Earlier today, former agent Joel Corry put together an interesting take on 30 "big-time players" that are facing a contract cross roads in 2014. He considered players facing concerns related to things like age, salary cap, injury or off-the-field issues. For the San Francisco 49ers, Corry included Aldon Smith, Frank Gore, Mike Iupati, and then listed Michael Crabtree among "others to watch".
We've talked about this big name contracts plenty of times. And we'll probably talk about them plenty more. In the meantime, this article got me thinking instead about 49ers players at a cross roads that was less related to their contract, and more just about their future with the team. This is about guys who can take the proverbial bull by the horns with a strong performance in training camp. A guy like Adam Snyder is at a cross-roads, but it is more because of the guys around him, and less about what he does. He could have a solid camp, and still lose his job because a younger, cheaper option is available.
I've been riding the Looney bandwagon for much of this offseason. I suppose it has as much to do with hoping to get something, anything, out of the 2012 draft class. Looney has been getting first team snaps at right guard while Alex Boone holds out. Whether or not Boone returns, this is a big training camp for Looney. If Boone returns, Looney still has a shot to claim the reserve guard role. If the 49ers head into Week 1 with Adam Snyder still on the roster, the odds are pretty good that Looney has not done enough to impress. Looney is signed through 2015, but if he is not the primary guard backup, or starting if Boone is still holding out, that will just about do it for his time with the 49ers.
The 49ers have loaded up on young talent on the defensive line. Dobbs and Tony Jerod-Eddie were the primary rotation behind Justin Smith and Ray McDonald. TJE is set to make the league minimum this year, while Dobbs could earn his RFA tender of $1.431 million. Dobbs is a big contributor on special teams, but if Tank Carradine and Quinton Dial are looking solid in August, what we've seen thus far might not be enough. I suppose this falls a little into that Adam Snyder type of mention, but he's young enough that I don't mind creating an exception of sorts. This is a make-or-break camp for Dobbs.
Considering Culliver is coming off the torn ACL, and is scheduled to hit free agency next spring, I'd say he's very much in a make-or-break spot. At the same time, it's more like this whole season is make-or-break for him. In the short term though, training camp will be kind of a big deal. First, we need to see that his knee is in a good place. Second, Chris Cook has been getting first team work while Culliver completes his rehab. The 49ers seemingly are not just going to hand Cully the starting job. He might be the favorite, but if he is slowed by the knee still, Cook could swoop in and grab the job.
He's got the physical tools, and he took a significant pay cut. It does not guarantee him a roster spot, but it does give him one last chance. The depth of the wide receiver position makes this incredibly difficult for the bottom end of the roster to have a shot. Baldwin was limited in minicamp, so he's basically going to have to ball out. He's one of the bigger long shots because of the depth at wide receiver, but he's got some kind of chance.
Is it too early to include him as "make or break"? Greg Roman frequently has discussed his involvement in the blocking game, and that he will get more involved in the passing game in 2014. It's only year two, and he is not yet in danger of getting cut, but he certainly needs to take a step forward. Is any make or break label more just fan disgruntlement?
Beyond this group, is there anybody else you see facing a true make or break training camp?