Reassessing 49ers' Offseason Plan and Breaking Down What's Left to Address
As the old saying goes, if it ain't broke, don't fix it.
That certainly applies to the San Francisco 49ers, who are led by head coach Jim Harbaugh and general manager Trent Baalke.
Despite the supposed failures of the last three years, the 49ers are still in a great position to walk away with the Lombardi Trophy in the upcoming season. Yes, the last two NFC Championship Game losses were tough and the Super Bowl loss was gut-wrenching, but what's not to be excited about in 2014?
With such limited cap space, the 49ers were still able to secure a strong enough roster to compete for a championship. Minus injures, the 49ers can only get better from here on out—especially with the NFL draft approaching.
For now, let's take a look back at the 49ers' 2014 offseason and the things that still need to be completed heading into the season.
Re-Signing Key Free Agents
While the 49ers allowed two key starters in Tarell Brown and Donte Whitner to depart, free agency was not a total loss. Baalke rebounded quite nicely in keeping both Anquan Boldin and Phil Dawson in the red and gold for the foreseeable future.
The 49ers could not afford to lose Boldin.
His experience and professionalism proved to be a game-changer for a 49ers passing offense that was lackluster at times in 2013. With Vernon Davis, Quinton Patton, Boldin and a healthy Michael Crabtree, the 49ers should make positive strides in 2014.
Re-signing kicker Phil Dawson is also another popular move within the organization. After the debacle involving David Akers, Dawson's consistency was a breath of fresh air for both fans and coaches alike.
As expected, the 49ers were active participants in the 2014 trade market. Just last season, the 49ers traded two lower-end draft picks for both Boldin and quarterback Colt McCoy.
The 49ers are following the same blueprint from last season. With 10-plus picks in the draft and limited roster space, can you blame Baalke for taking a few risks?
The first acquisition was offensive tackle Jonathan Martin. While Martin brings extra media attention, he also was a former second-round selection. The 49ers only gave up a conditional seventh-round draft selection.
Martin has to make the 49ers' 53-man roster for conditions to be met.
The second acquisition was quarterback Blaine Gabbert. According to the 49ers' official website, the former first-round selection was regarded highly by Baalke and Co. coming out the University of Missouri.
It seems the Jaguars were ready to take anything for Gabbert's services. The 49ers only gave up a sixth-round selection and a conditional pick in 2015 for Gabbert.
The 49ers have been desperately looking for a backup quarterback to play behind Colin Kaepernick. Gabbert could develop as a backup under the tutelage of Harbaugh without any added pressure.
The 49ers' cap situation is quite muddled for the next few years, especially with core players like Colin Kaepernick and Aldon Smith expecting huge contract extensions.
When you're tight against the cap, free agency becomes a luxury. You'll see a few exceptions, like the New Orleans Saints signing safety Jairus Byrd to a monster deal. I don't pretend to be a cap wizard, but for the life of me, how did Sean Payton and Co. pull this off?
Teams with limited cap space, like the 49ers, turn to the draft for help. Like last season, the 49ers are in a great position to add some serious talent to an already-stacked roster.
With 11 draft picks—six in the top 100—the 49ers are primed to be big players in the upcoming draft. Remember, the 49ers moved up 13 spots in the 2013 to draft safety Eric Reid. We could see a similar move happen in this year's draft.
The following two slides deal with some needs the 49ers should address in the draft.
Deep Threat at Receiver
The 49ers have two quality possession receivers in Boldin and Crabtree. Tight end Vernon Davis serves as the primary deep threat, but the 49ers lack a vertical menace at the receiver position.
Luckily for the 49ers and many other receiver-needy teams, the 2014 draft is stocked with talent at the position. You could very well see five receivers go in the first round of the draft.
While the 49ers would love to get their hands on Sammy Watkins or even Mike Evans—both are projected to go in the top 15 by CBSSports.com—we don't know for certain how things will play out.
We may see a run on receivers or, better yet, teams could be looking to address their needs at the quarterback position. This could result in Watkins and/or Evans falling in the draft, which would give the 49ers a realistic chance at grabbing a top-level receiver.
Odell Beckham is another player to keep an eye on. All the talk has centered around Evans and Watkins, but Beckham could be a big sleeper in this draft.
In addition, Beckham is a far more realistic option. He is slated to go somewhere in the top 15-25 picks in the draft. He has the toughness the 49ers covet at the position and the deep speed this team desperately craves.
Cornerback Depth Needed
While the receiver position is a need, the 49ers are in a desperate situation at cornerback. The need is so great it almost seems inevitable that they'll draft a corner in the first round.
Chris Culliver's arrest made the situation worse, but even so, the 49ers were looking to strengthen the position after starting cornerback Tarell Brown departed to the Oakland Raiders in free agency.
The 49ers have added some depth with the re-signing of Eric Wright and the addition of Chris Cook. Cook will be on the roster bubble, while Wright is expected to compete for a role in nickel and sub packages.
Justin Gilbert and Darqueze Dennard are the top two corners on most draft boards. Dennard is the better fit, but CBSSports.com has Gilbert ranked higher.
Like Beckham, Virginia Tech cornerback Kyle Fuller is a name to watch.
Fuller could be one of those surprise picks in the top 20. Many fans didn't expect Reid to go in the top 20 of last year’s draft, but look how that turned out.