49ers Free Agency: Why is Everyone Freaking Out?


This post was written by Matt Hamm

The frustration of the 49ers fan base has been well documented  and the 49ers have been criticized for their lack of movement on the FA front by fans and media alike.  The team has watched as David Baas and Takeo Spikes left for the Chargers and Giants early last week and more recently the departures of Nate Clements, Manny Lawson and Aubrayo Franklin.  But is anyone really surprised?  And if so why are you upset as a 49er fan?  Is it that bad that a 6-10 team that hasn’t won anything since 2002.  Isn’t over paying to retain the players from a losing roster?  Sure the players listed above brought some value to the team and some were even seen as leaders.  But before we freak out about the semi-roster purge let’s examine a little closer.

First is the obvious, free agency isn’t over, the team has yet to even play a pre-season game.  It’s early, there’s time, you get it, let’s move on.

Second what has the team really lost?  Manny Lawson?  You mean the 4-3 LB that cannot play the role needed on this team?  That guy?  The guy we replaced with the #7 overall pick in this year’s draft?   Manny Lawson is a classic example of an underachieving player the fans have grown to like and make excuses for.  Sure he’s very good at “setting the edge” and is a solid run stuffer and is good in coverage.  He is not a pass rusher, plain and simple and that’s what the 49ers and any other 3-4 team need him to be.

Takeo Spikes had a career year last season and looked amazing.  He also is 34 years old, and we also drafted Navarro Bowman in the third round last year to take his spot.  Let’s not fool ourselves into thinking it was a good idea to leave a talented young 3rd round pick on the bench and rolling the dice on a mid-30’s LB to strike lightning again.  I’m not saying Spikes won’t have a good year this year; he may have a great year just like 2010.  But 3 good years?  No way, it just doesn’t happen, and it won’t, bank on it.

Nate Clements has been a disappointment since he signed that huge FA contract in 07.  His cap # was huge this year making him an obvious cut.  The 49ers ranked near the bottom of the NFL in pass defense for several years in a row now.  A weak secondary being a huge reason why, Clements was brought in to be a shut down CB and did not fulfilled expectations.  Time to turn that page.

David Baas had a very good season in his first as a full time started and turned out to be a blessing for the 49ers when starting center Eric Heitmann was lost to injury.  Baas seemed to get better and better as the season went on and he was seen as a top priority of the 49ers to retain his services.  The Giants swooped in and paid him a ton of money to leave the Bay for NYC and I don’t blame him for leaving or the 49ers for allowing him to go.  No doubt Baas looked good and showed promise last season, there is also no doubt that he is not a top 5 OC in the NFL.  The Giants chose to pay him like he is, I for one have watched every game he has played in since drafted in 05 and I’m glad the team chose to pass on a bidding war.

Aubrayo Franklin had a great 2009 season, a decent 2010 season.  He pouted and sat out training camp in 2010 because the 49ers franchised him and chose to pay him $7M+ for 1 season.  More than he had earned his entire career I might add.  He wanted a long term deal, the same thing he wanted this offseason but he didn’t get one.  The 49ers tried to re-sign him and you can be certain they weren’t willing to offer him anything more than a 1 or maybe 2 year deal or he wouldn’t have taken that measly 1 year deal the Saints threw his way.  The team has replacements in line and just paid Ray MacDonald big money to take his starting spot (move ICE to NT) the team chose to pay the younger player, can you really blame them for that?

It’s easy to get frustrated when it’s reported that the 49ers were trying to re-sign players like Spikes, Franklin, and Baas.  It’s also easy to get upset when one of your favorites like Clements or Lawson is sent packing.  But you have to look at the long term effect of it all.  You can’t keep Spikes unless you’re willing to bench a young gifted player for a 34 year old.  And how could the team really justify to themselves paying David Baas top C money before he’s proved he’s worth it?  And why would you reward a player like Franklin with a long term deal or get into a bidding war on a 1 year deal when you have Isaac Sopoaga and Ray MacDonald ready to fill out your DL?  None of it would make sense long term.

The 49ers still have a very good core of players in Frank Gore, Patrick Willis, Justin Smith, Vernon Davis, and Joe Staley.  To go along with a solid, young OL that should get better with every passing week.  A solid DL and a ton of players with big potential like Crabtree, Mays, Bowman, Brooks, Walker, Morgan, Iupati, A. Davis, Aldon Smith etc.

The team can still add to its roster, with almost $30M in cap room (a bit exaggerated since contracts of vets signed or re-signed will not count until August 4th).  The team signed Carlos Rogers and Jonathan Goodwin so they are starting to show the entire backlash from the fans/media will prove to be a waste of energy.  The team needs a new stadium and they must field a competent competitive team.  They know the NFC West is wide open, moves will be made.

Carlos Rogers is a great fit for the 49ers.  The team was one of the last of the CB desperate teams and Rogers was the last big time FA CB available, you do the math.  The 49ers know they cannot roll with Adam Snyder; it’s not like last year with Baas who played center his entire college career.  They also in my opinion will sign a surprise player, probably a WR like Malcolm Floyd or Braylon Edwards.  My money is on Floyd but anything could happen.

Think back to the Harbaugh fiasco, everyone was screaming the front office wasn’t going to get it done and they did.  The team has stated all along there is a plan in place.  They have had a ton of free agent visits and well document discussions thus far.  The lack of signings is not a sign of weakness or unwillingness to pay big money.  It’s a sign the 49ers aren’t the Redskins and will not overpay beyond the value they place on a particular player.  Super bowls aren’t won during free agency plain and simple.  So sit back, relax, and enjoy the fact that we are discussing football instead of labor.  As I said the pre-season doesn’t kick off for another 2 weeks.  The roster will be different by then, give the new regime some time, more than a week at least before we go crazy and march on headquarters.