San Francisco 49ers general manager Trent Baalke is down in Boca Raton, Florida for the owners' meetings, and he had a chance to briefly discuss the 49ers free-agency approach. Paul Gutierrez got a quotation from Baalke in which the latter said, "We haven't done much. We're a draft and develop team."
This is certainly a true statement in regards to focusing more on drafting than on high profile free agents. Aside from Torrey Smith, and Antoine Bethea to a lesser extent, the team has generally stayed away from spending big money in free agency.
It's not at all surprising he would talk about drafting and developing. I think most general managers will point to "draft and develop" as a pretty important part of team-building. And for the 49ers heading into this offseason, the draft was always going to be critical. Given the team's problems last season and the holes to fill, 12 draft picks provide a chance to add strength to an inconsistent base.
We've heard Baalke talk about re-loading as opposed to re-building, but it would appear he actually recognizes this for what it is. Back in late February, during an interview with KNBR, Baalke actually used the dreaded "R" word:
I think, first of all, what's the answer, I don't know. I don't have a crystal ball as to be able to look in and see what was different, why there was a setback. And I wouldn't look at just one position. I would look at us as a whole. We finished almost dead last on offense, and that isn't one person's fault. There's a lot of things that go into play when you struggle the way we did. So to pin that on one person would be more than unfair. Certainly looking forward to, like I said, getting all these guys back out there, and seeing what we can do. We've got some young pieces that we gotta put in place. We're positioned well for free agency. We've got 12 picks in this upcoming draft, and we're picking high, in the top third in each round. So you got a great opportunity, we do, to rebuild this football team.
He's avoided it in the past, but I don't think this was just a slip. He recognizes that this team has a lot of work in front of it. Crazy things happen each year with a team coming out of nowhere to contend. While this team could surprise us, I also think this is a project that is not going to be rectified in a matter of one offseason. And with 12 draft picks and very little done in free agency, Trent Baalke likely recognizes this. I suppose he could think Chip Kelly is the key to turn this all around, but I think this is more recognizing this is going to take some time to get back on track.