After four months of wrangling and placing the blame of the NFL lockout on each other, the owners and players finally came to an agreement today ending the 132-day lockout. Let the Jim Harbaugh Era officially begin! It has been tough to get excited about Harbaugh taking over as head coach for the 49ers. The first two months after he was hired the NFL lockout began and even though we have heard and seen interviews with Harbaugh and his vision for the 49ers we could not see it emerge because of the lockout. Normally by this time in the 2011 off-season we would have seen organized team activities and mini-camps to get a glimpse of the offense and defense being installed and how 49ers rookies were sizing up. Now the season is ready to start. Details are still coming out about the timeline of events that will unfold this week. In one week NFL fans will see veteran free agents, draft picks and rookie free agents signings along with trades and the start of training camp. If you missed off-season football you will have everything condensed into one hell of a week.
The 49ers can start signing their 2011 draft picks like first-rounder Aldon Smith and rookie free agents. The 49ers can also start negotiating with veteran free agents and begin making trades. Starting Thursday the 49ers can begin to cut players which might include cornerback Nate Clements if he does not restructure his deal because he could earn upwards of $15.2 million this season. Friday should be the most interesting day of the week as the 49ers can sign free agents although it has been reported the 49ers will not make any big signings. No matter who the 49ers sign in free agency the players cannot report to Santa Clara until the officially start of the league year which is August 4. The 49ers will start training camp on Thursday, July 28.
This is exciting times for the 49er Faithful. Keep up with Niner Noise all week for breaking news updates.
We all know the 49ers have been one of the hardest hit teams affected by the lockout. One of the biggest ways the lockout hurt the team is players on both offense and defense could not practice with Harbaugh and his coach’s to start learning the playbook and begin asking them questions about the schemes. The 49ers will not lose out on any training camp days but the terms in the new collective bargaining agreement (CBA) restricts two-a-day practices. I believe this was inserted in the CBA to protect players and extend the longevity of their careers but this was bad timing for the 49ers. If it was up to Harbaugh he would have the 49ers out on the field three times a day for practice to make up for all the missed time. Two-a-days are as common as using pigskin to play football; they are just part of football no matter what level you play at. 49er players may not miss out on the two-a-days but that part of the CBA has to be what Harbaugh dislikes the most. Harbaugh will be able to conduct non-contact practices with no helmets or pads after the first practice of the day but where is the fun in that.
The 49ers have the rights to 51 players and 10 of their recent draft picks. With the rosters being limited to 90 players we can except the 49ers to sign 29 players this week but don’t expect any of them to be the top free agents available. GM Trent Baalke will focus on retaining important unrestricted free agents to bring them back to the 49ers. Here is a list of 49ers free agents and how I think things will pan out for them:
David Baas, Center- With Eric Heitmann injured again the importance of re-signing Baas is a top-priority. He will return to the team.
Tony Wragge, Guard/Center: The 49ers have added depth at guard the last two drafts so Wragge will be left out and will not return to the Niners.
Barry Sims, Tackle: Sims is not starting material but is a great backup option should someone on the line get hurt. Consider him re-signed.
Alex Smith- Signed, sealed and…*sigh*. Seventh time’s a charm?
Troy Smith- Mike Singletary liked him enough to start him which means Harbaugh wants nothing to do with him.
Brian Westbrook, Running Back- The Westbrook experience is over after one-year. I think the team realized having one running back in his 30’s was enough. He will not return.
Jeff Reed, Kicker- Reed did well filling in for Joe Nedney last year. With Nedney back to full strength Reed will need to find a new home.
Aubrayo Franklin, Nose Tackle- Franklin has proven to be a great road block for running backs in the middle of the line but with him being franchised tagged last season by the 49ers and a lack of quality of players at nose tackle in free agency he is gone. The price tag will be too much for the 49ers to match.
Dashon Goldson, Safety- Goldson wants to return to the 49ers and Baalke would like to re-sign him. Expect the hard hitting safety to be on the roster.
Manny Lawson, Linebacker- Lawson never fully lived up to his first-round pick status and with Aldon Smith as the 49ers top draft pick this year he has played his final game in Red and Gold.
Ray McDonald, Defensive End- McDonald wants to be part of the Harbaugh era but also wants to be a starter. This could be the reason he does not re-sign.
Takeo Spikes, Linebacker- When you are 34 years old in the NFL most teams would shy away from signing you to a contract. Spikes had 109 tackles last season and the 49ers think he can repeat last season. Spikes will return.
Travis LaBoy, Linebacker- LaBoy showed flashes of greatness last season as a pass rusher and had five sacks while not being a starter. Harbaugh will want him on his team.
Demetric Evans, Defensive End- Used sparingly last season but if the 49ers lose out on re-signing McDonald, Evans will a good candidate as a backup.
Will James, Cornerback: James only played in five games last season and I doubt he will be back with the team.