Free Agency Grades: ESPN Grades 49ers, NFC West Quite Well

Now that NFL free agency is just about wrapped up, the folks at ESPN decided to put together a rundown of grades for all 32 teams. You can be certain there will be a few more roster moves, potentially even including the 49ers, but for the most part we can assess how people have done thus far.

ESPN rated out the 49ers with an A, which equaled five other teams, including the Rams and Seahawks. The Arizona Cardinals brought up the rear in the NFC West with a D, which was also tied for the second lowest grade. Only Miami's D- was worse.

In giving the 49ers an A, Matt Williamson pointed to their ability to return the entire starting defense, while also potentially upgrading their wide receiver corps. I do think the talent is there for an upgraded corps, but there are still enough question marks with the new talent that nothing is remotely certain. The team can begin voluntary workouts in two weeks (more on that later), so all the new talent will be able to get together soon.

Analysis: The 49ers are returning the league's best defense intact, even though they had a few prominent players' contracts expire. While they flirted with Peyton Manning (and to me, this is where Manning should have chosen to play), they have significantly improved their offense since the NFC Championship Game. What is curious is that while San Francisco clearly made a massive effort to improve the verticality of its offense with the additions of Moss and Manningham and even the re-signing of Ginn, Smith really isn't an adept downfield passer. Still, the new perimeter speed should open up room for the rest of San Francisco's offense while allowing Jim Harbaugh to utilize more multiple-receiver sets, which obviously is the direction offense in the NFL has gone. It also wouldn't shock me if Colin Kaepernick -- and his huge arm -- finds his way behind center before long.

It will be interesting to see how the 49ers select to use the speed in their lineup. Alex Smith has not been one to go for big time bombs down the field, but we've seen him hit that seam route to Vernon Davis fairly well. Randy Moss made a name for himself out-running and out-jumping defensive backs. He isn't exactly a young rookie still, so it will be interesting to see how the team utilizes him with Smith.

Overall, I can concur with an A grade for the 49ers run through free agency. You could make arguments for a B if you are not satisfied with Daniel Kilgore and a potential veteran covering the right guard position. But even with that as a potentially lingering issue, the 49ers did some solid work. They can't rest on their laurels with the draft approaching, but they have created a system that has seemed to work thus far. We'll see how it builds the rest of the offseason.

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