Sunday, August 7, 2011

What's Next for 49ers?

Well, after the 49ers blitzed the free agent market earlier in the week, they've been very quiet this weekend, and are likely assessing what will be their final moves before the preseason kicks off Friday night.

With their big free agent signings, mainly WR Braylon Edwards, S Donte Whitner, S Madeiu Williams, CB Carlos Rogers and C Jonathan Goodwin, the 49ers have filled out what looks to be their starting units on both sides of the ball. They are however, still very thin in certain spots on the depth chart, and do still have some cap space left to fill those holes. Right now, I would say the 49ers are still actively searching for a back-up QB, help at fullback, the defensive line, linebacker and possibly even another corner or wideout. The position I'm seeing the most need at right now is the D-line, where the team is extremely flexible, but paper thin. They have 5 players that look like locks to make the team, but outside their projected starters, Ray McDonald (LE), Issac Sopoaga (NT), and Justin Smith (RE), they don't really have anyone with ample NFL experience to fall back on. They have undrafted rookie Ian Williams, Ricky Jean Francois and Will Turkafu all slated as backups right now, and outside of Ian Williams, I don't particularly care for this group and definitely see upgrades available. At DT, I think either Pat Williams, Jimmy Kennedy or Travis Johnson, all of which are big tackles who've had success in the 3-4 scheme. There really aren't many ends out there that are intriguing, but the one guy I'd definitely look into is former Bengal, Antwan Odom (19 sacks in last 38 games).

Besides the D-Line, the 49ers have a pressing need for depth at quarterback. After Alex Smith and Colin Kaepernick, they don't really have anything, and if they keep waiting to address that situation, there won't be any options left to sign. Right now, there's still a few guys out there who could fill that void, with Brodie Croyle and Jake Delhomme topping the list. At corner, the list is also dwindling by the day, but there are still a few guys that could upgrade that unit for San Francisco. I like former Colt Kelvin Hayden as well as Andre Dyson and Lito Sheppard, who would each improve the teams nickel and dime defensive packages and provide a stable veteran presence behind starters Carlos Rogers and Shawntae Spencer. Hayden is so good when healthy, he could actually challenge for a starting spot, so he'd be my top choice at corner amongst those available....

Jumping over to the offense, the 49ers look set as far as their starters go, all across the board. With the addition of Goodwin, their O-line is set, and with Edwards in tow, they now have 3 very good receivers, but with Michael Crabtree out and possibly forced into starting slowly this season due to his injured foot, the 49ers could still be looking to add another wideout. There are a ton of veteran options still out there too, as WR is probably the deepest position left on the market. As much as I'd love to see him return, I don't think the 49ers would take on Terrel Owens again, especially after adding Braylon Edwards. Even though T.O. in the slot with Edwards and Crabtree split out and Vernon Davis on the line would give the 49ers an extremely potent offense, there may not be enough passes to go around for everyone. The 49ers still plan on being a run-heavy team behind Frank Gore, and will use 2-tight end sets quite often with one of the best non-starting tight ends in all of football in Delanie Walker. Still though, the big reason the 49ers haven't been winners since the early 2000's is because they haven't been able to beat teams through the air. It's why I wanted Edwards to join this team so badly. Outside of T.O., other, more likely targets for the 49ers could be Jerricho Cotchery or Mark Clayton, each of whom would be upgrades over anything the 49ers have after Edwards, Crabtree and Morgan. Clayton is maybe the most intriguing because of the year he was putting up last season in St. Louis before getting hurt (23 catches, 300 yds, 2 TD in 4 1/2 games).

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