It is a new year, and, like all NFL teams, the San Francisco 49ers will undoubtedly have scouts watching just about every college bowl game today. Before we dig into potential prospects for the 49ers here at Niner Noise, let’s first take a look at the current 49ers squad, potential contract issues, and positions of need, starting with the defense.
The 49ers have little to no need at the linebacker positions. They are incredibly solid at inside linebacker, with Patrick Willis, Navorro Bowman, and Michael Wilhoite backing them up. On the wings they have quality starters in Ahmad Brooks and Aldon Smith, with Dan Skuta playing quality minutes, especially taking over for Smith, and Corey Lemonier being flexible at the linebacker positions as well as playing well on special teams.
The defensive line has much improved depth, even with injuries, with the addition of Glenn Dorsey, who has played solidly, despite his draft bust label in Kansas City. Justin Smith is getting up there in years and needs more periodic breaks, but Demarcus Dobbs (a restricted free agent this offseason) has played quite well behind him. Ray McDonald and Tony Jerod-Eddie play well on the opposite side, with Cornelius “Tank” Carradine poised to take over some snaps next season. All in all, it is a good bunch that could use some extra depth, but I don’t see a first-round need here.
The secondary has, surprisingly, played pretty well this season, despite the late-game near-collapses in the past two weeks. Tramaine Brock is locked in as a starter for the next four years at cornerback. Eric Reid is a stud safety. Other than these two players, however, there could be a lot of turnover. Donte Whitner is in need of a new contract after this season. Hopefully the 49ers can find a way to bring him back with a reasonable cap number. Otherwise, the 49ers could be looking to replace a tremendous defender. Carlos Rogers has played well, but not well enough to match his enormous $6.25 million cap figure next season (and $7.25 million the season after that). Without a pay cut, he may hit the open market. Cornerbacks Tarell Brown and Eric Wright are both free agents this offseason as well. Needless to say, Trent Baalke will be busy negotiating with the 49ers’ defensive backs.
Even with a good number of deals done quickly, the 49ers could once again look to the secondary with their first-round draft pick. This is the only defensive position I see them splurging on, despite doing the same a year earlier. After all, it worked out quite well with Reid.