San Francisco 49ers: What 49ers' Offseason Moves Mean for the NFL Draft
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In the wake of their recent loss in Super Bowl XLVII, the 49ers were touted by many analysts, columnists, coaches and fans to be in great shape to contend for a championship for years to come.
San Francisco has plenty to look forward to. The core of the team is young and willl benefit from experience gained from two back-to-back trips deep into the playoffs. Star quarterback Colin Kaepernick has transformed the offense into a dynamic play-making force, while the defense should remain atop the NFL.
During the last 49ers dynasty during the 1980s, it would have been possible to keep such a team together for years. In the age before salary caps, San Francisco was able to build a dynasty few other franchises have been able to emulate.
Now, however, the 49ers' situation is much more complex.
San Francisco has been forced to recognize how free agency, large contracts and the salary cap have influenced decisions atop the organization. These factors have forced the 49ers to make critical decisions regarding players who were on their 2012 roster as well as examine others who possibly could be brought in to bolster areas of need.
Then of course, there is the NFL draft. After the trading of quarterback Alex Smith, the 49ers have 15 picks in the upcoming draft, one of which was traded away to bring in veteran wide receiver Anquan Boldin. Fourteen picks remain and San Francisco has multiple options regarding their use.
Departures, such as Smith, safety Dashon Goldson and tight end Delanie Walker have residual effects on San Francisco's approach to free agency and will also affect what the team does in the upcoming NFL draft.
Here are 10 offseason moves that will affect the 49ers' approach in the upcoming draft.
Trading Quarterback Alex Smith
Former first-overall pick Alex Smith was traded to the Kansas City Chiefs in exchange for two draft picks.
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After the emergence of Colin Kaepernick, Alex Smith found himself as an unfortunate backup.
Smith felt his services were worth more than as a backup quarterback, so it was only logical for the 49ers to move him. They eventually did by trading the former 2005 first-overall draft pick to the Kansas City Chiefs in exchange for a 2013 second-round pick and a mid-round pick in the 2014 draft.
If Smith remained in San Francisco, he certainly would have been a solid backup and insurance policy for Kaepernick and the 49ers. Yet, given their salary cap concerns, moving Smith and saving his contract money made much more sense.
The move forces San Francisco to evaluate the backup quarterback situation.
Scott Tolzien figures to compete for the backup job this upcoming season. The former undrafted free agent was picked up off waivers by the 49ers in September 2011.
Yet the 49ers may look to the later rounds of the draft for another quarterback to add depth. While there aren't too many heralded quarterbacks in this year's draft pool, San Francisco may still be able to draft smart and find the proverbial "diamond in the rough."
If anything, the Smith trade resulted in a high second-round pick in the 2013 NFL draft which the 49ers will almost certainly use to their benefit.
49ers Trade for Anquan Boldin
Wide receiver Anquan Boldin bolsters the 49ers' receiving core.
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It was no secret that the 49ers needed help at wide receiver.
Aside from Michael Crabtree, San Francisco had few reliable options at the position when they entered the 2012 playoffs. What had once been a position of depth had thinned following the injuries to Mario Manningham and Kyle Williams. Veteran receiver Randy Moss made little impact during the playoffs and first-round draft pick A.J. Jenkins was a non-factor.
With 15 picks at their disposal, the 49ers elected to trade for a receiver who torched them during Super Bowl XLVII: Anquan Boldin.
Boldin brings size and strength to San Francisco along with the ability to catch almost any ball thrown in his vicinity. He also brings leadership and a tremendous work ethic.
Despite the accolades, Boldin is not a long-term solution to the 49ers' receiving question. While he certainly will aid Crabtree and the offense in 2013, Boldin is scheduled to be a free agent after the season. Who knows if San Francisco will re-sign the venerable receiver after the year is over.
In addition, Boldin will turn 33 this season. While he likely has some quality years left, the 49ers will certainly entertain more long-term options.
It is probably safe to assume the 49ers will not target a high-profile receiver like Cordarrelle Patterson in the first round, but they may examine the option towards the middle rounds. Da'Rick Rogers or Ryan Swope may be possibilities here. However, given the 49ers' number of picks, it wouldn't be surprising for San Francisco to trade some of its picks to move up and grab an impact wide receiver.
Cutting Kicker David Akers
The 49ers cut kicker David Akers on March 6th.
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2011 was record-setting for kicker David Akers.
2012 was atrocious.
In the aftermath of his worst career year, it was inevitable that the 49ers would part ways with the veteran kicker. They did exactly that on March 6th.
Aside from ensuring that Akers wouldn't endure another miserable season in a 49ers uniform, San Francisco was also able to save some money under the salary cap.
It is hard to determine whether or not the move will affect the 49ers in the upcoming draft. Kickers, sans Sebastian Janikowski, don't go in the high rounds, if at all during the draft.
There are some kickers that may be worth evaluation. Florida State's Dustin Hopkins and Florida's Caleb Sturgis may be plausible options if San Francisco elects to utilize one of its many draft picks on a kicker.
There is free agency as well and it is equally plausible to see the 49ers go that route instead.
Defensive Tackle Isaac Sopoaga Signs with the Eagles
Defensive Tackle Isaac Sopoaga leaves San Francisco for Philadelphia.
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Defensive tackle Isaac Sopoaga spent the first nine years of his career with the San Francisco 49ers. In 2012, Sopoaga saw a diminished role as part of the 49ers defense and played only 31 percent of snaps during the year.
However, Sopoaga's departure does impact San Francisco's defensive line. Fellow defensive tackle Ricky Jean-Francois, who took away much of Sopoaga's playing time during the season, signed with the Indianapolis Colts shortly after Sopoaga left.
Suddenly, the 49ers found themselves short at the position.
True, San Francisco utilized more of its nickel and dime packages during the season, making the departure of both defensive tackles less significant. But the 49ers may easily look for another replacement to fill the void through the draft.
CBS Sports analyst Rob Rang has the 49ers selecting Alabama defensive tackle Jesse Williams with their first-round pick. It would be a solid pick for San Francisco. Williams is strong and versatile and is capable of playing at both the tackle and end positions.
Regardless, the 49ers needed to address the position and lack of depth, which is something they did during free agency by signing Glenn Dorsey.
49ers Sign Defensive Tackle Glenn Dorsey
Glenn Dorsey will replace Isaac Sopoaga on the 49ers defensive line.
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Exit Isaac Sopoaga and Ricky Jean-Francois. Enter Glenn Dorsey.
Dorsey, who was drafted by the Kansas City Chiefs with a first-round, fifth overall pick in the 2008 draft, never quite lived up to expectations. While being effective against the running game, he struggled in the pass rush, frustrating many Chiefs fans.
Yet the 49ers' coaching staff feels that they can help the young defensive tackle take his game to the next level. It is reasonable to assume that Dorsey's previous struggles were the direct result of the bad coaching that plagued Kansas City during his tenure there. Good coaching, which the 49ers have plenty of, may be the decisive factor.
Dorsey will be another former first-round pick on an already stalwart 49er defense. At best, he may become a long-term solution to replace the aging Justin Smith. At worst, he will at least add depth to a position where the 49ers saw departures.
The signing impacts San Francisco's decision-making in the upcoming draft. Dorsey's contract is a safe gamble for the 49ers, but they still may be looking for a future star to bolster the defensive line. The eventual decision will be complicated by Dorsey's pass-rushing struggles.
The 49ers saw during the playoffs what happens when the pass rush is ineffective. Will they assume Dorsey will live up to his early expectations when he was first drafted, thus negating a need to draft a pass-rusher?
Probably not, but it may give San Francisco a little more breathing room when it comes to selecting a top defensive lineman in the draft.
Signing Linebacker Dan Skuta
Linebacker Dan Skuta figures to play an important role on the 49ers' special teams.
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He joins forces with one of the best linebacker groups in the NFL, including Patrick Willis, Navorro Bowman and Aldon Smith.
It is safe to assume that Skuta will not be a starting linebacker given San Francisco's current talent, but he does provide depth at the position.
He also stands out on special teams.
The 49ers, who struggled at times during special teams play, will certainly benefit from his services. He is versatile—a trait San Francisco prizes. While not necessarily excelling in any one particular stat, he always seems to be around the ball and rarely gets flagged.
Skuta doesn't have any winning pass rush moves, but again, effort was always there. His true value is as a special teams ace. He'll play every situation and you'll almost never hear his number called after the play for a penalty.
San Francisco's signing of Skuta does fill a need on special teams as well as provide linebacker depth. Regarding the draft, the 49ers will be able to save one of its picks that may have been used to answer that question.
It might not have been the flashiest of free-agent signings, but it may be significant. You don't need to always sign the best players, you just need to sign the right ones.
49ers Part Ways with Tight End Delanie Walker
Tight end Delanie Walker ended his seven-year tenure with the 49ers.
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When fans think of 49er tight ends, they probably think of Vernon Davis.
But they should also consider Delanie Walker.
In seven seasons with the 49ers, Walker totaled 123 receptions for 1,465 yards and eight touchdowns (pro-football-reference.com). Yet Walker was so much more than just another option for San Francisco quarterbacks.
Walker was heralded as the team's "Swiss Army Knife," capable of so many assignments in the 49ers offense. He was a decent receiving option, excelled at the run block and could be counted on for pass protection as well.
Walker had been playing in the shadows of Davis for his entire career and it was only a matter of time before he left the team to fill a larger role somewhere else. He did just that, signing a four-year deal with the Tennessee Titans.
The deal shows that Walker was willing to leave for money that San Francisco was not willing to pay him. The 49ers would have liked him to stay, given how often they rely on two-tight-end sets on offense. They certainly will miss his versatility.
Yet the 49ers were rumored not to exceed $3.5 million in contract negotiations with Walker. Tennessee then offered the money Walker was looking for: four years worth $17.5 million.
Walker's departure has significant impact on San Francisco's strategy in the upcoming draft. Tight end Garrett Celek is a nice option in the third slot on the 49ers' depth chart, but he probably will never be ranked any higher than that.
If San Francisco is looking at free agency to replace Walker, they may consider former Oakland Raiders tight end Brandon Myers, who put up big numbers in 2012. They also could look at Fred Davis out of Washington, although the Cleveland Browns are in hot pursuit.
The more likely scenario would be the 49ers looking at the draft for a replacement. Given the money that Walker received in free agency, other free-agent tight ends may be seeking similar deals—something San Francisco is not willing to give at this point.
With that said, it is entirely possible that the 49ers use an early pick on a versatile tight end in the draft. Stanford's Zach Ertz may be an option here (ninersnation.com).
49ers Unable to Re-Sign Safety Dashon Goldson
Dashon Goldson tested the free-agency market and got paid.
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One of the top priorities for the 49ers in the offseason was to re-sign Pro Bowler Dashon Goldson. They elected not to use their franchise tag on him and were rumored as having interest in bringing him back to San Francisco in 2013.
In reality, San Francisco was likely to part ways with Goldson. Reports surfaced that the 49ers never even offered a contract to Goldson, instead choosing to save the salary space to address other contracts.
Perhaps the move was a smart one. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers signed Goldson to a five-year, $41 million contract on March 13, addressing their glaring need in the defensive backfield. San Francisco may have been able to afford Goldson at that price, but at considerable future expense. After all, the 49ers have to evaluate contracts for players like Michael Crabtree, Colin Kaepernick and Aldon Smith in the next few years.
Goldson's departure has significant impact on the 49ers defense. Fellow safety Donte Whitner is still effective, but he will certainly have to take on a bigger role in 2013. San Francisco's cornerbacks, including Carlos Rogers and Chris Culliver, will also have to step up their game in Goldson's absence.
The 49ers backfield was one of the glaring weaknesses during the playoffs last season and they just lost their best defensive back.
Considering the money saved on letting Goldson go, the 49ers are still in a good position moving forward. They do have all those draft picks, and a high-round pick would be well-spent on shoring up the backfield.
CBS Sports analyst Pat Kirwan has the 49ers selecting Louisiana State free safety Eric Reid with their first-round pick. If the 49ers take that route, they would be getting a safety from a school known for producing excellent defensive backs. It would be a much more affordable option as well.
In the meantime, San Francisco is rumored to be pursuing backs Charles Woodson and Nnamdi Asomugha. Either would probably be a short-term option, but could serve as excellent mentors for a young defensive back coming out of the draft.
Signing Safety Craig Dahl
Former Rams safety Craig Dahl hopes for a big role with the 49ers.
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It didn't take long for the 49ers to fill the void left in their secondary.
However, the player signed to ease the departure of Dashon Goldson was probably not anyone San Francisco fans would be excited to see.
The 49ers inked former Rams safety Craig Dahl to a three-year deal shortly after Goldson signed with Tampa Bay.
Dahl certainly doesn't appear to be the long-term solution for the 49ers at safety. In five professional seasons, Dahl has recorded 238 tackles and four interceptions (pro-football-reference.com). Those are decent statistics for a player who is still reaching his prime.
Yet Dahl is a drop-off compared to Goldson, and the 49ers are very likely to continue examining other options. There remains the possibility of bringing in Charles Woodson or Nnamdi Asomugha to either compete with or start over Dahl. However, neither one of those free agents has yet to sign with San Francisco and Dahl remains more of a safety net (pardon the pun) for the 49ers at this point.
If no deal with either one of the veteran backs can be reached, San Francisco has to at least be somewhat happy that they found a player familiar with the NFC West.
"We are pleased to announce the signing of Craig," general manager Trent Baalke said. "He is an experienced veteran with excellent intangibles, who has working knowledge of the NFC West."
Dahl's experience as a starter in the NFC West has its benefits, but the 49ers should still be interested in providing a long-term solution at safety. With those 14 picks, including five in the first three rounds, San Francisco will certainly give Dahl some competition at the position through the draft.
LSU's Eric Reid is looking like a popular draft option at safety for the 49ers, and Dahl may just be his insurance policy.
49ers Pass on Cornerback Darrelle Revis
The 49ers were rumored to have interest in Jets cornerback Darrelle Revis.
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One week after the 49ers announced they would be trading Alex Smith, San Francisco was again in the headlines.
Revis, a four-time Pro Bowl corner, is undoubtedly one of the best backs in the NFL. Yet in 2012, he suffered an ACL injury in Week 3 that forced him to miss the remainder of the season. For the lowly 6-10 Jets, Revis was the perfect piece to move in order for New York to start fixing their franchise. Teams were showing interest.
It made sense that the 49ers were interested in Revis; San Francisco needed help in the backfield. The passing defense was torched in the playoffs, most noticeably by Joe Flacco and the Ravens' offense during Super Bowl XLVII. The 49ers also were aware that they could lose the services of their best defensive back, safety Dashon Goldson, to free agency. So why not bring "Revis Island" to San Francisco?
The answer is complicated, but it makes sense why the 49ers elected not to make the move.
First, there is the nature of Revis' ACL injury. Given the extent of the injury he suffered and the difficulties associated with its recovery, there is no guarantee that Revis will be 100 percent in 2013; it's very possible that he may never return to the same caliber he played at before the injury.
Secondly, there are the contractual issues. Revis is scheduled to make $6 million in 2013 (spotrac.com). Yet considering what other cornerbacks are making around the league, Revis will undoubtedly want to get paid more, and soon.
The 49ers could probably afford the $6 million owed to Revis in 2013 and then see what happens after the year is over, but there is a possibility that Revis would hold out and request contract renegotiations. In addition to that potential headache, San Francisco may be best suited to keep that money for its current talent, including Colin Kaepernick, Michael Crabtree and Aldon Smith, who are due big bucks over the next few years.
Revis is probably going to ask for around $16 million per year—money that the 49ers have no interest in spending on a player coming off such a significant injury (espn.go.com).
Lastly, the Jets are in a position to command the market on Revis. While there haven't been any deals yet in place to move Revis, New York will certainly entertain the best option for his services. The Jets would have liked to get their hands on some of the 14 picks, but the 49ers are not budging.
In fact, San Francisco stated through various reports that it had nearly zero interest in Revis, putting to bed any and all rumors that he would be seen in a 49ers uniform.
It is a solid decision. The 49ers don't have to worry about his contractual situation and all the baggage that could potentially accompany it. They also will not be concerned about his ACL and recovery process. They can look at all the money saved by not trading for him and know that cash can be invested in some of their own home-grown talent.
Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, the 49ers keep a potential draft-pick package that otherwise would have been sent to New York. Instead of trading away what would have likely been multiple high- and mid-round picks, San Francisco will use them elsewhere.
Those picks will be best served in the draft.