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The 49ers' top-two picks from the 2011 draft class are in for huge deals soon.
Out of the blue, it seems the 49ers have several of the NFL’s premier players at their respective positions. In a few cases, SF either has guys with expiring deals or ones that are flat-out exceeding their pay grade.
Now, with another year in the books, the ‘Niners are inching closer toward the inevitable extensions of their prevailing 2011 class. They also have free agents that signed short-term deals and aging veterans to decide on.
Taking a look at their tack record, GM Trent Baalke has been intent on drafting and extending; having recently done so with 2010 draft picks Anthony Davis and NaVorro Bowman.
However, the team is just beginning to dish out some of the bigger contracts they’ve dealt in the Harbaugh era. Here is a list of notable would-be free agents over the next two seasons, via Spotrac (2014-2015):
- Jonathan Goodwin, C (2014)
- Tramaine Brock, CB (2014)
- Tarell Brown, CB (2014)
- Parys Haralson, LB (2014)
- Mario Manningham, WR (2014)
- Donte Whitner, S (2014)
- Kyle Williams, WR (2014)
- Frank Gore, RB (2015)
- Bruce Miller, FB (2015)
- Michael Crabtree, WR (2015)
- Chris Culliver, CB (2015)
- Kendall Hunter, RB (2015)
- Aldon Smith, LB (2015)
- Mike Iupati, G (2015)
- Colin Kaepernick, QB (2015)
There were other names omitted from this list, but as you can see, the foundation of San Francisco’s roster will be up for auction if they allow it to be. In order to bring back as many of these players as possible, it will take careful, strategic maneuvering by the front office.
As you can imagine, not all of these players are coming back. Many of them will fall through the cracks and become subject to free agency, but which ones and when? For one or two players from 2014-2015, the 49ers could defer by using the franchise tag, like they had with Dashon Goldson.
The 49ers will prioritize by looking at age, importance of the position and performance, while also considering the draft capital they invested. This puts Kaepernick at the top of the list, who may be line for a historic contract, per Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee.
The next big three are Mike Iupati, Aldon Smith and Michael Crabtree, who project as mainstays for this franchise. It is presumable to say that Kap is a top-five talent, while Iupati and Smith are arguably the best in the league at what they do.
Then there is the argument that Crabtree is a top-10 receiver with Harbaugh’s protégé now in the lineup.
Hunter, Culliver, Williams and Miller are secondary to the aforementioned players, but important players in need of deals nonetheless. This could put the veterans and short-term signings at the mercy of free agency (Whitner, Goodwin, Manningham and Gore).
Will they all get paid according to their perceived ranking? When and in what order will they be inked? What if Kyle Williams has a 1,000-yard season in No. 15’s absence? Will the ‘Niners have to sacrifice Crabtree to sign more players? Will there be cap casualties of players not listed above?