The last couple of days I have looked at two possible free agent systems that could occur when free agency begins at some point this summer, which I am confident it will. One article looked at the 2010 free agent system and how that would impact a possible 2011 system. The other article looked at a new CBA and what both sides are working towards in their negotiations.
Today, I am going to look at 49er free agents when it begins. I will look at players that will be free agents, no matter the system, Additionally, I will take a look at players that would be unrestricted or restricted free agents if a new CBA is signed prior to the Appeals Court Ruling later this month.
San Francisco 49ers Unrestricted Free Agents in Both Systems
QB- Alex Smith: Seriously? How many of us actually believe that Alex Smith will not be the 49ers starting QB in week one? I really doubt that he would be running the 49ers "mini camp", if it wasn't agree upon that he was returning. This actually makes the most sense because the market for veteran quarterbacks is extremely thin.
Do you want to give up a mid round pick for the likes of Carson Palmer or Kyle Orton? This if they are even available. And, I really don't like the idea of Matt Hasselbeck or Donovan McNabb coming in as the 49ers "veteran" presence. Jim Harbaugh showed a lot of scruples in sticking by Alex Smith, we will see how it plays out this season.
RB- Brian Westbrook: Westbrook's situation is completely different from that of Alex Smith. The former Philadelphia Eagles standout will not be with the 49ers next season. He did a great job filling in for Frank Gore last season, but the addition of Kendall Hunter pretty much eliminates Westbrook's future in San Francisco. That said, his future was decided long before Hunter was drafted.
OL- Barry Sims: Barry Sims has been an extremely solid rotational back up for the 49ers over the course of the last few seasons. I would love for the 49ers to bring him back next season on the cheap. He can back up Joe Staley and even fill in at the guard position if need be. Depth is an important issue when it comes to the offensive line, and Sims brings that to the 49ers.
OL- David Baas: Eric Heitmann is on his last legs and has been injured as of late. We really cannot count on Heitmann to play a full 16 game schedule. Center is an extremely important position a long the offensive line, and you need to have continuity there. Bringing back David Baas, who has been solid for the 49ers makes all the sense in the world.
On the same note, Daniel Kilgore is nowhere near ready to take over at center, so we need to have that proven veteran that can be expected to play every Sunday; David Baas is that guy. As a player with 6 years NFL experience he is an unrestricted free agent, no matter the system.
OL- Tony Wragge: I am a little bit torn in regards to Wragge. He has played well in spurts, but really lost himself in the rotation last season. I am not expecting a lot from Wragge moving forward, and do not think the 49ers envision him in their future. It sure looks like this former undrafted rookie free agent will be heading elsewhere.
DE- Demetric Evans: A good depth player that brings something to the 49ers defensive line, I expect Evans will be looked at by the 49ers for that purpose moving forward. He can come in and hold down the forth opposite Justin Smith. Evans will not be flashy, he will not rack up a lot of sacks, but he will be a solid rotational player. Unless there are better options out there (Marcus Spears), I expect the 49ers to look hard at bringing Evans back.
DT- Aubrayo Franklin: A lot has been said about the fact that Franklin's two best seasons have come in contract years. The 49ers did not franchise him, so this means that he will be playing under a long term contract in 2011; if the 49ers elect to re-sign him.
I am not one' that buys into that whole "only a contract year player". If you can play the game and have the motivation, you will be successful. My issue is that Franklin waited until the last viable moment to sign his franchise tender so that he wouldn't have to take part in the organized team activities, that could be the sign of someone not committed to playing the game. Obviously, this is said a little tongue and cheek because I really have no substance to back it up.
The 49ers do have other in house options at the NT position, both of whom would come a lot cheaper. Isaac Sopoaga and Ricky-Jean Francois could both succeed at that position in the 3-4 defense. Francois would have to add a little weight to be the ideal fit.
The NT position is extremely important and acts as an anchor for the 3-4 defensive line. If the 49ers are not sold on either Sopoaga or Francois next season, they seriously have to consider spending the money on Franklin. I would say his value is at about 3Y-27MD.
LB- Takeo Spikes: TKO is a necessity for the 49ers once free agency begins. He really is the heart and soul of the defense, that is something that cannot be understated. Additionally, I am under the opinion that Spikes wants to come back and play opposite Patrick Willis.
NaVorro Bowman is our future TED LB beside Patrick Willis, but he isn't ready to take over full time. The 49ers need to make re-signing Spikes a priority when free agency begins. On that note, it isn't like they would be breaking the bank on TKO.
K- Jeff Reed: Very limited possibility that Reed returns to the 49ers in 2011. San Francisco will have many different options in free agency, even the rookie free agent pool (Kai Forbath), it just doesn't make sense to bring back a player of bad character that isn't that great.
Joe Nedney may be on his way out due to his age and injury problems. However, if Nedney shows he is healthy that is a better option than Reed.
The following will be restricted free agents if the appeals court rules for the players and no collective bargaining agreement is signed. On the same, note these players will most likely be unrestricted free agents if a new CBA is agree upon.
DE- Ray McDonald: According to multiple outlets Ray McDonald was among 3-4 defensive ends in QB pressures last season, a pretty amazing feat considering he didn't see the field a lot. I am under the opinion that McDonald can turn into a dynamic 3-4 defensive end. However, do you pay for potential or contribution?
If McDonald ends up being a restricted free agent, the market will not be too great for him because San Francisco tendered him a contract. This means that they team signing McDonald would have to give up draft picks as compensation; something that isn't going to happen for a player that is mostly potential right now.
If McDonald becomes an unrestricted free agent, the pursuit will be much greater. Teams will not have to give up draft picks to sign him, and the possibility of McDonald coming back to San Francisco relatively cheap would be unlikely. His return to the 49ers may be predicated on the free agent system implemented.
LB- Manny Lawson: I love the way Manny Lawson plays football. He is always around the ball, knows his assignments and plays real heady. However, 14.5 sacks in 57 career starts really isn't going to get it done in a 3-4 scheme. The 49ers failed to move Lawson around a lot and take advantage of his athleticism. Instead, he was stationary as a 3-4 OLB could be, and that is not his fault. That said, I believe his fits best in a 4-3 system as an OLB.
Many believe that the addition of Aldon Smith in the 1st round sealed Lawson's fate with the 49ers. I am in complete disagreement on that. Fangio has an opportunity to take full advantage of the athletic OLB trio the 49ers could have in Smith, Lawson and Ahmad Brooks.
If Lawson hits the open market and is offered a long term contract from a team that runs a 4-3, I think that would be his best career move. However, I have not given up on him as a solid pass rusher for the 49ers.
S- Dashon Goldson: Lets face it, Goldson had a horrible 2010 campaign; you really cannot spin it any other way. He took bad angles and took himself out of the play all too often. It really was a complete 180 from Goldon's 2009 campaign, where he was a force to be reckon with.
If we can get Goldson to fulfill the obvious talents that he has, he could become a pro bowl player in the NFL. However, how much are we going to pay for promise? This is a question that the 49ers front office will continue to ask themselves until it comes to decision day. As it is, the 49ers really don't have a whole lot of in house candidates to replace Goldson; I am not sold on Reggie Smith taking over full time, Curtis Taylor hasn't proven to have that ability and Colin Jones is way too raw.
There are upgrades that can be made at this position in free agency, but i will address that with another article next week.