In 2012, San Francisco 49ers defensive tackle Justin Smith spoke in detail about a window to win a championship, saying that, with the nature of free agency and the draft, teams like the one he is on can’t stay that stacked forever.
He’s not wrong; a salary-capped league won’t permit it.
And the Niners have even been able to stretch it to its limits by drafting well and getting several players to extend early on team-friendly deals, rather than waiting for them to expire, then re-signing and competing with market value. The front office has been awfully smart each season, projecting players and paying them for what they will do, not what they've done.
But to Smith's point about player management, teams change. It's the nature of the business.
With the expiration of deals, irregular cap figures, underperforming players and questionable sects of the team, the Niners will be looking at another considerable makeover this offseason. San Francisco has to address several position groups while righting itself financially and setting itself up for the future.
On the backbone of the Niners' plan is the fact that this team has been able to replenish its roster at Radio City each year.
For the 49ers—particularly since 2011 under coach Jim Harbaugh and the new regime—building through the draft and supplementing through free agency has been the philosophy, and it’s worked. But this offseason, in 2014, they’ll be relying on it once again in order to preserve the integrity of their team.
In fact, this might be their most important offseason since Harbaugh's inaugural campaign three years ago.
Fortunately, according to Matt Maiocco of CSN Bay Area, the 49ers project to have 13 draft picks, including six in the top 100.
This is a better situation than the one they were in last year, when they dictated the draft tempo and found value in every round. So even though there are several impending transactions that will make headlines, the 49ers have the mindset and the ability to go out and make this team better through self-analysis and the draft.
If the 49ers play their cards right, they can turn many of these tough decisions into opportunities. The following will present a look at what's on their plate this offseason.