The 49ers took care of a move today that developed into a formality after the recent run of success in 2011. GM Trent Baalke signed a three-year contract extension that will keep him in San Francisco through the 2016 season. Since taking over GM responsibilities in 2010, Trent Baalke has been an important part of getting the 49ers into their current position.
He got things going with the Ted Ginn Jr. trade back before the 2010 draft. In giving up only a fifth round pick for Ginn, they received one of the best return men in the game. He dominated in both kickoff and punt returning, finishing among the league leaders in both categories in 2010 and 2011. Although the 2010 draft has had some ups and downs, the 49ers secured three starters (Davis, Iupati, Bowman) and some intriguing depth in Kyle Williams and Nate Byham.
It was 2011 though, when Baalke really showed what he and his staff could do. The 49ers 2011 draft is off to a great start with Aldon Smith, Kendall Hunter, Chris Culliver, Colin Jones and Bruce Miller all contributing in big ways as rookies. While the team struck out with Braylon Edwards, almost every other free agency pick up hit, with some proving to be arguably the best signing at their position.
Coming out of the lockout, there were concerns about where the 49ers would go in 2011. The 49ers went with a prudent and patient approach in free agency, waiting out the big money early guys and getting what proved to be great talent on short term, low cost contracts. Had the 49ers flopped in 2011, they really were not on the hook for too much. It will obviously cost them in free agency this year, but it was still a wise decision by Baalke & Co.
The team has plenty of question marks as they head into the 2012 offseason, but Baalke and his staff put together such a strong 2011 offseason that they have earned the benefit of the doubt when it comes to their plans moving forward. I don't know if it is possible to have as strong an offseason as the 49ers had in 2011, but a strong foundation is in place to build on.
In related front office news, Gideon Yu was promoted to team president. He was brought in as Chief Strategic Officer but was recently made a minority partner (I believe a 1% stake in the team). In that role (and in his new role), Yu was responsible for maximizing the team's strategic and business prospects, as well as developing new businesses and revenue streams.
Jed York was previously President and CEO of the team, but he will shed the President title. Yu has a ton of experience in Silicon Valley, having served as CFO of both Facebook and YouTube, as well as Senior VP & Treasure of Yahoo! As the team begins selling sponsorship deals and premium seats for their new stadium, his connections likely prove invaluable to the organization.
Here is a tweet Jed York just sent out after announcing the Baalke contract extension.
Contentious contract negotiation w/ Trent over dinner. Didn't finalize terms until after we finished the chips & salsa.— Jed York (@JedYork) February 10, 2012