The 49ers released outside linebacker Tully Banta-Cain and free safety Keith Lewis. This will clear about $3.5 million under the salary-cap. Banta-Cain signed with the Niners in 2007 and had high expectations as he had won two Super Bowls with the Patriots and played well under Bill Belichick. Banta -Casin has only four sacks since he joined the team. Lewis received most of his playing time on special teams which he did very well however he was behind starters Michael Lewis and Mark Roman since he was drafted by the Niners. The Red and Gold were well under the salary-cap already which means you might see some big free-agent signings by the Niners. But who to go after? Hmmm…..
Left guard and right tackle: LG David Bass and RT Adam Snyder can hold down the positions next year. But durability and adequate backups are the big questions. There are no outstanding free-agents at guard but there are an abundant of good free-agent tackles. I think both positions can be upgraded in the draft but getting an experienced tackle might be a good option too. Rookie offensive lineman are one of the few positions in the NFL that can make an impact the first two years in the league.
Wide Receiver: Isaac Bruce did his best being the leading receiver on the roster last year but clearly an upgrade is needed. Bryant Johnson was a disappointment last year and is a free-agent. Either case the 49ers should try to go after the biggest name, T.J. Houshmandzadeh.
Quarterback: Whether you like it or not Shaun Hill will be under center next year. It would be wise for the 49ers NOT spend either a first or second pick on a QB. The 49ers need someone who can come in now and make a difference. Hill has at least proven he can lead the team to wins but an experienced back up will be good. The 49ers should go after (only as backups): Charlie Batch, David Carr, Charlie Frye, J.P. Losman, Patrick Ramsey. Don’t think it, just don’t….okay, you did and no Alex Smith will not be back next year.
Linebacker: Middle linebacker Takeo Spikes is a free-agent and Banta-Cain has been released. There are a lot of good linebackers to choose from, some being the top free-agents of the off-season: Keith Brooking, Ray Lewis, Terrell Suggs, Jonathan Vilma.
Cornerback: The 49ers secondary was horrible last year even with Nate Clements being healthy most of the year. Walt Harris can still hold it down but an upgrade is badly needed. Mike Singletary might want to think about Nnamdi Asomugha (might tagged as a franchise player), Phillip Buchanon, Bryant McFadden, Deltha O’Neal to name a few.
Free-Safety: Mark Roman and Dashon Goldson are decent but with their play last year change is needed. Key free agents: Will Allen, Michael Boulware, Brian Dawkins, Renaldo Hill.
These are the 49ers most pressing needs. All other than QB can also be addressed in the draft. But the number one priority should be getting a good WR. Houshmandzadeh provides the best option and he might want a change from the Bengals. Can you imagine what an established receiver would do for the 49ers offense? Although the hiring of Jimmy Raye might deter Housh from signing with the Niners. But I can hope, right?