Of course as fans we would love to have a shot at the top free agents and top draft picks at every position, but it's not realistic. Especially with this front office - even when there is a sliver of possibility of making a free agent splash, it seems Baalke and Harbaugh prefer to build from within and shop in the bargain basement. They've had good results thus far, so I'm not going to fight against the Harbaalke tide and suggest going after Manning or Mike Wallace - instead I'm interested in what bargain free agents could be on the shopping list this season.
The first couple of names that come to mind are Aaron Smith, Brandon Jacobs and Terrell Thomas. They all have either age or injury concerns, or both, but if they didn't have those issues, they probably wouldn't be bargains. I think they could each be contributors, maybe not starters but solid pieces that would help us get to the promised land. I'll post my explanations after the jump, but in case you want to skip it - who do you think might be a good free agent bargain for us?
I think MacDonald and Justin Smith might be better off playing only 85% of snaps instead of 95-99%, and I would feel a lot better about our depth in case of an injury if we had this guy instead of only youngsters. Before our Smith took his game to another level (planet), Aaron Smith was the best 3-4 end in the league. He's definitely on the downside, and he's had 4 out 5 seasons end due to injury - so clearly we shouldn't count on him to be a starter, but my understanding from Steeler fans is that he was still very good when heathy. He was due to make 2.1 million this year, but was cut for cap reasons. I would think he could be had for less than that, about the same that people were willing to pay Larry Grant to play backup LB - this guy has a much better track record. Plus we'd be one step closer to an all Smith DL.
We need help converting 3rd and short, and big backs generally help that. This guy is the biggest back in the league, and very recently unemployed. He'd have to sign for a big pay cut from the 5 mil or so he was due to make. If he would sign for 2-3 mil I think he could be a situational short yardage back and insurance for Gore in case of injury.
This guy was a very good young corner with a physical style that would fit our D. He missed all last season with a knee injury, so we don't know how effective he'll be. I guess this is the riskiest one, because he'll probably cost the most and we wouldn't get to see him play first. On the other hand, he could be the perfect candidate for the Carlos Rogers deal - 1 year 4-5 mil gives him a chance to prove he's healthy and earn big money next year, and gives us a chance to get a potentially very good corner at a discount price.
Who else do you think might be on the Niner's shopping list next week?