The 49ers enter the 2012 offseason with a very solid foundation, and tons of talent already signed up and accounted for as far as the 2012 season is concerned. However, the team does have a few impact free agents, including QB Alex Smith, CB Carlos Rogers and S Dashon Goldson, who will all be free to sign with any team they please once free agency starts if the 49ers are unable to lock them up before then.
Obviously, the team needs to add some help to their receiving group, as well as another corner or two, but first and foremost, they need to figure out who will and won't be returning from 2011's squad for next season. The three biggest free agents the 49ers will be facing decisions on come March and April are Smith, Rogers and Goldson, and I think there's a pretty good chance that all three will be returning. The thing is, Rogers and Goldson each had terrific years, and Goldson especially, could be looking to really cash in this summer and get the big contract he felt he should have received last summer. Of the team's big-three free agents, I foresee Goldson as potentially the toughest to retain, but that shouldn't keep the 49ers from doing whatever possible in attempt to retain him. He and Donte Whitner each had very nice seasons and were a big reason for the increased play in the secondary, as was the pro-bowl play of Carlos Rogers. The 30 year-old corner has come out and made it quite clear that he not only wants to remain in San Francisco, but he expects to. He had one of the best seasons any 49er cornerback has had in years so I expect them to reward him with a nice 2-3 year contract and it wouldn't surprise me if Rogers is the first free agent the retain.
Alex Smith will be a bit more of a tricky proposition. There's no question that he 49ers will want him back in 2012 and may end up giving him a 2-3 year contract . Even though the free agent QB class is pretty thin, he really fits well with what the 49ers are doing right now and probably won't be as valuable to a team like the Dolphins or Redskins as he would the 49ers. He knows this offense now and is comfortable in it and he's a tremendous match with Jim Harbough. There are just too many things pointing towards his return to San Francisco, whether 49ers fans like it or not. He showed me a lot against the Saints, and although he didn't play particularly well vs. New York, he still played just good enough for the team to win that game, even though receivers Kyle Williams and Michael Crabtree were basically non-existent in the passing game. If you add another 2 wideouts and give Smith another couple of weapons to use, then I think it will surely lead to him improving as a quarterback. He showed big strides in 2011 just with ball security alone, and as good a back Frank Gore is, it's not like he had a lights out 2011 season to really lead the offense. He had a decent year, but was injured a bit and had a few games where he got just 10-12 carries, so if you think Smith wasn't a factor in the teams' 13-win campaign, think again. I think a reasonable offer to Smith would be a 2-year, $15 million deal with a $10M team option for a 3rd year.
Would Smith sign that deal? I really don't know, but if he wants to stay in a spot where he's likely to have the most success and with arguably the best "quarterback" head coach in the NFL, he'd be smart to stick around another couple of years. I mean, he's still a very young guy in terms of NFL QB's so if he did continue to improve over the next two years, he could be looking to really cash in by the time he's 30. Just look at a guy like Matt Schaub, who showed glimpses in his early years but really became a top-notch NFL QB at age 28 in 2009. Smith, at 27, is right in his prime and if they add a Dwayne Bowe or a Marques Colston as well as another WR in the draft, then he'll get to show it. I'm definitely leaning towards the "Keep Alex Smith" group.
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