49ers general manager Trent Baalke conducted a press conference earlier today and chatted about a variety of topics. He hit on everything from the offensive linemen and wide receivers in this year's draft to attempting to re-sign Carlos Rogers and other 49ers free agents to not watching the Super Bowl. After the press conference was over it sounds like he took some time for smaller group interviews with some of the beat writers on hand.
In those smaller interviews, he addressed the topic of wide receiver Michael Crabtree. The 49ers current number one receiver is the subject of plenty of discussion here and elsewhere both as to what he can do for the team and what it could mean for the 49ers in free agency and the draft.
Baalke was plenty pleased with Crabtree's work ethic and the growth he showed in his third season:
"Michael works hard. He works hard at the game," Baalke said. "He did a nice job. He certainly had some growth."
I think it's time to put to rest the complaints about his work ethic that seem to pop up in discussions about him. While it is true Baalke might just be saying it to say it, enough people at this point have pointed to Crabtree being a hard worker that at some point you have to accept it as fact. You just do.
The discussion took an interesting turn as Baalke actually did address the topic of whether Crabtree is a number one. It was a bit of a nebulous response, but he addressed it nonetheless:
"I like the growth that he had in a new system; like the chemistry he and Alex (Smith) seem to develop through the course of the year," Baalke said. "Whether he can define himself as a true No. 1 in the National Football League or not remains to be seen. But (I'm) certainly happy with the progress he made."
This could mean one of a million different things and I would imagine five people could have five separate opinions about what this comment means. The 49ers will address the wide receiver position this offseason simply because of the fact that they only have three under contract.
The question is where they will address it. I think they will definitely kick the tires on guys like Mike Wallace and Vincent Jackson, but if/when the price gets too high, where do they then go? Re-sign Morgan and potentially add a Robert Meachem or Mario Manningham? Go through the draft? Both? If they go through the draft, do they go first or second round, or look for a late round gem?
Baalke's comments are vague for a reason, but it does provide plenty of room for speculation. He is happy with Crabtree's progress but his long term role with the 49ers does remain a bit of a mystery (as is generally the case with the unknown future). It should make for an interesting next two months as the team conducts its off-the-field business.