This post was written by Matt Hamm
Popular opinion is that the NFL lockout was 100% bad for all teams this offseason. No mini-camps, a three month free agency delay, no communication between players and coaches, recipe for disaster all around right? Wrong if you’re talking about the San Francisco 49ers. The 49ers headed into the offseason needing to name a new GM, find a new offensive minded HC as well as upgrade the roster. Hard to do during a work stoppage right? Again, wrong not in this case.
The GM search was a sham to begin with; all the organization had to do was set the stage for their guy Trent Baalke to be promoted officially into the position. Next they needed to find their HC immediately setting their sights on Stanford’s Jim Harbaugh. This is where the NFL lockout began to actually help the 49ers. Ask yourself what the hottest coaching commodity would be looking for when he just so happens to be looking for NFL employment as the lockout approaches? I’ll tell you, he would want a team he felt like he could turn around quickly by adding his touch, a team with a strong core group of players yet enough salary cap room to help mold the team his way quickly. The 49ers could offer this more than any other team in the Harbaugh-hunt. It definitely helped that the 49ers are just down the road from Stanford, meaning the Harbaugh family wouldn’t have to move if he took the 49ers job over say the Dolphins job. That’s just a small reason Harbaugh took the 49ers job.
This year’s free agency pool is perhaps the deepest in NFL history. Last year due to the CBA expiring players had to wait until their 5th season to become un-restricted free agents creating a much larger pool of free agents this offseason. Trent Baalke proved to have a great plan this offseason by only dabbling in free agency when it first opened. Allowing other teams to over-spend, placing a value on each player and sticking to it. Even when it meant losing players like Takeo Spikes, David Baas, and Aubrayo Franklin. Despite these losses the 49ers were able to improve their team with the additions of Jonathan Goodwin, Carlos Rogers, Donte Witner, Braylon Edwards and David Akers. In a normal offseason these guys would have received much more money and years on their contracts and the 49ers would have faced a lot more competition for their services.
The 49ers will face the same obstacles as every other team in the league. Yes, they will be behind in terms of installing the new offense and Vic Fangio’s version of the 3-4 defense. Yes, the players won’t be as sharp as usual. In the long run the thing that matters most is having talented players and coaches that put them in a position to succeed. The 49ers were able to expand their talent with a solid draft and a well executed free agency as well as pick up the hottest coaching commodity in a long time. Not bad for an offseason “ruined” by the lockout.