With the release of David Akers, and the departure of some huge name players from the Niners’ roster, it is easy to get caught up in the desire to see the 49ers sign at least one big name free agent.
Their secondary has taken a bit hit in coverage and hitting power, but are Charles Woodson or Ed Reed really the answer there? Both Woodson and Reed are in the twilight of their careers, ready for possibly one more season, and then a short wait before a trip to Canton.
Chris Culliver, who had struggles at CB last season, was actually a safety at NC until his senior year. Culliver is young, fast and strong, and probably a better long term option at safety than Woodson or Reed.
You don’t have to be a die-hard fan to know that the 49ers biggest issues are in their secondary, and that is why they have courted big name defensive backs like Nnamdi Asomugha. However, with so many good young corners available in free agency, not to mention the draft, it seems a little premature to pull the trigger for big money to get Asomugha, who definitely didn’t live up to the hype he created going to the Eagles.
San Francisco will also be looking to find a replacement for Delanie Walker so that they can continue to run those big 3 tight-end plays. Thus, do the 49ers need to be looking at Martellus Bennett? Or Dustin Keller? I don’t think they do, the 49ers already have a tight-end that they can count on as a receiver that makes huge plays. What they need is a good blocking tight-end, something they can easily pick up in the draft, or for small money on the free agency market.
The loss of Ricky Jean-Francois is probably going to be the easiest for the Niners to absorb, so why chase a big name defensive tackle when you have a Justin Smith? Like Tony Stark said, “You have an army? We have a hulk.” The 49ers don’t need to focus on a big name free agent to back up Smith; they need to pick up a young guy in the draft that Smith can mentor.
Isaac Sopoaga is a big, powerful lineman, who also happens to be very versatile. Finding someone to fill his shoes will not be easy, but there are some very talented defensive players coming out for the draft this year, and I think finding someone to keep this team young is a key part to keeping them in contention. Defensive lineman have short field lives and signing a big name free agent like Alan Branch, or Jason Jones could be like putting a Band-Aid on a bullet wound.
With the departure of only five players, Akers, Walker, Goldson, Sopoaga, and Jean-Francois, the 49ers cleared out over $12 million in cap space for 2013. That is the kind of room that can make a real difference when it comes to picking up young fresh talent, the kind of talent that will keep San Francisco on top of the NFC West for a long time to come.