Thus far I am very happy with the body of work Trent Baalke and Jim Harbaugh have done this off season for the 49ers. The team still has room for improvement. Despite being close to the salary cap, the team still has options if they want to make some moves. Here’s the moves I think make the most sense for the 49ers. For a complete look at the 49ers moves to date click HERE. For my breakdown on why these were smart moves for the team, click HERE.
Moves that make sense
Release Parys Haralson and bring back Manny Lawson: Aldon Smith is moving into Haralson’s starting spot at OLB this season making Parys an expensive backup. Haralson is strictly an OLB and cannot fill the role Smith is vacating of 3rd down pass rusher. That role is likely to fall to Taravras Gooden or a draft pick. With relatively no value on special teams the 49ers could use a more versatile backup to Smith and Ahmad Brooks. Lawson was allowed to walk last season after being vocally upset that he was not among the young players the 49ers chose to extend. He signed a modest 1 year $2 million deal with the Bengals and had a decent season. Better suited for the 4-3, Lawson has found little interest in the free agent market this season. If I’m right and the 49ers plan to either use Gooden as a specialty pass rusher off the bench and or draft one. They will need someone versatile who can come in and help out in coverage also. Manny Lawson is perfect for just that role. Manny is not going to get big dollars in FA and may be attracted to returning to the team that drafted him under these circumstances.
Don’t trade for Jonathan Stewart or sign Brandon Jacobs: Rumors surfaced that the 49ers had internal discussions about Jacobs coming in and competing with Anthony Dixon for a roster spot. No doubt the 49ers like Jacobs as a short yardage back and see him as a one year spot duty player. Stewart is rumored to be on the trading block after the Panthers signed Mike Tolbert to a four year deal a week ago. With Deangelo Williams signed to a $40 million deal just last year, that makes Stewart, a FA at seasons end the obvious choice to go. The Panthers can’t keep all three so somebody’s got to go. I’ll admit, Stewart would be nice for the 49ers this season. After that, he’s likely to command a huge contract, one the 49ers likely wouldn’t want to give him. Stewart has shown flashes of brilliance and has every down back talent. But given his injury history, it would not be a wise move for the 49ers to go after Stewart.
As for Jacobs, sure I’ll take him, two or three years ago. Jacobs is entering the stage of his career where he’s at best a #2 back and more than likely only a #3. I would simply prefer a younger player who can play special teams in that role. The 49ers can get a very good RB in this years draft. I would love to see the team add talent at the position for its long term health and if only to ensure the departure of Dixon who I can’t stand. But they don’t need a veteran.
Bring in Jerry Rice as Wide Receivers Coach: I’ve wanted this for a long, long time. With the 49ers bringing in a new cast of wide outs. Randy Moss, Mario Manningham and at least one or two draft picks are sure to join the team. Rice could bring so much to the table as position coach for the 49ers. The greatest of all time not only to play WR but any position in my opinion in the NFL, Rice was also the hardest worker. Every WR in the world could benefit from Rice teaching them to run better routes. Moss would have a position coach who thrived through age 40. Manningham and Michael Crabtree would have a guy who could show them that you don’t need to have crazy speed or size to be the best. Ted Ginn Jr might just learn how to cast the stone from his hands. And just because he was a WR doesn’t mean he couldn’t help Vernon Davis, Delaine Walker (and maybe Cody Fleener?) out as well. This is a no brainer if you ask me. You hired Johnny Morton but Jerry Rice isn’t on the staff?
Bring in top understudies to Special Teams Coach Brad Seely and Defensive Backs coach Ed Donatelle: The 49ers made it a point that they wanted to keep the band together this season. They denied permission to teams seeking Seely as a head coach and Donatelle as defensive coordinator this off season. Not allowing assistants the opportunity to interview for promotions is a rarity in the NFL. I can respect Harbaugh wanted to keep things familiar from last years 14-4 team. But they can’t do it two years in a row, it just wouldn’t be right. They need to bring in top, young under studies, one’s that Seely and Donatelle understand cannot go with them if they do land a promotion.
Trade up in the draft for top OG David DeCastro: DeCastro is by far the best interior offensive lineman in the draft. He played for Jim Harbaugh at Stanford and is the best OG since Mike Iupati (isn’t close to Iupati however). Some draft nicks have him going in the top 10. I don’t believe that, even Iupati lasted to 17 for SF and he was the best OG prospect since Steve Hutchinson. Sure the 49ers could use a WR or a toy like TE Cody Fleener but RG is currently their biggest hole. DeCastro is a player who knows Harbaughs system and could come in and start right away. The 49ers shouldn’t give up the farm for DeCastro or any other guard. But if he’s there after the first 15 picks are made they must at least investigate what it would take to move up.
Bring in Kyle Kosier for a visit: The former 49er was just released by the Dallas Cowboys after starting there for the past six seasons. Kosier is a smart veteran who plays hard and would come at a cheap price. The 49ers brought in Leonard Davis for a visit early in FA and he remains an option as his left foot heals. Kosier would be a much better fit for the 49ers than Davis who is at best a question mark. Kosier was mostly let go by Dallas for salary cap reasons. Facing a huge cap hit by the league the Boys needed to shed salary and fast. The 49ers struck out on Geoff Schwartz earlier this month when he chose the Vikings over SF. The 49ers need a veteran guard to compete with Daniel Kilgore and a yet to be named rookie after letting Adam Snyder sign with Arizona. As long as Kosier is healthy, he’s the perfect fit and would likely come pretty cheap.
Get Dashon Goldson’s contract finished: This is the most important. The team needs to get Goldson, one of their best young defenders signed to a long term deal before the start of the season for two reasons. They do not want to franchise him or go through a season long contract dispute with him and need him to be their best safety for years to come. Two, the 49ers must lower his salary cap number this season if they want to do anything else in free agency. For a complete look at why the 49ers must deal with Dashon Goldsons contract situation ASAP, click HERE.
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