5 Cost-Effective Moves the San Francisco 49ers Should Make This Offseason
The San Francisco 49ers have been excruciatingly close to a Super Bowl title these past three years, and head coach Jim Harbaugh has gotten them to the very brink of a world championship.
The window of opportunity for the 49ers is still open, but it is beginning to close. Still, Harbaugh deserves accolades for getting the 49ers back to relevance in the NFL.
He has two years remaining on his five-year contract, so a new deal isn't absolutely necessary, but it would be prudent. If the 49ers were to win the Super Bowl next year, Harbaugh's price would skyrocket.
A three-year contract extension would make sense for both Harbaugh and the 49ers. It gives Harbaugh a greater degree of security and ensures that the 49ers will have their coach locked in for the long term.
Harbaugh currently makes roughly $5 million per year, and a raise towards the $8 million level is in order. Incentives, such as a Super Bowl title, could be put into place to provide Harbaugh even more upside.
In addition to their head coach, the 49ers have some very tough decisions to make on several players.
Let's take a look at five smart, cost-effective moves the 49ers should take before the upcoming season.
Contract and salary-cap data courtesy of spotrac.com.
Stats courtesy of pro-football-reference.com.
No. 5: Mario Manningham Should Be Let Go
Mario Manningham suffered a devastating knee injury in 2012. He tore three of his four knee ligaments in Week 12 and missed the remainder of the year.
Manningham hoped to return and make a positive impact for the 49ers in 2013, but his knee continued to give him trouble. Manningham played in six games and had only nine receptions before he was shut down for the season.
Manningham's annual salary was roughly $3.7 million, and that will come off the books. He will not be retained, as Quinton Patton has moved ahead of him.
Sadly, unless there is significant improvement, the knee injury Manningham suffered in 2012 could very well signal the end of his career.
No. 4: Jonathan Goodwin's Age Will Cost Him His Job
Jonathan Goodwin did a very credible job as the 49ers' starting center. He has been with the 49ers for three years and has started every game.
As the center, Goodwin does a good job making the calls for the offensive line. A wily veteran, Goodwin can sometimes have trouble with big, physical defensive tackles, who can overpower him.
The main drawback with Goodwin is his age and high salary. Goodwin is 35 years of age and had a cap figure of roughly $3.6 million. The 49ers should go younger and less expensive at the center position in 2014.
No. 3: Sign Colin Kaepernick to a Contract Extension
The San Francisco 49ers would be wise to sign Colin Kaepernick to a contract extension. Although he has not won the Super Bowl, he twice led them to within the brink of that accomplishment in his one-and-a-half seasons as the 49ers' starting quarterback.
Kaepernick definitely has things to improve upon, such as making quicker reads and going through his progressions faster and more decisively.
In addition, Kaepernick needs to develop more touch on the shorter checkdowns and swing passes. There is a reason the 49ers almost never utilize the screen pass, and it's because Kaepernick misses that pass.
One thing Joe Montana did and Steve Young learned to do was to hit their receivers in stride so they did not break stride when catching the football. This enabled the receivers to gain substantial yardage after the catch. Kaepernick needs to improve on this aspect of his passing, also.
Given the areas that Kaepernick needs to improve, he still has been very effective. He uses his legs to run, and he throws the medium to deep pass very well.
Kaepernick is eligible to become a free agent after the 2014 season. If he is able to take the 49ers to the Super Bowl or potentially win it, his price tag will skyrocket.
Kaepernick makes roughly $1 million, and a contract extension for three or four years at roughly $8-10 million per season is appropriate. In the long term, the 49ers would be saving money.
Signing Kaepernick to an extension now, while the team is still a championship-caliber club, makes total sense.
No. 2: Release Carlos Rogers
Carlos Rogers was having a decent year when he injured his hamstring. After sitting out the first two playoff games, Rogers returned to play in the NFC championship Game. Ironically, it was Rogers who was beaten for the game-winning touchdown pass.
Rogers has a cap number of over $8 million for 2014, and that is simply too much for him. He turns 33 years of age this summer, so it also makes no sense for the 49ers to sign him to a longer-term extension.
By releasing Rogers after June 1, the 49ers would save $6.6 million in cap space, which is essential for them.
Rogers' best year for the 49ers was 2011, when he had six interceptions and was a Pro Bowl selection. After a lackluster season in 2012, Rogers rebounded with a solid season, but his age and the cap savings the 49ers will see have cemented his fate.
If the 49ers release Rogers prior to June 1, they will save $5.1 million. By releasing him after June 1, the 49ers will save an additional $1.5 million, so he will be released at that point.
No. 1: Do Not Retain Donte Whitner
Donte Whitner had a good season for the 49ers. After being victimized in the Super Bowl, Whitner bounced back and was a key member of the 49ers defense.
Whitner did a credible job in pass coverage, although the last thing we will probably remember is when Doug Baldwin got behind him for a 51-yard completion that set up a Seahawks field goal.
Another huge benefit that Whitner provided was his tutelage of rookie safety Eric Reid. This helped Reid immensely and he will be a cornerstone of the 49ers' defense for years to come.
Although Whitner did better this season, he has never been a great cover-man. Known more for his physical style of play, Whitner has been the target of many flags from the officials.
In the NFC title game, he incurred another crucial penalty when he launched himself at the Seattle receiver. Although his shoulder made the first contact, he was still flagged for a 15-yard penalty.
With the officials watching Whitner so closely and calling penalties against him at an alarming rate, it is time for him to move on.
This is a very tough call, because Whitner has been a leader in the 49ers secondary. However, Whitner made just under $4 million this past season, so that will be money coming off the 49ers' books.
Losing Whitner is a tough decision, but it must be made for the 49ers' longer-term benefit.