The Super Bowl is over and the 2011 season has officially come to an end. With the New York Giants now the reigning Super Bowl champions, the San Francisco 49ers begin their march towards unseating them and getting revenge. Here is a breakdown of important dates for the 49ers during the offseason leading all the way up to the 2012 season opener.
February 20: 49ers can Franchise Tag a player
Starting on the 20th of February, NFL teams can apply the franchise tag to any big name free agents they want to secure for next season. The two players most likely to receive the 49ers franchise tag are Carlos Rogers or Dashon Goldson. Both are coming off Pro Bowl seasons and led the 49ers defense with six interceptions each. Goldson is the more likely player to be franchise tagged if only because safeties will be at a lower rate of around $6 million for a one year deal, compared to cornerbacks who should see around $10 million for a one year deal. The 49ers also have more depth at cornerback than safety so locking up Goldson with a franchise tag is the likely scenario. The 49ers have said they want to bring back Rogers and Goldson, and the two players have expressed their desire to return.
February 22-28: NFL Combine
The NFL Combine will officially kick off draft season. There will be live coverage of the workouts on NFL.com and NFL Network. 49ers GM Trent Baalke and his staff will get their first look at potential players the team may draft. Baalke will evaluate all the numbers and performances on his targeted list of players and use it to see which players the 49ers should draft.
March 5: Deadline to apply Franchise Tag
By this point either Goldson or Rogers will be franchise tagged. There is no why the 49ers will let both players hit the open free agent market. With Chris Culliver, Tarell Brown and Tramaine Brock at cornerback there is a chance Rogers will not have a contract when the free agency period begins.
March 13: Free agency begins at 4 PM
Even with Vernon Davis and the not always reliable Michael Crabtree, the 49ers showed during the season and especially in the playoffs the team is in need of more receiving help. Plenty of good wide receivers could be available depending on whether or not they are franchise tagged by their respective teams. The list of receivers the 49ers could pursue is Vincent Jackson (Chargers), DeSean Jackson (Eagles), Marques Colston (Saints), Dwayne Bowe (Chiefs) and Reggie Wayne (Colts). The wide receivers each have certain issues you can make the case as to why the 49ers should not sign them, however, even with those issues any of the players listed would be an upgrade for the 49ers offense.
Baalk and Jim Harbaugh will be looking to make a splash in free agency but how aggressive the 49ers are will depend on if they can lock down important players like Alex Smith, Carlos Rogers and Dashon Goldson to manageable contracts. If Rogers cannot secure a contract before free agency, the 49ers have little chance of re-signing him once he hits the open market. However the 49ers could still pursue a cornerback in free agency for a lower price with players like Cortland Finnegan (Titians) and Brent Grimms (Falcons) available.
March 25-28: NFL owners meetings
Each year the NFL owners get together to discuss…I am not exactly sure what goes on at the NFL owners meetings. Maybe they will compare how much money they made even with the lockout. With this year’s meeting in Palm Beach, Florida, it is just an excused to go down to sunny Florida for four-days.
Mid-April: Teams begin offseason programs
Jim Harbaugh will get to have a full offseason to prepare his team for the 2012 season. With the lockout Harbaugh did not have organized team activities and mini-camps. Can you imagine what the 49ers will be capable of in 2012 with a full offseason of workouts?
April 26-28: The NFL Draft in New York City
The NFL Draft will kick off on April 26th. With the 49ers advancing all the way to the NFC Championship game means the team has the 30th pick in the first-round of the draft, selecting before the Patriots and Saints. The 49ers will also pick at the 30th spot in rounds 2-7. GM Trent Baalke has shown he has an eye for talent no matter which spot or round the 49ers are selecting. We can expect more of the same from Baalke and his staff with another great draft.
Late July: Training Camp begins
Sometime in late July, most likely the last week, the 49ers will officially embark on their 2012 run to winning the NFC West again and returning back to the playoffs. The training camp dates have not been released for the 49ers, however we will not have the uncertainty like last year with the lockout not affecting the start time.
Early August: Preseason begins
The preseason games maybe boring to the casual fan and Michael Crabtree, but for the rest of us die-hard fans the preseason is important to see who will be making the team and who will be the starters. The reason I mentioned Crabtree is because in his three seasons in the NFL, he has not played in one preseason game. But if you were to ask Crabtree there is no coloration between missing preseason games and why he has not produced like the number one receiver he think he is.
September 9: Season opener
The official 49ers 2012 schedule with dates will be released sometime in April. Right now we only know who the 49ers will be playing at home and on the road:
HOME: Lions, Bears, Dolphins, Bills, Giants, Rams, Cardinals, Seahawks
AWAY: Packers, Vikings, Saints, Patriots, Jets, Rams, Cardinals, Seahawks
The schedule rotation this season will see the 49ers playing the AFC East and NFC North. Excluding division games, the 49ers top-five games in 2012 are against the Lions (Handshake Gate!), Giants (Revenge!), Packers (Rodgers who?), Vikings (Remember the heave?), Saints (Bring them on again!) and Patriots (Should have been us playing them in the Super Bowl!).
Keep up with Niner Noise all offseason for anything and everything dealing with the San Francisco 49ers!
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