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Project 2010: Re-signing Vernon Davis and Patrick Willis

While the 49ers find themselves at a cross-roads of sorts when it comes to the 2010 draft, free agency will likely be a bit less involved. The team has some free agents they want to retain, but I would be shocked if they made a particularly big splash on the open market. Sure there's potentially going to be some impressive talent out there. Last season the team made a run at Kurt Warner that netted zilch, and they did add guys like Moran Norris and Brandon Jones. But let's be honest, after back-to-back offseasons that netted Nate Clements and Justin Smith, things quieted down considerably, and will probably continue so this time around.

Which brings me to the point of this post. It's important for the 49ers to add depth across the roster, but one or two signings I would love to see happen would be that the 49ers ink Vernon Davis and/or Patrick Willis to long term contract extensions. These are two of the 49ers biggest playmakers on each side of the ball (earth-shattering comment I realize). Davis is going to be a free agent after 2010 and Willis will be a free agent after 2011.

However, as much as I would like to see these two extended, the uncertain labor atmosphere has me a bit concerned about what the 49ers will do in the short-term. In a world that includes an uncapped 2010, and then a guaranteed return to a cap in 2011, the 49ers could conceivably front load contracts for both guys and take the biggest portion of a cap hit in 2010. I'm not saying Willis and/or Davis would agree to such a deal, but it certainly provides an interesting opportunity.

Sometime yesterday though, I was reading an interesting article that addressed the front-loading of big extension in 2010. I wish I could find the article, but I can't remember where I read it. The general gist of it was as follows: If a team has a young player coming up on free agency in a year or two, and with the threat of a 2011 lockout, why would said team give out big money to the player?

I'm still not sure I totally get the argument being made. I suppose maybe if a team really thinks 2011 won't happen they don't want to be on the hook for the big contract when the player will potentially be sitting out a full season?

At this point, what do folks think will happen with Davis and Willis this offseason. The 49ers have done a fairly good job extending their young players including Frank Gore, Joe Staley and Parys Haralson among others. The 49ers also have Manny Lawson coming up for free agency in 2011. Lawson would seem to be the cheapest to extend, so maybe that happens first? There really hasn't been much talk about extending any of these guys, which would seem to indicate if any talks have happened, they've been kept fairly quiet. How will things go down, or will we see players departing left and right?