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Michael Crabtree and San Francisco Kiss and Make Up, Relationship to Grow Slowly

Andrew Garda@andrew_gardaFeatured ColumnistOctober 7, 2009

NEW YORK - APRIL 25:  NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell poses with with San Francisco 49ers #10 draft pick Michael Crabtree at Radio City Music Hall for the 2009 NFL Draft on April 25, 2009 in New York City  (Photo by Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images)

According to reports from Adam Schefter of ESPN, Jay Glazer of Fox Sports, and both 49er beat writers Matt Maiocco (of the Press-Democrat) and Matt Barrows (of the Sacramento Bee), the San Francisco 49ers and their wayward rookie wide receiver Micahel Crabtree have reached an agreement.

Crabtree will finally be a 49er.

Now, while there is plenty to talk about. Negotiations started yesterday afternoon and involved Jed York, Crabtree's agent Eugene Parker and—I swear on a stack of Bibles—MC Hammer.

If they had left the bargaining table without a deal I was planning on using "Please Hammer, Just Hurt Them" as the article title today.

Alas.

The details as of the writing of this article are sketchy but it is known to be a six-year deal that can be voided to five. Glazer says that in order to void that last year, Crabtree has to have a "great two years in the first four of his career."

If not, the 49ers get him in the sixth year for just $4 million.

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That's very cheap if he becomes what many of us expected from the beginning.

As this has just broken, there is plenty to talk about and plenty of questions. Here are my thoughts on a few of them.

Why Now?

Well from the standpoint of Crabtree's camp, it must have been very simple.

With the 49ers winning, every week he was losing leverage. The simple fact is, he wasn't sitting out the whole year. That was a ridiculous threat.

Despite what Deion Sanders' mouth is saying when his brain isn't paying attention, there wasn't a team out there who was going to pay him what he wanted next year. At best, he was a late first round pick.

Late first round picks don't get top 10 money, much less his desired top three.

With the 49ers winning without him, they were in a position to play hard-ball right back.

So Crabtree had to come back to the table, lest he lose a ton more money.

The 49ers, on the other hand, were gaining leverage. Every win without Crabtree was a win the team could point to and say "see, we really don't need you."

Here's a secret: They kind of do.

The 49ers haven't had a 100-yard receiver yet this season—one of 11 teams without one. They've had pass plays of more than 30 yards just twice this year, one of the fewest in the league.

With Gore out, they had to be thinking it would be nice to have Crabtree in the house and working towards being a factor later in the year.

They had the leverage and were getting more every week but they had needs, too.

What Did Crabtree Get By Signing?

Aside from some nice bonus money, he can get on with the business of playing football which whether you want to believe it or not, is something very important to him.

He can get involved in the team, try to repair things with fans and not have to worry about what could happen in the 2010 NFL Draft.

Crabtree also gets to do all of the above on a winning team, something I am sure factored into his decision to come back to the bargaining table.

A winning team means less pressure—and he's already going to be under a tremendous amount because of all the contract shenanigans.

While he is stuck for a sixth year—something an agent like Parker must have fought tooth and nail to avoid—he can void it if he plays to his potential.

As far as a guy like Crabtree is concerned, he'll easily void it and be on his way or sign for bigger bucks in San Francisco.

What Did The 49ers Get by Signing Crabtree?

Notice I did not use the word "buckling." In this staring contest, even if they coughed a little bit of "fluff money"—incentive laden cash that looks better on paper than it really is—the 49ers held their ground and won.

How do I know this? Aside from getting the guy in the fold the team got a sixth year. Getting an extra year from any agent - much less a guy like Eugene Parker—is something like a Christmas Miracle. It's rare, hard fought for and worthy of celebration.

Voidable or not, it was quite a coup.

Also as I mentioned above, the 49ers lack a 100-yard receiver this year.

Now, Crabtree is not that guy the moment he steps on the field. He could be though, and if he develops as expected he could be a factor late in the season when the team is either fighting for a playoff spot or preparing for a playoff run.

At worst, they now have him for a year where they can develop him gradually and work him into the lineup. If they continue to win—and right now it looks like they have every chance of doing so—there is little pressure to involve him too much before he is ready.

On top of that, several players at the wide receiver position may not be back next year. Isaac Bruce isn't under contract past this year and had to be dragged back to play for the 2009 season.

Aside from Josh Morgan, who hasn't torn the league up this season yet, there isn't much at the position for 2010. Long term, they needed this signing.

Finally, the team held the line and got what they wanted. There have been many who have questioned what ownership and management was doing from the beginning. The longer the stand-off went, the more the questions piled up.

Fairly or not, this justifies the team's hard-line stance. It will send a message to free agents and incoming rookies that the franchise will not be manipulated and will hold their ground.

Funny, that sounds a lot like a Mike Singletary attribute.

What Will Crabtree Do This Year?

Honestly, the rookie wideout's impact will probably be limited for most of the year. So Fantasy Football Owners take note: You shouldn't be dropping players for him in your redraft leagues.

Frankly, wide receivers have a very big learning curve when entering into the NFL and that's when they've had all of OTA's, Mini-Camps, Preseason and Training Camp to come to grips with the myriad of differences between the college game and the Pro.

Crabtree has a lot to learn. On top of that, he's missed four weeks—almost five by now—of practice with 49ers quarterback Shaun Hill.

So you have a rookie who hasn't played in months, getting thrown to by a quarterback who has no practice timing with him, running a set of plays which are probably far more complex than any he has dealt with before.

We haven't even gotten into blocking assignments and running new routes.

Like I said before, he'll be brought along slowly.

However, he is a big, talented target. I expect Singletary and offensive coordinator Jimmy Raye to find ways to use him and his size as the year goes on. They have some good weapons in tight end Vernon Davis, fellow rookie Glen Coffee, wide receivers Josh Morgan and Isaac Bruce.

Crabtree will give them an added dimension and another weapon in the arsenal.

Still, it will be weeks before he really does much. Expect him to see anywhere from four to six snaps a game at first. Maybe he'll see a target or two a game.

Towards the end of the year though—when the Niners are positioning themselves for a playoff run—he will probably see more time.

The 49ers are a team clearly on the rise this year. They play solid defense, can run the ball and have found ways to win games with a hard-nosed attitude.

What they have lacked is a solid passing attack. Crabtree won't instantly give them that. His presence may help shape and mold it though, bringing it into sharper and more dynamic focus.

By no means is he the second coming of Jerry Rice from Day One.

But getting him into the facility gives the 49ers more options, making them look even better in 2009 and beyond.

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