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Clayton looks ahead to 2007 & Nate Clements-related Info

As John Clayton's headline reads, it's never too early too look ahead to the 2007 season.  We're still reviewing last year and getting ready for the major off season events, but clearly the 49ers are on the rise.  Clayton does a brief touch on each team's cap situation and preliminary off season plans.  I'll have my own pre-free agency and pre-draft bonanzas, but in the meantime, here are some of the highlights:

Cap room: $37.5 million

This team could reach the playoffs next year. Mike Nolan got a break when the Cowboys hired Wade Phillips instead of Norv Turner has been instrumental in the development of Alex Smith...The plan is to work on the defense. With this much cap room and plenty of draft picks, the 49ers could come up with six or seven new starters on defense. They plan to make two or three major free-agent signings. They will try for Baltimore LB Adalius Thomas, but if the Ravens franchise him, the Niners may go for Nate Clements or Asante Samuel. The 49ers could use another receiver, but the emphasis will be on improving the defense.

While most of this is stuff we've discussed, it's always nice to see the "experts" reinforcing our own beliefs.  If we do make a big splash on the defensive side of the ball in free agency, I think it increases the likelihood of us taking a WR much earlier.  Having as much cap room and as many picks as we've got makes both free agency AND the draft interesting because we can expect to be big players all around.

One other brief article of note at Rotoworld says that Clements wants to be the highest paid cornerback in the game.  Champ Bailey is currently the highest paid after he signed a new deal in 2004 that netted him an $18 million signing bonus.  Bailey's deal will count $9.4M against the '07 cap, $11.5M in '08, $13M in '09 and back to $11.5 in '10.  So clearly Clements is not going to be wanting chump change.