San Francisco 49ers: 9 Key Players Who Will Be Gone in 2013
A handful of other players actually signed through next year may find themselves on the chopping block as well.
The on-the-field production and success of 2012 will dictate much of Trent Baalke’s decision process regarding the squad members with tenuous futures.
Imagine if the 49ers make and/or win Super Bowl XLVII. I wholly believe that will incentivize Baalke to re-sign some players he wouldn’t have had his team lost or failed to qualify for the greatest game in American sports.
But let’s focus on the here and now.
As it stands, I project that nine players will be playing in colors other than red and gold come 2013.
Note: I omitted Larry Grant from this list because there’s still a chance he’ll suit up for another team in 2012.
Tramaine Brock (CB, 2013 RFA)
Brock signed a one-year, $400,000 contract in March and currently sits at No. 4 on the cornerback depth chart.
He played sparingly in 2011 on defense initially as a nickel corner and also on special teams before suffering a hand injury. He registered two picks, four deflected passes and seven tackles in 11 games.
The game he will be primarily remembered by, though, is when Tarell Brown went to the sideline in the fourth quarter of the NFC Championship only to have Eli Manning immediately throw a touchdown to Mario Manningham (of all people) with Brock covering.
I expect the 49ers to draft a young, stud corner later this month. I also do not expect Brock to make significant enough strides for a contract extension.
Anthony Dixon (RB, 2014 UFA)
It pains me to include the fan-favorite (relatively speaking) and hard-working Dixon on this list.
He works his butt off on special teams and always has a good attitude about things, notably when the 49ers ostensibly signed his replacement in Brandon Jacobs. He expressed his obvious disappointment, but merely stated he’d work that much harder.
With that said, the organization seems even more disappointed with his lack of production in short-yardage situations.
They expect Jacobs to be an upgrade and as 49ers Insider for CSN Bay Area Matt Maiocco points out, Dixon is in real trouble of losing his spot on the roster.
Ted Ginn, Jr. (WR, 2013 UFA)
I fully expect Ginn to produce in stellar fashion on special teams for the second consecutive year—the operative words being special teams.
The former ninth-overall pick out of Ohio St. has many of the physical tools to excel in the receiving game, but his inconsistent hands, route running and field awareness are notable issues.
He’ll contribute in the return game, but a more versatile defensive back or receiver acquired in the draft will render Ginn expendable after the conclusion of this season.
Tavares Gooden (LB, 2013 UFA)
Some of you might be curious as to why I’d include Gooden in this article as being a key player.
The reason for this inclusion is his fantastic contributions on special teams. We must not forget how integral this aspect of the game was for the 49ers fruitful 2011 campaign.
However, as with Dixon, Gooden really is only a one-way player lacking the skill set to capably back up Patrick Willis and NaVorro Bowman as an inside linebacker.
Baalke and Jim Harbaugh crave versatility. This is not one of Gooden’s strong suits.
Jonathan Goodwin (C, 2014 UFA)
The aged 49er center is, well, aging.
Also problematic for the 33-year-old were lower leg and ankle injuries.
I predict Goodwin will give the team one more decent enough year under center. Daniel Kilgore will compete at the position while a drafted player (and perhaps practice-squader Chase Beeler, if retained) is groomed for the future.
Brandon Jacobs (RB, 2013 UFA)
The 6’4’’, 256-pound mega-bruiser signed a one-year deal with the Niners with just $150,000 guaranteed.
I’m fully confident that Jacobs makes the team and earns the remaining $1.425 million. On the other hand, such a low-risk contract makes me believe that even if he produces mightily and exceeds expectations, he’ll be one-and-done with the team.
Baalke will not dole out a lucrative deal to the soon to be 30-year-old if Jacobs puts himself in the position for such a request. Or if he falls short of expectations, he’ll be summarily allowed to walk just the same.
In short, I do not foresee him being part of the 49ers' long-term plans. Watch for Baalke to select Frank Gore’s replacement to complement Kendall Hunter in the mid-to-late rounds of the draft.
Ricky Jean-Francois (DT, 2013 UFA)
It has certainly been noted that an NFL team can never have enough linemen on its defensive front. Just look at the Baltimore Ravens and New York Giants and their ability to constantly rotate personnel, wreaking havoc on opposing offensive lines in the process.
Contrarily, I do not foresee the 49ers' front office to retain the slightly undersized defensive tackle. They’ll lock up fellow free agent DT Isaac Sopoaga instead.
Despite being older (turns 31 in September), Soap is bigger, more dominant and fortifies the nose tackle position much more adequately than Jean-Francois.
The younger lineman performed capably against the Bucs in Week 5 when replacing Soap, but is better suited as a backup. Baalke and Co. will target both tackle and defensive end in the 2012 draft to solidify these positions for future seasons.
Randy Moss (WR, 2013 UFA)
Unlike Mr. Jacobs, who received $150K in guaranteed cash, Randy Moss received none of the sort.
This non-guaranteed, incentive-laden contract should come as no surprise since Moss sat out all of 2011. The former All-Pro has a great shot of earning a roster spot, but the 49ers are not committed whatsoever financially if he resembles his unproductive, 2010 self in training camp.
I personally believe Moss will be a relatively major factor (when compared to what the WRs accomplished in 2011) in the receiving game in 2012, if at the very least opening up underneath routes for the other pass-catchers.
In the unlikely case Moss goes berserk and earns the right to command top dollar, I simply see Baalke and Harbaugh thanking him for his services and allowimg him to finish his career elsewhere.
One way or another, Moss will not be a 49er beyond the 2012 season.
Delanie Walker (TE, 2013 UFA)
This versatile tight end-H-back-wide receiver hybrid provides the Harbaugh and Greg Roman offense a dynamic threat at multiple positions. Walker also is an accomplished blocker to boot.
The 49ers' coaching staff highly regard his formidable capabilities.
Walker, though, could very likely seek a starting role elsewhere since he sits behind Vernon Davis, a much more prolific pass-catcher, on the depth chart.
The strong likelihood that the team drafts either Coby Fleener in the first round or another top-rated TE later in the draft compounds the chance that Walker leaves.
Despite being highly valued by the 49ers, I predict another Joshua Morgan situation when another team offers Walker copious more dollars in free agency.