The new 49er coaching staff might not have enough offseason contact to correctly asses Michael Crabtree's role on the team.
One of the casualties of this extraordinary NFL offseason is familiarity, that time when the coaching staff and players review the previous season and then make plans. For new coaching staffs, like the one the 49ers">San Francisco 49ers have just put in place, this offseason makes it very difficult to assess what kind of roster moves would help the team in 2011.
In that light, the fact that trades in the NFL have become very rare, this offseason seems to give very little chance for coaches to look over the team and decide that there might be a surplus in one area, bringing in players to help another.
The 49er front office and the coaching staff seem very happy with their draft, but with no Organized Team Activities (OTAs), it will be extra difficult for new coach Jim Harbaugh to assess the 2010 season on film and then relate it to what is needed in 2011.
But 49er fans know that anything is possible, or at least, should be possible. What’s so compelling about the lockout is that the lack of contact between players and coaches leaves little grounds on which to make a decision. That said, we’ll look over some possibilities of trades about who might be on the roster come Week 1.
Aside from Vernon Davis and Patrick Willis, Crabtree is the most compelling player on the team in terms of value. He was the 10th player taken in 2009, and though he finished with 55 catches for 741 yards and six TDs in 2010, many feel—including him, probably—that he hasn’t come close to being the highly effective and dangerous wide receiver.
What lingers in the mind of fans is the question of whether Crabtree has attitude problems. He’s proud, strong and has great hands. He also was an afterthought in former coach Mike Singletary’s prime form of attack, which was run. Crabtree’s effectiveness comes in longer routes through zones, not as a pure speed guy meant to go deep on play-action.
The issue is attitude, and there’s been no time for Harbaugh and staff to assess. On paper Crabtree appears to be a keeper, but at the same time he’s also trying to live up to steep expectations. And for that I think the 49ers have to try to develop him, not trade him.
Decision: no trade
Here is one area that the Niners appear to have some depth, and thus they have options to deal. Who? Tony Wragge is a consideration. He’s an eight-year veteran, which is near the norm for offensive linemen, because they take longer to develop at this level.
With the likes of Eric Heitman returning to full strength, as well as the drafting of two more offensive linemen, there’s a good chance that an experienced vet like Wragge, who can play both guard and tackle, might be shipped off to fill a need for another team.
Decision: late roster needs may present themselves to trade Wragge.
Return: mid- to late-round draft pick.
Other than Crabtree, if the Niners were looking to risk a great deal for a good deal, then this is where they might get the most value. Delanie Walker is in his fifth year and there might be 20 other teams where he might be the starter. In SF, he’s got Vernon Davis in front of him. From the Niners perspective, the possibility is easier because second-year-player tight end Nate Byham has impressed the coaches.
Having two fast, effective tight ends is always a boost, but there might be a team out there willing to trade a disgruntled veteran who has talents at a position the 49ers might need. Then the Niners have to consider the deal and maybe a little more to make it happen.
Does such a situation exist? Is there a disgruntled quarterback, say, who plays in the AFC North and who has claimed that he wants out and may retire if he doesn’t get his wish? And the player grew up in California?
Decision: Delanie Walker and second-round pick in 2012 for Carson Palmer. That would be as bold as the Niners could go.
Moran Norris has a good year left, but the problem is that other personnel directors around the league know that Norris will likely get released. The same goes for Brian Westbrook.
Why pay for something when you can get it for free? That’s why there most likely won’t be a trade but the players released either prior to or early in camp.
Manny Lawson seems intent to escape via free agency as soon as the lockout ends. Though the Niners are strong in the middle with Willis, it seems that Lawson’s exit, along with nose tackle Aubrayo Franklin, might weaken the run defense.
The problem is that no one will trade for Lawson because he’s free to go. The rest of the league knows the Niners might be needing help in this area, so they’ll try to force the Niners hand to give up more than what’s needed.