Current Niners 2013 Cap Space: $10.145M
Why? Both of these guys contributed little in 2012. Akers was awful and Haralson didn’t see the field all season due to injury. Both of them can be cut with little dead money and free up valuable cap space. After these two moves, the Niners will have slightly over $16M in cap space for 2013.
Why? I think Walker will be back. This offseason is saturated with quality TEs, both in the draft and free agency. Sopoaga will be back on a much smaller deal – he has good chemistry with our team and should be cheap because he’s not particularly effective. The rest of the guys are depth.
On the flip side, I think Goldson and Ricky Jean will get offers that are too large for us to realistically consider matching. They’re both quality players who I’d like to have back at the right price, but their price on the open market will probably be too high. Someone will probably take a flier on Grant as a starter somewhere (Baltimore, Houston and Washington come to mind). The rest were older depth guys who will be replaced in the draft.
Why? Jenkins is an experienced 3-4 DE who can also sub in for nickel packages. With RJF gone, we need to make sure we have adequate DL depth. "Pac Man" isn’t necessarily the guy we’ll end up with, but he’s essentially a placeholder. This FA market is flooded with quality CBs. While we likely won’t be able to get one of the top guys, we can wait for the market to clear and pick up one of the guys who slips through the cracks for a bargain. Stevie Brown stepped in for the G-men after an injury and put in an unheralded but solid performance. He’ll be competing for the open safety spot next to Whitner. Johnson is a guy who we’ve seen before, knows Harbaugh, and can give us a running option at backup QB if Kaepernick goes down. The most important thing, though, is that these guys should be available for 1 or 2 year deals, keeping the cap situation manageable.
Trade: San Francisco trades their own 1st round pick (#31), second round pick (#61) and fifth round pick to New Orleans for their own 1st round pick (#15). With the #15 overall pick, the 49ers select safety Kenny Vaccaro from the University of Texas.
Why? Vaccaro is the top safety prospect in the draft. He has excellent coverage skills, can cover slot receivers as well as deep zones, and hits hard. He’s the only safety in this class who’ll be ready to start from day 1. He’s also got the flexibility to play at either safety position. This would be a rare opportunity for the Niners D to improve AND control costs, so we should jump on it.
For the Saints, they need to stockpile picks. Their defense needs upgrades at all three position groups, and their O-Line is looking sketchy as well. Theirs is a case where quantity might be better than quality.
2.2 – Jonathan Hankins, DT, Ohio State
Hankins is a big, mobile DT who can play either nose or five-tech in a three man front and rush the passer from the interior in nickel packages. He’ll rotate with Smith, McDonald, Sopoaga and Jenkins to keep everyone fresh for the long haul.
3.11 – Da’Rick Rogers, WR, Tennessee Tech
Rogers is big, fast and athletic, having drawn comparisons to Julio Jones. He has a multitude of off-field problems, but he seems generally remorseful and ready to move on. If so, the Niners may have found a long term #2 WR next to Crabtree.
3.31 – Brandon Jenkins, OLB/DE, Florida State
Depth for our OLB corps. With Haralson and Haggans gone, we need to bring in some fresh blood to liven up our pass rush. Jenkins was an effective rusher at FSU until he went down with an injury.
4.31 – Marcus Lattimore, RB, South Carolina
Lattimore to the Niners has been discussed frequently. We can stick him on IR and let him rehab, and have a great back to transition to in 2014.
4th round comp – Dustin Hopkins, K, Florida State
Need I say more?
5.21 – Ricky Wagner, OT, Wisconsin
We have two great OTs but no depth. Wisconsin O-Line guys generally do well in the NFL.
5.31 – Michael Mauti, ILB, Penn State
With Grant gone, we could use a stout ILB like Mauti for depth and special teams.
The rest of the draft will probably be cuts or PS guys, so I won’t go into them here.
2013 Depth Chart
QB: Kaepernick, Tolzien, Johnson
RB: Gore, Hunter, James, Dixon [IR: Lattimore]
TE: Davis, Walker, Celek
WR: Crabtree, Manningham, Williams, Rogers, Jenkins, Hall, Lockette
OT: Staley, Davis, Wagner
OG: Iupati, Boone, Kilgore
C: Goodwin, Looney
DE/DT: Smith, McDonald, Jenkins, Hankins, Dobbs, Tufuaku
NT: Sopoaga, Hankins, Williams
OLB: Smith, Brooks, Jenkins, Johnson, Fleming
ILB: Willis, Bowman, Gooden, Mauti
CB: Brown, Jones, Culliver, Rogers, Brock, Cox
FS: Brown, Vaccaro, McBath
SS: Whitner, Spillman
PR/KR: James, Jones
Overall: While some additional cuts or working around the edges may be necessary, this is what I envision the meat of the 2013 squad to be under this scenario. I tried to add quality depth to areas of need and some impact players through the draft (Vaccaro, Hankins, potentially Rogers) without burdening our future cap.