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2011 NFL Free Agency Primer: The Safety Position And The San Francisco 49ers

Call me an optimist, but I believe that the CBA issue will be resolved by the end of the month. Whether free agency starts under 2010 rules, or a new system is implemented; it will begin.

Last week I took a look at two possible scenarios for how free agency would look like this off-season. One scenario was a continuation of 2010 free agent rules, in which there would be no salary cap. Additionally, free agency would be limited because of service year requirements.

The other form of free agency would be held under a cap, with a much more expansive list of possible players. This system would be agreed to as part of a new Collective Bargaining Agreement. Here are the links to those two articles, so you have a better understanding.

Today, I am going to take a look at the safety position, and what player would be available under both systems.

Unrestricted Free Agents In Any System

Jordan Babineaux Seattle Seahawks

2010 Stats: 46 Tackles, 37 Solo, 8 Passes Defended, 1.5 Sacks, 2 INT, 1 Forced Fumble

Sean Considine Jacksonville Jaguars

2010 Stats: 52 Tackles, 43 Solo, 3 Passes Defended, 1 Sack, 1 INT, 1 Forced Fumble

Aaron Francisco Indianapolis Colts

2010 Stats: 59 Tackles, 45 Solo, 3 Passes Defended, 2 INT

Ken Hamlin Indianapolis Colts

2010 Stats: 3 Tackles, 1 INT

Darren Sharper New Orleans Saints

2010 Stats: 16 Tackles, 11 Solo, 1 Passes Defended (8 Games)

Gibril Wilson Cincinnati Bengals

2010 Stats: 93 Tackles, 73 Solo, 1 Sack, 8 Passes Defended

C.C. Brown Detroit Lions

2010 Stats: 46 Tackles, 37 Solo, 4 Passes Defended, 1 Forced Fumble

Josh Bullocks Chicago Bears

2010 Stats: 11 Tackles, 8 Solo,

Deon Grant New York Giants

2010 Stats: 72 Tackles, 56 Solo, 1 Sack, 3 INT, 10 Passes Defended, 2 Forced Fumbles

Quintin Mikell Philadelphia Eagles

2010 Stats: 88 Tackles, 77 Solo, 1 Sack, 3 INT, 15 Passes Defended, 1 Forced Fumble

Brodney Poole New York Jets

2010 Stats: 53 Tackles, 39 Solo, 1 Sack, 1 INT, 1 Forced Fumble

Gerald Sensabaugh Dallas Cowboys

2010 Stats: 71 Tackles, 59 Solo, 10 Passes Defended, 5 Sacks, 2 Forced Fumbles, 1 Sack

Roy Williams Cincinnati Bengals

2010 Stats: 59 Tackles, 38 Solo, 1 Sack, 1 INT, 1 Passes Defended

Analysis: This isn't the greatest list of safeties that you will ever see. I doubt many of them would be considered upgrades over what the 49ers currently have on their roster. That said, I do see some intriguing options here. Stat filler numbers aside, I love the way Quintin Mikell plays the game; he is solid in coverage and plays the run extremely well. Philadelphia will try to hard to retain Mikell's services, but they may be unable to. Besides, they drafted Nate Allen in the 2nd round last season and Jaiquawn Jarrett in the 2nd round this season. I would be inclined to believe they are bracing for Mikell's eventual exist.

Gerald Sensabaugh is another intriguing option. He doesn't have the coverage skills that Mikell has, but he also wont cost as much money. Either way, he would be an upgrade over what the 49ers currently have. Other than that, you are looking at players with extreme liabilities in terms of either age, injury or play. Roy Williams couldn't guard my grandmother on her rascal, and the rest just aren't that great. If the 49ers are looking to upgrade in terms of depth, they may want to look here but you are not going to find many quality starters on that list.

Possible Free Agents Under New 2011 Free Agent Rules:
Each player will have accrued enough NFL experience to hit the open market if a new CBA is agreed to. I will indicate tender offers as they relate to each player below. Tender offers mean that their current team offered some sort of restricted free agent tender. This tender means that the team signing each player would have to give up what was tendered. For example, if the San Francisco 49ers offered Dashon Goldson a 1st and 3rd round tender, any team that signs him would have to give that up in compensation.

Eric Weddle San Diego Chargers

2010 Stats: 96 Tackles, 80 Solo, 2 INT, 0.5 Sacks, 10 Passes Defended, 1 TD

Contract Situation: Offered 1st round tender by San Diego. Will be unrestricted free agent under new system.

Analysis: Weddle's contract situation means that under a new CBA he will be an unrestricted free agent and that the 1st round tender offered by San Diego has no impact. I would have to say that Weddle is one of the three best safeties in the NFL, and if he hits the open market expect a lot of teams to go after his services. San Diego is prepared to let Weddle walk and not get into a bidding war for him.

Probable Destination(S): Dallas Cowboys and Miami Dolphins

Dawan Landry Baltimore Ravens

2010 Stats: 111 Tackles, 86 Solo, 1 Sack, 1 Forced Fumble, 1 TD, 4 Passes Defended

Contract Situation: Not tendered by Baltimore. Will be unrestricted free agent under new FA system.

Analysis; Landry has been up and down since hitting his ceiling in 2008. After an incredibly sup par 2009 campaign, Landry put it all together in 2010 and was among the league leaders in tackles among safeties. You are not going to get a great cover safety in Landry, but he will be around the ball on every play and is real good in the offensive back field.

Probable Destination(S): Baltimore Ravens, Miami Dolphins and New Orleans Saints.

Danieal Manning Chicago Bears

2010 Stats: 72 Tackles, 59 Solo, 1 INT, 7 Passes Defended

Contract Situation: Not tendered by Chicago. Will be unrestricted free agent under new FA system.

Analysis: Manning will not be back with Chicago if there is a new CBA signed. The Bears are prepared to move on and allow Major Wright to see the field as a full time starter. I am a huge fan of Manning's and think that he could add a lot to any defensive back field.

Probable Destinations: Dallas Cowboys, Oakland Raiders, Cleveland Browns.

Michael Huff Oakland Raiders

2010 Stats: 94 Tackles, 77 Solo, 4 Sacks, 3 INT, 3 Forced Fumbles, 7 Passes Defended

Contract Situation: Not tendered by Oakland. Will be restricted free agent under new system.

Analysis: Huff just doesn't have the coverage skills to be an elite safety in the NFL. What he does bring is a knack to get to the ball and force turnovers. Additionally, Huff is extremely solid against the run and gets to the QB on occasion. He has the talent to succeed as an above average NFL safety.

Probably Destinations: Seattle Seahawks, Dallas Cowboys and Oakland Raiders.

Dante Whitner Buffalo Bills

2010 Stats: 140 Tackles, 0.5 Sack, 1 INT, 1 Forced Fumble, 7 Passes Defended

Contract Situation: Not tendered by Buffalo. Will be unrestricted free agent under new system.

Analysis: Led the entire world in tackles among safeties, by 17. He is always around the ball and have pretty solid coverage skills. After a couple unproductive seasons, Whitner hit it into full gear in 2010 and should get a lot of play. Buffalo doesn't seem to interested in retaining his services.

Probable Destinations: Oakland Raiders, Miami Dolphins and San Francisco 49ers.

Dashon Goldson San Francisco 49ers

2010 Stats: 80 Tackles, 62 Solo, 1 Sack, 1 INT, 1 TD, 5 Passes Defended

Contract Situation: Original round tender by San Francisco. Will be unrestricted free agent under new system.

Analysis: Goldson followed up a tremendous 2009 season with a complete disaster of a season last year. He took bad angles, looked lost in coverage and missed too many tackles. There is no doubt in my mind that Goldson has the ability to be a premier safety in the NFL, he just needs to be more consistent.

Probable Destinations: San Francisco 49ers, Oakland Raiders and Miami Dolphins.

Roman Harper New Orleans Saints

2010 Stats: 98 Tackles, 76 Solo, 3 Sacks, 6 Forced Fumbles, 1 INT, 8 Passes Defended

Contract Situation: Not tendered by New Orleans. Will be unrestricted free agent under new system.

Analysis: Probably one of the top safeties in the NFL last season, Harper took the place of Darren Sharper in terms of forcing turnovers and being an all-around play maker for New Orleans last season. I would expect that the Saints will do everything in their power to retain his services long term

Probable Destinations: New Orleans Saints, Dallas Cowboys, San Francisco 49ers and Miami Dolphins.

Analysis: Now this list gets a lot better, but is also blurred by the CBA situation. I am pretty sure that once the dust settles the NFL will continue with a new set of free agent rules. You cannot sustain existing under the ill-fated rules that we saw during the 2010 off-season. Players need to be given the opportunity to test the free agent market and making them wait six years just doesn't work.

I expect that most of the players listed above will be available in some sense of the word and I doubt compensation is going to be an overriding factor in where they end up.

Yes, I have the 49ers on the list of probable destinations for a few of the players on this list. Not because it is a huge need for San Francisco, but because the market enables them to look for upgrades at nearly every position if that is what they want to do.

You have to ask yourself this question: Which players would be upgrades over Dashon Goldson? No, matter our opinion of his play in 2010, not many are going to be upgrades in the true sense of the word. By upgrade, I mean contract situation, age, athletics ability and previous success. Do many of you really want us spending 40-50 million on a safety? If not, then Eric Weddle seems to be out of the equation.

San Francisco would be willing to spend some money on a player at safety, but the situation needs to be right. First, we need to figure out what said players strengths and weakness are, and how those fit into what the 49ers are attempting to build in the defensive secondary.

Roman Harper and Dante Whitner seem like the best fit for San Francisco. They are both extremely young players with above average coverage abilities. With Taylor Mays, Reggie Smith and possibly Doshon Goldson on the roster; San Francisco needs to find a safety with better coverage skills. It appears to me that both of these players would slot right in at the SS position, enabling Taylor Mays to run free at the FS position (pun intended).

No matter the make up of the 49er safety position, they could use an upgrade here. Is it their primary need? Of course not. But, moving forward I doubt many of us are confident in going into the 2011 season with Mays and Smith as the starting safeties. Re-signing Dashon Goldson would disable the 49ers ability or willingness to add another safety, so we need to see how that plays out first.