After slowly sliding into the free agency period, the San Francisco 49ers have finally began to make their move and fill up some of their major roster holes.
Adding quality (if not marquee) talent including center Jonathan Goodwin, safety Donte Whitner, and wide receiver Braylon Edwards, the Niners responded efficiently to loud criticisms from frustrated fans unhappy with the team’s signing pace.
Despite these early signings, the Niners have a few more holes left to fill before the start of the season.
Here are four roster holes that were not addressed in the 49ers free agency transactions.
Adding Donte Whitner via free agency. One step forward.
Putting rising starters Dashon Goldson and Taylor Mays (pictured) on the free agency block. Two steps back (especially given how the Niners announced their disinterest in Mays through an immature league-wide chain email.)
While the team has taken steps to foster extra competition, including signing veteran Madieu Williams, it’s not apparently clear what kind of depth this group will have.
This is tough to write, especially with the presence of Patrick Willis holding this position down. However, the lack of depth creates immediate problems, especially as the group takes on a bigger part of the team’s rushing defense.
The problems were compounded when the team allowed mainstays Manny Lawson and Takeo Spikes (pictured) to roll out of town in free agency.
So who is next up for the linebackers?
Ahmad Brooks will most likely get a lot of playing time, and 2011 first round pick Aldon Smith will get starts almost immediately. Navarro Bowman, the third round pick from 2010, will also get a shot at taking a starting role in 2011.
The backup situation is also underwhelming, with Parys Haralson the lone player with major playing time among the second strings.
I would not be surprised to see the Niners make a play to pick up an extra veteran linebacker as cuts are made through the league.
While there’s a lot to like about the signing of Braylon Edwards (the price was definitely right), there are still more questions about the quality of the wide receiver corps entering the season.
Michael Crabtree (pictured), the number one wide receiver for 2010, has struggled to match expectations in his two seasons as a Niner. A foot injury will likely have him miss all of training camp and a good part of the preseason, adding more doubts to a receiver that many pegged to help turn the team’s offense around.
Beyond these two, there is a lack of competitive depth. While Josh Morgan has shown to be a viable third receiver, the options after that are less than appetizing.
Ted Ginn Jr. can only produce in special teams situations, and the rest of the receivers are very much untested.
Given that Edwards recent off the field actions may bring him a suspension from the league, the team will wonder if the current depth will be enough to get them through the season.
First things first: Adding Carlos Rogers to replace Nate Clements is an upgrade (even with all the dropped interception balls). Rogers comes in energized after leaving the Washington Redskins and he comes at a better price than his predecessor.
Despite the upgrade, the cornerback position seems painfully short on depth. Behind the talented (but at time inconsistent) Shawntae Spencer is a woeful lack of experience.
None of the team’s other cornerbacks have more than five career starts. Yikes.
Combined with a few personnel shifts among the pass rush, things could pretty dicey as the 49ers look to defend the pass.