We have a month before free agency really starts, 3 until the draft and half a year until real football.So why entertain ludicrous ideas with almost no chance of them happening? My question to answer that question is why not.
First off we all know we're pretty close to the cap so in order to make any moves we have to make some room. We also can't front load any extensions to the key guys who are only now available for negotiation (Aldon, Kaepernick, Iupati, Crabtree). Okay so we already passed into fantasy land because extending two or three of those guys is the most likely course of action. But for the sake of discussion let's say that the brain trust decides to go all in on 2014. Super Bowl or bust. So we cut Rogers, let Whitner walk, cut Gore, don't bring back Boldin or Goodwin, and let Aldon, Kaep, Crabtree, Iupati play out the last years of their rookie deals. That opens up 15 or so million to go after a big free agent but leaves holes at center, wr, safety, corner and running back. The gambles would be that Lattimore becomes a reliable replacement from day 1, Culliver and Brock can handle the corners, Looney or Kilgore could be a legit center and the rest can be replaced in the draft. Signing one of the top free agents would also (presumably) counteract the affect of opening holes elsewhere. Of course, that's what terrible teams have told themselves before they pay out huge dollars to Albert Haynesworth or Mario Williams.
So who are the top free agents and how would they fit?
Te Jimmy Graham- in this scenario we likely would not miss Boldin. Vance McDonald converts to hback/fullback or is forgotten. Of course Graham is a glorified wr so Vance could still have room to develop. The upside here is that with Vernon, Graham and Crabtree we'd have three terrifying targets for Kaepernick. This would force teams to respect our passing game which would likely make Lattimore's job easier as the starter. On the other hand we would be drafting a safety to start opposite 2nd year pro Reid and we would be looking for a starting caliber cornerback as well. Assuming Carradine develops and Ian Williams returns to strength our defensive front might hold up despite the toll which time is taking on Justin Smith. That's a big assumption and with Bowman injured the defense could really regress in this scenario. So would we be able to score enough to make up for that?
De Greg Hardy- This would be a bold move to take our pass rush from good (at least it was with Aldon at full speed) to terrifying. This also enables Justin Smith to take a diminished role which is probably wise in light of his age. In theory, the combination of Aldon, Hardy and Brooks rushing the passer would hide whatever deficiencies we are opening at safety and corner. We still would have to draft at those positions but I think the bigger need would be on offense. Lacking Boldin, Crabtree and Davis could easily be neutralized. Of course that opens the door for a rookie to start (or Patton) but we don't exactly have a great track record at drafting wr's. Lattimore would likely face the same stacked boxes that stifled Gore the last two years and there's no guarantee that he has Gore's talent at making something out of nothing. So under this scenario we would depend on the defense to prop up a young and under manned offense.
There are of course other prizes in free agency and I'd love to hear you guys imagine the ramifications of taking Eric Decker or Sam Shields or Jarius Byrd. I should reiterate: I'm not advocating for these moves, just playing out the scenarios to get us through the doldrums. Trying to land the biggest fish in free agency is usually a fools errand as the players who are allowed to test the market are usually less than than their hype and the salary cap implications can stunt a roster for years. Not to mention spending big on one player reduces the funds available to build a deep roster. When injuries inevitably strike, the young or poor players who are called upon usually fail (see Atlanta or Dallas).
But it's still fun to dream.