It’s not even March yet and it feels like San Francisco 49ers have made more moves in the 2017 off season than they have in the in the past five years combined. I know this is a gross exaggeration but it seems we’ve entered a new 49ers era. With a new head coach and general manager comes new processes and procedures, and at the moment the outlook is all positive.
Although the process in evaluating players is similar, I’ve heard reports that the lines of communication are more open than they have been in the past. The process still takes all three parties to agree on a player: scouting department, coaching staff and ownership. But with new people in place, there is less of a chance for ulterior motives. One of the benefits of a new general manager and staff is the reduction of emotional ties to players during evaluation.
Understandably, former GM Trent Baalke was attached to the players he acquired but it ended up hindering the team in the end. He believed in growing and developing players, which is a good thing, but not every player is going to be a hit. Accepting the misses, and only having a few of them, balanced with acquiring productive players in free agency, is obviously a formula for success.
When I asked Baalke about his free agency philosophy last season he was ready with the statistic of how many free agents make the Pro Bowl every year which was clearly an important measurement for productivity and value to him. In fact only two players who were acquired through free agency made the Pro Bowl in 2016 out of the 86 players selected (Darrelle Revis and Mike Iupati). Even when Baalke may have been interested in a free agent, he passed quickly if the price tag was too high or waited to see if they could get a better deal and as a result missed out on players that could have been assets to the team. Although Baalke stated last season that CEO owner Jed York gave him all of the resources necessary to build a roster, we will never know which of the two vetoed spending money in free agency.
John Lynch and staff seem to already be taking a more aggressive approach to free agency. Without the emotional attachment to the roster, the coaching and scouting staffs are able to make a more honest and realistic approach to it. Fresh, impartial eyes can only help the scouting department as well as reports I’ve heard that they are open to all options now, including spending money.