The San Francisco 49ers took care of some business Thursday afternoon, signing left tackle Joe Staley to a 2-year contract extension that could keep him with the team through the 2019 season. Given that Staley turns 30 later next month, that likely means he will spend the rest of his career with the 49ers.
There had been some chatter that the 49ers were going to do something to Staley's deal. He was a bargain at this point, having gone from a solid offensive tackle to one of the best in the league. There was no public hand-wringing from Staley, and the two sides were able to get a deal done relatively quick and easy.
The 49ers have several contract issues they need to resolve at some point in the near future. The most obvious are those of Alex Boone and Vernon Davis. Those two are not expected to report on time for the start of training camp. Boone has not said a public word, while Davis has probably said too many. Whatever the case, both are looking for new deals.
Aside from Boone and Davis, the 49ers have numerous free agents following this season. The most notable are Michael Crabtree, Mike Iupati, Chris Culliver, Glenn Dorsey, Frank Gore, and Kendall Hunter. And of course, Aldon Smith will be entering the final year of his deal next year, with the 49ers having picked up his 2015 option. It is highly unlikely the 49ers re-sign all of these players, but they will likely extend at least one or two. The question is who will be next.
I would argue Crabtree is the most important of that group given what he brings to the 49ers offense. While I would like to see him sign a contract extension, I have no idea what to expect. Trent Baalke indicated the team has been in touch with his agent like any other free agent, but there has been no word on where things stand in any negotiation. If he does not sign a deal before free agency, the wide receiver market could be fairly deep this year. On the one hand, a lot of options could drive down his price. On the other hand, if someone loses out one of the other big names, maybe they pay a premium for Crabtree. I have no idea which it would be.
Chris Culliver is an interesting one. He showed some great things in 2011 and 2012. He was inconsistent in the latter half of 2012, he had a miserable Super Bowl, and then he blew out his knee in 2013 training camp. He now heads into 2014 training camp with a shot at claiming a starting job opposite Tramaine Brock. Free agent addition Chris Cook handled first team reps in team activities during the offseason workout program, but Culliver is expected to be good to go at the start of training camp. Considering he and Cook are both free agents at the end of this season, it could prove to be a tight battle for the starting job.
Culliver had his hit-and-run earlier this offseason, and that is slowly winding its way through the court system. Given the felony brass knuckles possession involved, I'd imagine the 49ers want to see that get resolved before signing Culliver to an extension. However, if they are not overly concerned about that, they are likely wanting to see how he looks in training camp and into the season. My guess is Culliver does sign a new deal with the 49ers, it is not until after the season.
Glenn Dorsey signed a 2-year deal last offseason, and earned it in year one. He was looked at as a potential utility guy along the defensive line, but when Ian Williams broke his ankle, Dorsey quickly emerged as the starting nose tackle. Williams remains a question mark heading into training camp, which could mean Dorsey is back in at nose tackle. And even if Williams is healthy enough to practice in full at training camp, he still could end up behind Dorsey, who looked really solid as the 49ers nose tackle. Dorsey will be 29 in a couple weeks, so he still has a chance for one more decent sized contract. If he takes control of the nose tackle job again, we'll see if he decides to test free agency. If he hits free agency, there could be a nice little market for him.
If I had to guess, I'd say Frank Gore and Kendall Hunter likely walk after this season. Both have been key contributors, but the 49ers have loaded up on running back depth. If they think Carlos Hyde and Marcus Lattimore can handle the bulk of the work following this season, it makes sense to spend money elsewhere, rather than bring back Gore and/or Hunter.
When I first wrote this, I actually forgot about Jim Harbaugh. He very well could be the next person to get a contract extension. My guess is any deal comes after the season ends. Barring some breakthrough, I'm not sure there is anything to point to something being done before then.
Who do you see the 49ers extending next? I've dropped in a poll below, so feel free to vote.