Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images
When you’re a quality franchise with an established system, you can ship out your stars and still win.
The Patriots and the Steelers, like the Bill Walsh 49ers, make sure to let players go a year too early rather than a year too late.
These elite organizations can keep to this credo because they draft well and stockpile quality backups who can step up to the starting role when called upon.
The 49ers of recent years are not one of these organizations and have proven they can’t afford to let proven players go and hope their replacements will pan out.
For example, following a down year in 2003, San Francisco released QB Jeff Garcia—who had made the Pro Bowl three of the last four years—under the assumption Tim Rattay could step in and take the reins as the starter.
Seven years and (approximately) 15 failed QBs later, the 49ers are still looking for an answer under center.
In 2005, San Francisco let its best defensive player, Julian Peterson, leave for Seattle. Peterson had been slowed by an Achilles injury and had been unhappy because he was franchised (sound familiar?) by the organization.
Peterson was an instant star in Seattle, registering 10 sacks in his first season as a Seahawk. Meanwhile, his replacement in San Francisco, Manny Lawson, has been so ineffective that the 49ers were forced to use another top draft pick this year in hopes of filling the void at outside pass rusher.
If Franklin leaves, maybe Isaac Sopoaga can take over at nose tackle and the team won’t miss a beat. Then again, maybe Sopoaga will be the nose tackle equivalent of Cody Pickett.
When you’ve got a player who’s shown he can perform at an NFL level like Franklin, it’s better to invest in the proven commodity than gamble on unknown stock.