The 2014 NFL Draft kicks off later tonight, and naturally the 49ers are in the rumor mill mix. Tony Pauline of DraftInsider.net put together a rundown of some of the latest speculation, and it involved the 49ers and the wide receiver position.
Pauline first added to the notion that the 49ers are telling people they're looking to move up in the draft. We've heard that plenty, and if the right deal comes along, it would not be surprising to see the 49ers make a move. Pauline said his sources were telling him the 49ers were specifically interested in Odell Beckham Jr. We've seen several wide receivers show up as being potential 49ers targets, so who knows how this will develop.
Where Pauline's information got at least a little more interesting was his discussion of the 49ers current wide receiver position:
Sources also tell me the Niners may not want to meet Michael Crabtree’s price tag in free agency next March, so Beckham would also offer a safeguard in that respect.
A week and a half ago, Trent Baalke was asked about the status of contract negotiations with Crabtree. Baalke kept things fairly general, stating, "We're constantly working with our guys that are becoming free agents to see what it is going to take to extend them. Michael's no different...We are always going to try to keep our own guys rather than go into free agency."
Any contract negotiations would likely pick up steam during the offseason workout program, and then potentially into training camp. Deals get done during the season, but with the 49ers, it has often seemed like if they are going to retain a player, it will happen before the end of training camp.
Of course, there is always the franchise tag. Right now, with Aldon Smith locked up under his 2015 option, candidates for the tag next year would include Crabtree, Colin Kaepernick and Mike Iupati. If the 49ers get a deal done with Kaepernick, that opens the door for using the franchise tag on Crabtree. This year the franchise tender for wide receivers was $12,132,000. That number will increase, and be fully guaranteed, so suffice to say, I would be a bit surprised to see the 49ers franchise Crabtree.
Of course, if he puts up a monster 2014, maybe it does become a more viable option. I strongly hope the team re-signs Crabtree, but I honestly have no idea whether or not it will happen.