tampa Bay Buccaneers sent a private jet to California to pick Goldson up (h/t Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times).
Goldson claimed he was “not feeling the love” and had “too many haters.” In my understanding, success breeds hate, and if there were any Faithful badgering Goldson, it was because they will miss him.
The Buzz in the Bay Area
Up to this point, it has been mostly exits from San Francisco, which ultimately creates needs on the roster.
And even though they did not make any signings, the 49ers were connected to a number of players, two of whom are scheduled to meet with San Francisco on Wednesday. The pair of players set to visit are defensive tackle Glenn Dorsey (via Adam Schefter) and defensive back Charles Woodson (via Josina Anderson of ESPN).
With the departures of Goldson and the two defensive linemen, Sopoaga and Jean-Francois, the Niners need to address the defense. Dorsey and Woodson are intriguing options that would add a veteran presence and allow the team flexibility in April.
If 49ers lose S Dashon Goldson, some around league expecting them to make push for free-agent S Ed Reed. Could be Reed and Boldin in SF.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) March 12, 2013
However, the player San Francisco was continuously linked to was Ravens free safety Ed Reed.
After an entire career of not having an agent, Reed hired Dunn of Athletes First, who also represents 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh and general manager Trent Baalke.
Since then, there has been the arousing suspicion that Reed would talk with San Francisco to see if he could get a better deal in the bay.
With the loss of Goldson, the 49ers desperately need an experienced safety. Preferably, the team would sign Reed to a short-term deal while drafting an eventual successor to learn and rotate behind the future Hall of Famer.
Whether it is Woodson or Reed, the Niners should sign a veteran free safety by week's end.
Only 24 hours in, the market remains wide open as the 49ers still have countless directions they can go in.
Remember, the Niners only spent a sixth-rounder on Boldin, which still leaves them an overwhelming 14 draft picks in April. When it comes to the trade wire, Trent Baalke may not be done wheeling and dealing.
The deal for Boldin opened eyes beyond Darrelle Revis – there are other low-cost moves they can make.
Moreover, the April 1 deadline guaranteeing contracts for the year has not yet hit, and thus cuts can still be made. Of the potential cap casualties, center Jonathan Goodwin and linebacker Parys Haralson may be among the released.
Their combined cap savings would be within the vicinity of $7.5 million for 2013, via Spotrac.
As a result, San Francisco is not necessarily pressed by the cap, and can still maneuver through free agency undetected. With the NFC West beefing up, the 49ers may be inclined to make another impact move in free agency.
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