Last season, the 49ers finished as the second-best team in the country, which was good for their sixth-most successful season in team history. Once again, going into the offseason, the plot thickens. After Jim Harbaugh’s uber-successful first year, people wondered if he could continue that success. He did. In his second season, he made one of the most polarizing choices (which was made even more extreme through the sports media) by benching Alex Smith and replacing him with Colin Kaepernick. He ended up even closer, but fell just a little short. Now, what will he bring in his third season with the team?
Given Kaepernick’s spectacular performance over the course of the second half of the season, this team is once again poised to compete, and should be one of the favorites to win it all. The defense is set, and the offense is just about in-place, though with the departure of Randy Moss (though it wasn’t much of a loss), there is a need for a wide receiver opposite the reenergized Michael Crabtree. Vernon Davis is a beast down the middle, but who can the Niners grab to flank Michael Crabtree that will make their team not only competitive, but destructive?
With the trade of Alex Smith to the Chiefs, and the recent release of David Akers, the Niners are going to be just about $14 million under the cap. Obviously, this brings a lot of flexibility to the franchise, and will allow them to pursue the biggest of names at the receiver spot. (Of course, they don’t need to spend a lot of money — it’s always a danger paying a lot for a receiver.)
Plus, the team is an attractive destination: it’s in the Bay Area, the team is one of the best in the league, and the quarterback is Colin Kaepernick, who seems like the type of guy who receivers would want to hang out with and is definitely the type of guy who they want to play with. So, who are some of the choices?
Welker is certainly one of the most attractive names out there. Playing with Tom Brady and the Patriots will do that for you. After leading the team in yards and receptions, he decided that testing the free agency might be able to garner him a larger contract. Welker’s more of a slot guy at 5’9, and would definitely help San Francisco get more creative with their offense. He is 31 years old, and is on the backside of his career. Still, he could be very productive. But, he could also just be the product of a great coach, quarterback, and system.
One of the fan favorites in Green Bay, Jennings brings the more traditional measureables for the spot. The consumate workhorse, he was always to be found by both Brett Favre and Aaron Rodgers when they needed a clutch reception. Though he doesn’t quite have the flashiest speed, he has a knack for large amounts of YAC and would be a great complement to the more dynamic Crabtree. He’s also only 29, meaning he’s got many years ahead of him. However, Jennings is not in his mid-20s with the ability to go vertical on any given play like…
The young guy became a star with the Vikings, putting pressure on cornerbacks and consistently getting open. Of course, this might not be as impressive of a task considering the rest of the defense was focused on superhuman Adrian Peterson. Still though, Harvin has a certain flair for the game, and as an up-and-comer, he might demand less salary-wise than a name like Wes Welker.
He’ll get paid, for sure, but he hasn’t quite hit that top-tier status where he can demand and get $10 million-plus. Harvin would be a great fit with the rest of the skill-position Niners on offense — a young guy who is hungry and can play with speed.