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Complete 2014 San Francisco 49ers Offseason Preview and Predictions

Dan MoriCorrespondent IJanuary 10, 2017

Complete 2014 San Francisco 49ers Offseason Preview and Predictions

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    The San Francisco 49ers' season ended with this play.
    The San Francisco 49ers' season ended with this play.Marcio Jose Sanchez/Associated Press

    In the past three seasons, the San Francisco 49ers have come close to the pinnacle of NFL superiority, only to be defeated. Twice the 49ers lost in the NFC title game and the other time in the Super Bowl.

    These bitter defeats only underscore the critical need for the 49ers to win very soon, or their window of opportunity with this current crop of stars will be closed. 

    This offseason will be critical for 49ers' general manager Trent Baalke and head coach Jim Harbaugh, as they attempt to retool the roster.

    The relative success the 49ers have had under Harbaugh has raised expectations dramatically. A Super Bowl championship is the singular goal for this current group.

    Everything must be focused on that crowning achievement, especially since the 49ers have been so close.

    Let's take a much closer look at what the 49ers must do in order to give themselves the best chance at reaching the promised land in the upcoming season.

10. Sign Jim Harbaugh to a Contract Extension

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    Jim Harbaugh is still in search of his first Super Bowl title with the 49ers.
    Jim Harbaugh is still in search of his first Super Bowl title with the 49ers.Tom Pennington/Getty Images

    San Francisco 49ers' head coach Jim Harbaugh has two years remaining on his five-year, $25 million contract. 

    Signing him to a contract extension this offseason would be wise from a football perspective and also financially prudent.

    If owner Jed York and GM Trent Baalke wait until Harbaugh has only one year remaining on his current deal or if they opt to let this current contract play out in its entirety, it will create a major distraction for the team.

    At some point later in the 2014 season, the news media will latch on to the fact that Harbaugh has only one more year remaining. Harbaugh and the players will be inundated with media questions about the tenure of their head coach.

    In addition, other teams can start dropping hints that they will be interested and will offer a boatload of cash to the right head coach. Without stating him by name, the target would be Harbaugh for many of these franchises.

    Financially it also would be prudent for the 49ers to sign Harbaugh this offseason. If they were to wait and the 49ers did win the Super Bowl next year, the price for Harbaugh would skyrocket.

    Signing him sooner than later is a positive sign to the 49ers players that Harbaugh is here for the long term.

    The 49ers would be wise to deliver a preemptive strike against other teams so they will not get involved, and this will also quiet any media distractions.

     

9. Carlos Rogers Should Be Released

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    Has Carlos Rogers played his last game in a 49er uniform?
    Has Carlos Rogers played his last game in a 49er uniform?Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images

    Carlos Rogers will need to take a huge pay cut, or he will be released. Rogers will be 33 years of age before the 2014 season begins, and with his skills starting to decline, the 49ers cannot afford to keep him.

    By releasing Rogers after June 1, the 49ers will save an extremely valuable $6.6 million in cap space.

    Rogers suffered a hamstring injury late in the 2013 season and the 49ers were able to get along just fine without him.

    Rogers returned to play in the NFC title game and was victimized by Seattle receiver Jermaine Kearse on a critical 35-yard touchdown pass. That will likely be the lasting memory we will have of Rogers in a 49ers uniform.

    The likelihood that Rogers will accept a dramatic pay cut is very poor. He will ultimately go on the open market and the 49ers will move forward without him.

    All contract data courtesy of spotrac.com.

8. The 49ers Will Retain Phil Dawson

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    Phil Dawson converted 32 of his 36 field goal attempts.
    Phil Dawson converted 32 of his 36 field goal attempts.Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

    After 14 seasons with the Cleveland Browns, kicker Phil Dawson signed a one-year, $2.35 million deal with the 49ers.

    Dawson was extremely reliable, converting on 32 of his 36 field goal attempts. Two of his misses occurred on attempts over 50 yards.

    Dawson will likely get a slight raise above his last contract, which will be well worth it for the 49ers.

    All stats courtesy of pro-football-reference.com.

    All contract data courtesy of spotrac.com.

7. Retain Tarell Brown

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    Tarell Brown breaks up this pass against the Rams.
    Tarell Brown breaks up this pass against the Rams.Charlie Riedel/Associated Press

    It is extremely important that the 49ers retain free agent Tarell Brown. With the likely departure of Carlos Rogers, Brown is the most experienced and reliable cornerback on the 49ers roster.

    Brown had a base salary just under $1 million in 2013 but lost an additional $2 million bonus due to a misunderstanding between his agent and the team. When Brown did not attend voluntary offseason workouts, he forfeited the bonus and subsequently fired his agent.

    The 49ers will need to placate Brown by finding a way to make up for the lost bonus money, which they intended to pay him. 

    The best guess is that the two sides will come to an agreement and Brown will stay with the 49ers. However, if the 49ers lose Brown, it will be a major blow to their secondary.

    Salary data courtesy of spotrac.com.

     

6. The 49ers Will Not Sign Donte Whitner

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    Donte Whitner received a penalty on this play in the NFC Championship Game.
    Donte Whitner received a penalty on this play in the NFC Championship Game.Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

    One of the toughest decisions the 49ers must make this offseason is whether to try and re-sign free-agent safety Donte Whitner.

    Whitner had a good year in 2013 and is a leader of the 49ers defensive backfield. He was also an excellent mentor to Eric Reid, the 49ers' prized rookie free safety.

    Whitner made $3.85 million this past season with a cap hit of slightly over $4.9 million. 

    At 29 years of age this summer, this will likely be Whitner's last opportunity to cash in for big money. The 49ers will not want to give Whitner the money he desires and he will likely move on.

    Similar to Dashon Goldson's situation last year, Whitner seems to be a target of the officials. He is all too frequently flagged for illegal hits. Even the borderline calls seem to always go against Whitner and the 49ers.

    Whitner prides himself as being a big hitter but will need to change his game or he will incur more penalties. The 49ers were able to overcome the loss of Goldson last year and they will attempt to do so with Whitner, as well.

    Veteran Craig Dahl provides some insurance at safety, but is not the long-term answer. Look for the 49ers to consider moving cornerback Chris Culliver to a safety position and GM Trent Baalke will also look for a safety early in the upcoming draft.

    All contract data courtesy of spotrac.com.

5. The 49ers Will Sign Anquan Boldin

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    Anquan Boldin had an outstanding season.
    Anquan Boldin had an outstanding season.Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

    Anquan Boldin led all 49ers receivers in the regular season, with 85 catches for 1,179 yards and seven touchdowns. He continued to shine in the playoffs, with 16 catches for 227 yards and one touchdown in the 49ers' three postseason contests.

    Boldin will be 34 years of age in October, but proves that he still has plenty of excellent football left.

    The 49ers are hoping that Boldin will team with Michael Crabtree next year and give the offense a solid one-two punch at the wide receiver position.

    Boldin made $6 million in 2013 and is now a free agent. The 49ers should be able to retain him for roughly the same level. Look for the 49ers and Boldin to come to an agreement on a two-year deal in the $13 million range.

    All stats courtesy of pro-football-reference.com.

    All contract data courtesy of spotrac.com.

     

4. Pick a Safety with One of Their Second-Round Draft Selections

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    The 49ers have three selections in the first two rounds of the upcoming NFL draft. With their second pick in round two, Deone Bucannon would be an excellent selection.

    Bucannon is a hard-hitting, athletic and strong safety. He would be the replacement for Donte Whitner, who should be allowed to move on for salary cap reasons.

    Bucannon has good size at 6'1" and 216 pounds. He also played at Washington State and saw plenty of high-powered passing offenses in the Pac-12 Conference.

    If Bucannon is not ready to start immediately, the 49ers also have Craig Dahl, who would be an adequate stopgap until Bucannon is ready.

    With Bucannon and free safety Eric Reid, the 49ers' top draft pick last year, they will have their pair of safeties for years to come.

3. Pick a Wide Receiver with Their First of Two Second Round Picks

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    The San Francisco 49ers should draft Brandin Cooks with their first second-round pick. This may require the 49ers to trade up a few spots, but it will be worth it if they can select Cooks.

    Cooks is a fast receiver that can also turn short passes into long gains. 

    The 49ers have Boldin and Crabtree, but a productive third and fourth receiver is important. The 49ers also have Quinton Patton on the roster, who gives the 49ers more offensive weapons.

    Cooks left Oregon State after his junior season. He caught 128 passes for 1,730 yards, which led the NCAA. He has the speed to get deep, which is an asset the 49ers can really use.

    If Cooks is not available at this point, a couple of other options are Davante Adams and Paul Richardson.

    Stats courtesy of sports-reference.com.

2. The 49ers Need to Sign Colin Kaepernick to a Contract Extension

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    Colin Kaepernick is still only 26 years of age.
    Colin Kaepernick is still only 26 years of age.Christian Petersen/Getty Images

    Colin Kaepernick has led the 49ers to the Super Bowl and NFC Championship Game in each of the last two seasons. He still has a lot to improve on but is also the best the 49ers have.

    It is incumbent on GM Trent Baalke to sign Kaepernick to a contract extension. 

    Kaepernick has one year left on his current contract and is slated to make slightly under $1.3 million in 2014. If he has a good year and continues to improve, the price tag will increase dramatically.

    If Kaepernick were to win the Super Bowl next season, his stock would skyrocket.

    Being that Kaepernick is the 49ers franchise quarterback, this is a situation of "pay me now" or "pay me later."

    Kaepernick still has areas that he can improve on, most notably his ability to go through his progressions faster and find secondary and tertiary receivers. In addition, Kaepernick can improve on his ability to throw touch passes, especially to his backs out of the backfield.

    We saw a marked improvement in Kaepernick's play once the playoffs began. Head coach Jim Harbaugh and offensive coordinator Greg Roman loosened the reins on Kaepernick and allowed him more freedom to improvise and make more plays with his legs.

    Once Kaepernick was unleashed, his running ability became a huge weapon for the 49ers offense.

    Signing Kaepernick to a long-term deal would give the 49ers some cost control in the near future and also guarantee he will be in a 49ers uniform for quite awhile.

    A five-year deal in the $40-50 million range would be appropriate for the 49ers and for Kaepernick.

1. The 49ers Should Select Cornerback Jason Verrett in Round One

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    Jason Verrett is a bit undersized at 5'10" and 176 pounds. He is a good cover corner, with fine speed and athleticism. It is that athleticism that enables Verrett to make up for his small size. 

    Verrett is very good in man-to-man press coverage and can play in the slot or on the outside.

    With the 49ers likely to let Carlos Rogers leave and the uncertainty over Tarell Brown, cornerback is a critical area of need.  Verrett played his college ball at TCU and will likely be the best available at this point.

     

     

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