Everyone on NN knows that rosters are impossible to project. Free agencies, trades, drafts, injuries, declining production, improving production, contracts, salary caps and more get in the way of any us of being the sports equivalent to Nostradamus. That being said, I wanted to give my views of where I think our roster will be (or more accurately, where I'd like it to be) over the next few years at each position.
Colin Kaepernick is set and not going anywhere. So long as we continue to arm him with weapons like we're doing this year, he'll do incredibly well. He's set for the present and the future. So plan on buying your tickets to his future retirement as a 49er, because I suspect he'll be here for a very long time. As for his backups, well if the team wants to do things right they will likely regularly keep a veteran backup and develop some young arm that, like New England regularly does, they can rollover into a future draft pick every few years.
We all know Gore is on his last leg. As many people think he will be cut before the beginning of the season as those who think he'll be here beyond 2014. Most of us, however, are pretty realistic that the team will want to send Frank into retirement with a SB ring. So he'll not likely be either released or resigned after this season. But that leaves us with a very very solid tandem of Lattimore and Hyde...or as I have been calling them Dr. Lattimore and Mr. Hyde. In fact, I'm liking the idea of calling Gore our Hydra...cut off one and two more take his place. Beyond those two, don't count on either Hunter or LMJ being around much longer. Both could easily be traded this year and/or released after the season. Their production can be easily replaced via free agency or drafts.
Miller will be around as long as he's healthy. He's the new Tom Rathman in many ways. The offensive schemes and personnel will never allow for him to touch the ball as much as Rathman used to, but he'll be around awhile...as will Millard. Though Millard represents more of a hybrid...the H-Back we like having. A great combination of weapons.
Here's where we face our first question mark. V.D. is signed for this year and next. But rest assured he's rooting for Jimmy Graham's case for being paid like a WR. If Graham wins, you can be assured that Vernon will want $10m/year. At that point, I am pretty certain the team won't keep him. And if that's the case we have to decide where to go from Vernon. McDonald won't ever replace Vernon's skillsets. But he does have enough talent to be a very successful traditional TE. I don't see the team actively going out to find a VD replacement. There aren't many VD's in the world. But I can see them adjusting their schemes to accommodate for a more traditional TE and then work on obtaining and/or developing another player like Derrick Carrier who has similar skillsets as VD, though not to VD's level. Add Millard into the mix as an H-Back type and we have our future.
Here's our next question mark. Obviously we'd like to resign Crabtree. But if he's gonna insist on making $10m/year then we may have to move on without him. I'm of the belief that we WILL be able to resign him. Kap loves him and unless Crabs makes it impossible for us to afford him, he'll sign long term. Boldin will be gone, likely after 2015. That leave us with Crabs, Patton, Ellington, Johnson and whomever else we pick up in drafts or off-seasons Free Agency.
I'm lumping the entire line together because many of the players here can shift up and down the line from year to year. Davis and Staley are likely locked in for the next several years....despite the fact that we'll sooner or later have to give Staley a nice raise. Iupati is almost assuredly gone after this year. Boone is a question mark. He obviously wants more money. But is he really worth it? Looney is looking good. Martin is there for the future. Snyder is a reasonable back up. And Thomas will be starting sooner than later. I honestly don't see either of our current OGs sticking past this year. With Marcus Martin backing up or replacing Kilgore at center, we're set there too. Jonathan Martin is a wild card whose talent level could give him a key roll in the long term, or he could just fizzle out.
Who the heck knows. Baalke obviously loves signing experienced legs. So I just assume we'll be doing the same over the next several years.
There's no question there will be turnover here in the next couple of years. Cowboy will be retiring after this year, likely or next for sure. And McDonald might not make it to next season either. Along with those two, its likely Dorsey is not retained after this year. Though don't count that out. Much will depend upon the health and progress of others...I. Williams, Tank, Dial, and others. I can see a scenario where Dorsey is resigned as more of a DT(43)/DE(34). That would give us, starting next year, Dorsey, Williams, Dial, Carradine, and Ramsey. Additionally, depending upon how cuts go this year, we will likely have one or more of TJE, Dobbs and Okoye.
This is another place where payroll could lead to serious changes. We have the troubled Aldon Smith for one more season after this one. Brooks is signed longer, but his salary may become prohibitive. I'm believing we'll still have Smith, but will cut ties with Brooks after 2015...if not sooner. Lemonier seems to be the future replacement for Brooks. Skuta is easily replaceable...by someone like him will be on the team...someone like Aaron Lynch.
This is an interesting position. Both Willis and Bowman could, arguably, be around for another 5+ seasons. And neither is easily replaceable. But we do have some interesting young talent in this position with Borland, Wilhoite, Moody, and Skov (if he makes it past cuts). I'm not really sure what to expect here. Bowman and Willis are both making tons of money and payroll could become a key factor.
I'm joining both CB and Safety here because we seem to be working on this hybrid type scheme with at least a couple of key players who can play both. It is way too soon to say this with much certainty, but I think we may have the personnel on our team now that will be the core top 8 DBs on our team for many years. I think Bethea doesn't make it past 2015. But the rest...Culliver, Brock, Cook, Morris, Reid, Ward, Johnson, and Spillman...I think will be around for a long time....well, as long as DBs tend to stay around.
Again, keep in mind this is all extremely speculative. There are way too many factors at play in determining how a roster will play out by September 2014, let alone by September 2017 or whatever. Now let the debate begin.