Grading the 49ers offseason to date

Now that I'm back from Vegas, I thought a nice way to ease back into the swing of things would be to take a look back at the 49ers offseason so far.  With the 49ers signing Marvel Smith and releasing Jonas Jennings over the weekend, we've probably reached the end of major free agency.  I'd imagine we might see some smaller moves or possibly a Takeo Spikes-type move, but not much more.

With that in mind, now seemed as good a time as any to assess what the team has done.  While the team has definitely been busy this offseason, I would argue that it's rather difficult to completely assess it.  The last two offseasons, you could quickly point to the biggest signing: Justin Smith ('08) and Nate Clements ('09 '07).  This year, I bet I could five people and get five answers.

Having no clear-cut #1 signing also means any grade we give right now is probably subject to change.  All things considered, I'd probably give the team a grade in the low B/high C range, with the potential for a swing up to high B, or down to a possible D.  The draft will certainly affect things, but just looking at this free agent class, I'm cautiously optimistic.  The team was not super aggressive with big free agents, but did identify certain holes and moved to fill them.

The 49ers have added or re-signed Marvel Smith, Demetric Evans, Damon Huard, Brandon Jones, Moran Norris, Allen Rossum and Takeo Spikes.  Certainly not an overwhelming list, but an interesting list nonetheless.  There's not a homerun type of signing (at first glance), but rather they had certainly holes to fill and they filled them.

Marvel Smith: If Smith can stay healthy, I would argue this becomes the best signing of the offseason.  At ESPN, Scouts Inc gives numerical grades (1-100) and Marvel actually ties Joe Staley for 4th with a rating of 76 (Gore: 78, Clements: 81, Willis: 90).  It's not a really loooong term solution, but if he provides an answer at right tackle for the next two seasons, the signing is a success.

Of course the injury history is the sticking point.  He passed his physical (we assume), so that's a good first step.  But like the signings below, we'll really need to see what happens going forward.  You could argue any signing requires a little wait and see.  However, I think that in the case of something like the Justin Smith signing, you know more or less what you're getting and any crazy results (injury, awful play) are wild exceptions to the norm.  In the case of Smith, we might just assume injury is likely and anything else is a win.  Thoughts?

Brandon Jones: Jones personifies this free agent group.  I see some upside, I see some downside, but it's difficult to judge yet.  Jones has a world of talent, but has never come close to fully tapping that potential.  If he hits big it would be huge for the team.  If he struggles it wouldn't be shocking, but it wouldn't decimate the team, financially or otherwise.

I'd like to think Brandon Jones will have a big year, but it would not even be an educated guess.  I could see a solid 60+ catch season, or he could be benched by midseason.  He's entering his fifth year and improved his numbers last season.  Let's hope it's the first of many years of improvement.

Moran Norris: We actually do know more or less what we're getting from Norris.  He's a blocking back brought in for Frank Gore.  He turns 31 in June, but fullbacks actually can age pretty well.  One could throw out the saying that you can't teach an old dog new tricks, but in this case, we're getting exactly what we need.  One interesting thing to keep an eye on is that if Frank Gore does boost his numbers, how much is due to having Norris and how much is due to potential improvement on the offensive line.

After the jump, we take a look at Demetric Evans, Damon Huard, and the re-signings of Takeo Spikes and Allen Rossum.

Demetric Evans: This signing doesn't confuse me, so much as it is rather hard to assess.  He could end up just being a depth guy, although he'll get an opportunity to win a starting job in camp.  Given the scouting report on Evans I go in with limited excitement, but maybe he'll surprise me.  Does anybody expect big things from Evans, or are most people expecting some return but nothing spectacular?

Damon Huard: Singletary has made it clear he's the #3 QB at this point.  That's certainly not shocking.  It's always useful to have a veteran QB in camp and Huard qualifies as this.  I realize many people were a bit annoyed with this signing, but given the context, it's a harmless move.  Yes a guy like Leftwich (among others) is out there, but in looking to fill the #3 QB role, this makes sense.

Takeo Spikes/Allen Rossum: These are re-signings, but they could prove as important as anybody else.  If Spikes can maintain last year's level of play, the linebacker corp will be in good shape.  If Rossum could just stay healthy, he'll have the 49ers in excellent field position all season long.  Although you always like to develop younger talent, for the here and now I don't know anybody disappointed with these signings.

As I said before, no clear home-run signing gums up the works a little bit.  In the case of these signings, there is a decent bit of upside, but there isn't a whole lot of downside, aside from missing out on other folks.  You lose out some money, but none is a cap-killer.  It's not the most aggressive approach, but maybe this is the right kind of approach.

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