First, it's a numbers game. We only have 61 guys signed right now and will want to take 90 to camp. Given our current cap situation with only $4.5mm available for free agents, it's unlikely that we'll be signing much besides pure camp fodder. That means we need draft picks and UDFAs to fill the gap.
Of the 61, 21 have contracts that expire in 2013 and we will have to compete for the ones we want back. There are another 12 that are marginal to return like most of our practice squaders who have 2014 contracts. That leaves only about 28 that are reasonably sure to be back.
From our experience this year we can tell that we can't always bring back everyone we want. Of the 5 guys we lost, we would have liked to keep at least 3. The only 2012 expired contracts we've kept are Brock and McBath. So, we can't be sure how many of the 21 we stand to lose will be back even if we wanted the majority of them.
All this is leading up to the point that the roster is much thinner than most realize. Most fans just look at the openings for starters or substantial contributors like free safety and TE. We need to be looking down the road at who we might lose and developing talent to replace them.
One example I always like to use is the Offensive Line. I'm using it because almost no one mentions the need we have there. We have 7 guys returning from the 53 last year - the five starters and Kilgore and Looney. We have 2 practice squad guys in Netter and Wiggins. Most years we carry 9 guys on the 53, last year it was only 8 and L.Davis is gone. We were very lucky in having no real time lost injuries.
Goodwin's contract expires after 2013 and he'll be gone one way or the other. That probably means Kilgore or Looney gets promoted and we need at least 2 guys to fill out the roster. After 2014 we are exposed to the potential loss of Davis and Iupati and we'll be very lucky to retain both. We have no backup OT right now besides Boone and that means we would be shifting guys around when we don't want to. If we have injuries, we're just not ready.
We have to draft at least 2 more guys to develop each year and one of those should be on the second day or a bargain like Looney in the 4th round.
You can go through most positions on the roster and find similar situations. The worst is the DB group. One starter is gone and 2 more have 2013 expirations and another is aging and expensive. The free agent help we brought in is minimal. I'll be shocked if we don't add 3 guys in the draft back there.
Another area is the D-Line and we can use 2 more there. We have no backup QB and we don't have a no 2 TE. When you add it all up it comes to at least 10 picks coming to camp. Just don't be surprised when Baalke isn't trading those picks away for 2014 picks. I'd love some of those too, but we really need to add players to compete in lots of areas.