San Francisco 49ers Blueprint for Winning Free Agency
Minus the development that Jim Harbaugh and general manager Trent Baalke are on bad terms, the 49ers' offseason has started rather smoothly.
All joking aside, did anyone see this coming? I wouldn't say this was out of left field, but a surprise nonetheless.
Unfortunately, the Baalke-Harbaugh story will be a recurring storyline this offseason, but that still can't stop us from talking about the upcoming free agency period. Heck, a potential Super Bowl berth didn't stop me from thinking about free agency.
Now, I don't expect this media frenzy surrounding the 49ers to affect their free agency plans. Through the last several years, Baalke has done a wonderful job attacking free agency.
The 49ers never look flustered in free agency. They seem to always make the right move, even if it's not the popular one.
Baalke's poise is one of many reasons as to why the 49ers have done so well in free agency. This is something his predecessor, Scot McCloughan, lacked.
Can Baalke succeed once again? Well, let's take a look at my blue print for the 49ers to win free agency in 2014.
Bye-Bye Unnecessary Luxuries
After the new CBA was signed, many thought the owners got away with highway robbery. With the salary cap increasing to $133 million in 2014, the players are finally witnessing something beneficial in result of the constant negotiations.
What does this mean for the 49ers?
Well, like every other team in the NFL, the 49ers will have $10 million more to work with this offseason. How should the 49ers spend it?
In all likelihood, the 49ers will try to free up more cap space. This means roster cuts.
Now, the 49ers did succeed in getting Jon Baldwin and Craig Dahl to take pay cuts. Both guys should be safe until training camp and/or the preseason.
The 49ers attention will now be geared towards Carlos Rogers and his hefty cap figure heading into the 2014 season. Even with the increase in salary-cap space, the 49ers cannot afford to stomach an $8 million cap hit to a soon to be 33-year old cornerback.
Rogers is still a good player but not at that price.
Re-Sign Anquan Boldin
Welcome to priority number one for the 49ers this offseason. The return of Michael Crabtree was great and all, but it was Anquan Boldin who kept this team afloat in his absence.
It was reported last week that Boldin and the 49ers were close to securing a long-term deal. There haven’t been any updates since then, but it seems fairly certain that Boldin will return in the red and gold next season.
Once the 49ers secure Boldin's signature, they can move on to more pressing matters—adding a vertical threat to play outside, for example, could allow Boldin to return to his more natural slot position.
Welcome Back Donte Whitner and Phil Dawson
If and when the 49ers re-sign Anquan Boldin, they'll turn their attention to Phil Dawson and Donte Whitner.
While both players are not at the top of their respective positions, they at least have shown to be solid fits with the 49ers.
Donte Whitner had his best season to date with the 49ers in 2014. His coverage improved tremendously playing next to rookie safety Eric Reid, while his hard hits continue to give this defense the edge in intimidation.
Whitner is also an excellent locker room presence.
With Phil Dawson, the 49ers found one heck of a kicker. Dawson isn't the best kicker in the NFL, but even at age 39, the former Cleveland Brown is one the most consistent in the game right now.
If the 49ers can bring back both players at the right price, I say that's a win for Baalke and Co.
Find Cheap Veteran Talent
The 49ers have had tremendous success in finding cheaper veteran players to supplement the young talent already on the team.
I don't expect 2014 to be any different.
There are plenty of veterans on the market who could provide solid depth at key positions, much like the 49ers got when they signed through free agency current players such as Leonard Davis, Carlos Rogers, Glenn Dorsey, Jonathan Goodwin and Donte Whitner.
A few of those listed names above could depart this offseason, which means the 49ers need to restock. Adding depth along the defensive line and in the interior of the offensive line should help. The receiver and cornerback positions also need to be addressed.
Even with a host of core players to re-sign in the near future, the increase in the salary cap should help Baalke in his attempts to improve this team for the upcoming season.
Be Active in the Trade Market
The 49ers absolutely stole Anquan Boldin from the Baltimore Ravens last year, and you know what, they can make a similar deal this offseason (not necessarily with the Ravens, but you get my point).
With needs at cornerback and wide receiver, the 49ers could shore up one of those positions through a trade. Yes, the 49ers have plenty of picks to address their needs, but adding a veteran to the mix would be ideal.
Now, we don't know who is available for trade, so making a prediction is somewhat unrealistic. While many knew the Ravens had to make concessions to re-sign quarterback Joe Flacco, the decision to part with Boldin—who came up so big in the Ravens Super Bowl win over San Francisco—caught some by surprise.
With a host of picks in the upcoming the draft, the 49ers will be wheeling and dealing once again to secure future picks. They just don't have the roster space to house 12 or 13 rookies, so using a few of those selections in potential trades could give the 49ers the edge come draft time.