We can all dwell on a NFC Championship game overtime loss all the way up to training camp, but our front office has plenty of work to do. There were a few things that were evident in the loss to the Giants that will need to be mended to before the start of next season. The biggest issue was the receiving core, or lack thereof, in fact did we ever put one on the field?
The receiving core didn’t have their best game, in fact 1 catch for 3 yards. There was no separation, nowhere to go with the ball, and QB Alex Smith looked like a man with no faith. We spent a top ten draft pick on WR Michael Crabtree, but it doesn’t seem to be working out. The former Texas Tech standout was the leading WR this year, but only had 874 yards and 4 touchdowns. Part of that has to do with the offensive scheme, but another part of that is there is no other target on the outside to spread the field. The passes this season only went to 2 men this year, Crabtree and TE Vernon Davis, past that no one had more than 20 catches.
So what should the Niners do to address the problem? I would love to draft a top wideout, and with the 30th pick in the upcoming draft there are guys that will be good value. However let’s look at the guys already in the league that can contribute big next year.
Top 5 potential Wide Receiver free agents the Niners should pursue
Dwayne Bowe is everything we want. He has had average at best quarterbacks throwing to him his entire career, and yet he has always put up good numbers (81 catches 1,159 yards in 2011). If we can land him I believe we would be set and a lot more dynamic at the position. Bowe will be coveted by many teams and most likely overpaid, but the talent is undoubtedly there.
Vincent Jackson of the Chargers at times has looked like a top 5 WR in the NFL. He’s physical and at 6’5’’ he would be a great red zone target. The Chargers rarely pay players, and Jackson has already set out half a year because of contract issues. He won’t be back in a San Diego uniform next year after all the issues, so free agency is where he will end up. He is great on the field and if we were to get him, he would produce.
DeSean Jackson seems like he just got into the league. At 25 Jackson has already played through his first contract with the Eagles. He is another one wanting paid. I’m a little reluctant on Jackson. He is electrifying, but he did suffer 2 concussions this season. This last season was disappointing and a lot of that was due to nagging injuries and complaining about his contract. If we get the player he can be great, but he could turn out to be a bigger diva than producer.
Mario Manningham only had 1 catch against our defense in the Conference Championship. The problem for us was it happened on a 3rd and long and resulted in a 17 yard touchdown. I think there are better, more talented receivers out there, but he does pose as a red zone threat as he has a touchdown in every postseason game this season. Somewhere we had a problem with.
Before this year I thought Pierre Garcon was only a factor because of who was throwing the ball and not his own talent. I was wrong. In fact Garcon had more yards this year than any 49er receiver and that was with Curtis Painter and Dan Orlovsky tossing him the pigskin. He has improved every year in his 4 year career and at 26, is just now hitting the prime of his career.
Top 5 Free Agent receivers the 49ers won’t get
Mike Wallace is a deep threat and would be perfect for our team. With that said he has a home in Pittsburgh and the Steelers will lock him up.
Reggie Wayne is turning 34 in November and while he has been great I don’t think he has more than a year or 2 left and since the Colts are going cleaning house he’s out and will most likely follow Peyton Manning (I say Redskins).
Wes Welker and Brandon Lloyd aren’t coming west, the latter has already said he was following Josh McDaniel’s who is already set-up in New England and Lloyd made it clear he didn’t want to end up in San Fran again, just look how he was traded for less to go to the Rams. Welker would be a great compliment in the slot, but there is no way he leaves New England and Tom Brady. Both players will be Patriots for next year.
Steve Johnson of the Bills seems like he would be a good fit. He’s fast, can stretch the field, and he is only 26. The problem is he drops too many passes and he cares more about making a spectacle of himself than he does winning. I think he either stays in Buffalo or goes wherever the biggest contract is, either way I don’t want him in the Bay.