The 49ers were one of the slowest teams to get going in free agency in all the NFL, but they kept saying they had a plan. Now we're seeing that plan come to fruition, and all the sudden the team that didn't make any moves the first few days, can't seem to put the phone down!
The 49ers made possibly their two biggest signings of the shortened offseason Thursday (likely their last prominent signings this summer), inking themselves a new starting wide receiver and a starting strong safety coming off a 140-tackle season. After weeks of lobbying for the mercurial wideout here at BASJ, the 49ers finally made it official Thursday, signing Braylon Edwards to a 1 year, $3.5 million deal to come in and start opposite of Michael Crabtree. It drastically impacts the 49ers receiving corps and gives them a true home run threat on the outside to relieve some pressure off Davis in the middle. Edwards has 39 TD catches in 6 seasons and is a former pro-bowler who's just entering his prime at 28. This gives the 49ers arguably their most explosive unit offensively since Alex Smith arrived, and should put he and Colin Kaepernick in great positions to succeed. The 49ers got Frank Gore back in practice this week, now have added Edwards to join Vernon Davis, Delanie Walker, Josh Morgan and Crabtree to anchor the 49ers offense. As long as their O-Line, led by newly signed pro-bowl center Jonathon Goodwin, plays up to par and handles their end of the bargain, I think the 49ers offense will be singing a much different tune this season. Not only will Edwards help SF, but by signing him, the Niners kept him away from division rival Arizona, where he would have lined up with Larry Fitzgerald. The one slight downside Edwards brings is some off-field issues, but he's under a 1 year deal with nothing guaranteed and should be on his best behavior and working his tail off to earn himself a multi-year deal next summer. It's also good to see the 49ers finally attract a skilled offensive player through free agency, which I can't remember them doing in the last 10 years. He showed he's excited to be here too, emerging for practice (wearing #81 not #17) immediately after the deal was announced.
It was a win-win day for the Niners, on both sides of the ball. Joining Edwards in the Red and Gold will be former Buffalo Bills safety Donte Whitner. I thought they were through at safety after signing Madeiu Williams the previous day, unless it was Dashon Goldson re-signing, but they added a guy who many believe to be better than Goldson. Whitner was one of the lone bright spots and helped anchor down a horrid Buffalo defense last season, so he should benefit greatly from the improved talent around him. He had 140 tackles last season, which tells you he's a ball-hawk and an aggressive tackler, two key traits in a good strong safety. This should pretty much spell the end of Goldson's run with San Francisco too. I did find it a little interesting that the 49ers want to axe Taylor Mays? I get the fact they like Reggie Smith and now have Williams and Whitner in the mix, but Mays was a 2nd rounder last season and certainly shouldn't be given away. I'd only deal him if it brought the 49ers some help on the D-line or another solid cornerback. They could also be targeting a back-up QB with Mays as well. As far as free agency though, I don't expect the 49ers to be too more active after the frenzy they put up over the last 72 hours.
Braylon Edwards 2010 w/ Jets: 53 catches, 904 yards, 7 TD's, 17.1 YPC
Donte Whitner 2010 w/Bills: 140 tackles (97 solo), 1 sack, 1 int, 1 FFum, 7 PD's