The shortened offseason got off to an incredibly slow start for the San Francisco 49ers. Their only addition was five time Pro Bowl Kicker, David Akers to the roster, while losing a few key defensive components at the same time.
Considering that the NFC West appeared to be theirs for the taking, this was a surprise to many people that followed the 49ers. Why not spend money to upgrade at positions in dire need? Well, San Francisco took the patient approach and it seemed to pay off.
Over the course of the next couple days as the 49ers would bring in starters at key defensive positions and a shiny new threat on offense. This silenced skeptics—for a bit.
Today, I am going to focus on the major free agents that signed with San Francisco and what they will bring to the table.
Akers upgrades the 49er kicking game
The most accurate kicker in San Francisco 49ers history, Joe Nedney, retired late last month. So, it was imperative they bring in another veteran. At that point, the only kicker on the 49er roster was Arena Football League star, Fabrizio Scaccia.
In understanding the importance of having a proven veteran kicker at Candlestick Park, the 49ers front office went after one of the best in the business: David Akers, a five time Pro Bowl performer and former All-Pro kicker.
Akers understands kicking in hostile conditions as he has made the Philadelphia Eagles his home since 1999. He is extremely accurate in longer range field goals, going a combined 17/21 in attempts between 40 and 49 yards over the last two seasons.
You can expect Akers to be a gem when it comes to Fantasy Football because he has the ability to make field goals up to 60 yards. In the 49ers preseason debut he made a booming 59 yard field goal against the New Orleans Saints in the Superdome.
The 49ers offensive line looked really bad in their first preseason game last week, but they will be getting an upgrade when Jonathan Goodwin eventually takes over for Adam Snyder this season.
Goodwin was a journeymen offensive lineman for the first six years of his NFL career, yet only started a total of 15 games during that span. However, this all changed when the New Orleans Saints pegged him as their starting center in 2008.
Since then, Goodwin has started 45 games, earning a spot in the Pro Bowl in 2009 as a starter and as a reserve in 2010. Along with Carl Nicks, the new San Francisco center had been the lynch-pin of the interior of the Saints offensive line over the last three seasons.
The 49ers lost David Baas, who only began playing center last season, to the New York Giants this offseason, but were able to find an an upgrade in Goodwin. He is extremely solid in pass protection and has the ability to open up rushing lanes up the middle.
If nothing else, at least a couple of the 49ers offensive lines positions are filled with Pro Bowl caliber players in Goodwin and Mike Iupati. It is the rest of the offensive line that needs major help moving forward.
In 2007, the San Francisco 49ers doled out a whopping 80 million dollars to Nate Clements in order to fix their cornerback issues. Well, that did not turn out too well for them. After a couple solid seasons, Clements fell on his face in 2010; ensuring that this signing was a bust.
Fast forward four years and the 49ers were in the market for another top tier corner in Nnamdi Asomugha. Although San Francisco did miss out on the former Oakland corner, it became evident they were looking for an upgrade at that position.
Following the release of Nate Clements the 49ers cornerback situation was pretty bleak, as Shawntae Spencer and Tarell Brown were slotted to be starters; not exactly a top tier corner tandem in the NFL.
Enter Carlos Rogers, who has the pedigree of a solid corner in the NFL. Rogers was brought in to be the teams No.1 corner and is a definite upgrade over Clements in terms of coverage ability.
Rogers acted as the Washington Redskins No.1 corner last season and was given the task of covering the opposing teams top wide receiver. He became increasingly upset with the Redskins perceived lack of respect for his game and looked for another home.
This seems to be a perfect fit for the former top ten overall pick and the San Francisco 49ers
A couple years ago the 49ers safety situation was one of the weakest aspects of their defense. They had Mark Roman and Michael Lewis, both liabilities at the safety positions.
The 49ers attempted to upgrade that position in the draft over the last few seasons with Reggie Smith, Dashon Goldson and Taylor Mays. However, they decided to go outside of the organization in free agency in order to upgrade this season.
Donte Whitner was a top ten pick of the Buffalo Bills in 2006. He struggled a great deal in terms of coverage in Buffalo’s Tampa-2 defense until they switched to the 3-4 in 2010. Last year, Whitner led all non-linebackers in tackles with a whopping 140.
Whitner was all over the field and did a great job playing in the box against the run. This is exactly what the San Francisco 49ers are going to ask of him this year. They will be starting Whitner at the strong safety position opposite either Reggie Smith or Dashon Goldson.
You are going to see him act like an extra linebacker on certain occasions and he will be quarterbacking the play calling from the secondary. This is a tremendous upgrade over what San Francisco had the last few seasons.
The 49ers have not had a 1,000 yard receiver since the enigmatic Terell Owens donned red and gold in 2003. Michael Crabtree was drafted 10th overall in 2009, but has seen injuries and a holdout cost him the opportunity of reaching that coveted mark.
So, the 49ers went into the free agent market to acquire a player that they hope will become their No.1 wide receiver. That player is Braylon Edwards, another troubled but talented wide out.
Edwards, the 3rd overall pick of the Cleveland Browns in 2005, has had his ups and downs in the NFL. The former Michigan Wolverine All-American made his only Pro Bowl appearance following a 2007 season that saw him haul in 80 passes for nearly 1,300 yards and 16 touchdowns.
Braylon Edwards’ numbers have dramatically dropped off over the last couple of seasons as off-field issues continue to be a major issue with him. Edwards could be facing a possible suspension from the NFL following a DUI arrest earlier this year.
That said, he still becomes the 49ers top downfield threat and gives Alex Smith a huge target in the passing game. If he remains healthy and out of trouble, you can expect Edwards to have a huge impact on the 49ers offense.
Another huge part of this signing is the fact that Edwards will push Michael Crabtree down to the No. 2 wide receiver spot and Josh Morgan into the slot. This trickle-down effect should help those two underachieving receivers in 2011.