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Time is now to say goodbye to Frank Gore, Justin Smith

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As we await final decisions on the respective heart and soul of the 49ers' offense and defense, I take a look at why now is the time to bid adieu.

Ed Szczepanski-USA TODAY Sports

While the San Francisco 49ers-Jim Harbaugh breakup and fallout still loom large, there's almost nothing that hasn't already been said about the entire ordeal. Now, it's time to focus on the offseason and the roster decisions that lie ahead. The team has a lot of considerations going into this offseason. The biggest names being thrown around are Frank Gore and Justin Smith, both of whom have futures that hang in the balance.

I never thought the day would come when I'd utter the sentiment included in the headline of this article. Why would I encourage a "parting of ways" with two modern-day 49ers legends? Because, as difficult as it is to see historic players move on, it's the right time to do so.

Keeping them around makes little sense for both sides and, ultimately, is very unfair to two players who deserve far better endings to Hall-of-Fame-worthy careers. I'd love to see Gore stick around for one more year to groom Carlos Hyde (and maybe teach him to run lower when the ball is in his hands), and provide the 49ers with a nice one-two punch of experience and youth in the backfield.

But the reality of the matter is that Frank Gore doesn't want to be utilized that way en route to being phased out. I don't blame him either. He finished ninth in the league in rushing; no easy feat no matter how old you are. Why would he want to cap his career by taking a backseat to Hyde on a dubious 49ers team that could very well finish worse than it did last year? Gore's intensity as a competitor is well-documented. He deserves better. He deserves to be a lead back on a championship-caliber team. He can't find that in San Francisco.

From the 49ers perspective, one more year of Gore means one more year of not knowing whether Hyde can shoulder the load on his own. Plus, regardless of what shape he comes back in, Kendall Hunter can provide some of the veteran guidance the 49ers will lose with Gore. That's not to say he's anywhere near the level of player that Gore is, but he has the experience that Hyde can glean.

Then there's Justin Smith, who has told players he's contemplating retirement. Again, 49ers fans the world over would love to see the Cowboy saddle up for one more ride, but is it worth it for Smith or the 49ers in the long run? If Smith's presence is the difference between a Super Bowl run or a Wild Card exit, by all means, coax the man into one more go at it. But again, the Niners complete overhaul of the coaching staff and all else that has transpired doesn't put them on solid footing for success in 2015. That may be a matter of opinion, but the smart money is that this is going to be a down year in San Francisco no matter how you slice it. The team has already sent the aging, much maligned Ray McDonald packing after yet another legal accusation and they have a nice blend of experience and youth across the line with veterans Ian Williams and Glenn Dorsey, and up-and-comers Quinton Dial, Tank Carradine and Tony Jerod-Eddie. Plus, as Nick Chiamardas noted in a recent piece, this year's draft has some intriguing prospects up and down the board.

For both of these situations, it's best to employ the old band-aid approach and quickly cut ties now. Is it going to sting? Absolutely. If for no other reason than to reinforce just how far this team has fallen from where it was a year ago. You could say it echoes the 2003 departures of Jeff Garcia, Terrell Owens, and Garrison Hearst but to be honest, the 49ers have a much more talented roster now than they did back then, and Owens and Garcia were still very much in the prime of their careers (caveat: Garcia was up there in years, and didn't fare well during his next stops in Cleveland and Detroit, but he did revitalize his career a couple years later with stints in Philadelphia and Tampa Bay).

Bottom line: there's never a good time to say farewell to cornerstone players such as these two, but doing so this year makes the most sense for all involved.