Julius Thomas to the 49ers Makes Perfect Sense


It’s mere speculation, but there’s talk of the 49ers restructuring Vernon Davis‘s contract, or worse, extinguishing it before April 1st in a move that will save the 49ers enough shekels to be true players in free agency. Ahmad Brooks may suffer the same fate, and it’s plausible the contracts of Patrick Willis, Aldon Smith and Stevie Johnson will be restructured as well. Let’s not also forget that Justin Smith is mulling retirement.

While the 49ers are pushed up against the NFL’s yet-to-be-adjusted 2015 Salary Cap, there’s still time to create padding. They should hover between $10-11 million under the projected cap figure when the offseason dust has settled and contracts have been reworked.

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Davis had his worst season as a pro in 2014, and although an excellent straight-line receiver, he’s bulky and is no longer an agile target that will sustain through Colin Kaepernick‘s inaccuracies. His once fantastic run-blocking ability has soured, making him less appealing as his lucrative contract exceeds on-field production.

It all leads to one point: Davis’s future with the 49ers is unknown. He’s talented and has proven he’s an adept red zone threat (something badly missing in the 49ers’ pedestrian offense), but with age and production both in decline, it’s possible his tenure is up in San Francisco (insert hilarious Santa Clara quip).

But there’s a solution – a darn good one – available in free agency if the ever-conservative Trent Baalke understands that he’s made gaffes as a curator of offensive talent in the past and that opening his mind to something other than the draft and accumulating assets that scarcely come to fruition (the entire 2012 draft was a bust) is a wise move. Baalke will be in San Francisco until we’re old and withered, so we should learn to handle his inefficiencies accordingly – the most glaring being his inability to scout and procure offensive talent.

This solution I speak of is Denver Broncos’ tight end Julius Thomas.

The appeal is endless with Thomas: He’s incredibly athletic and his ball location skills rival that of Jimmy Graham and Rob Gronkowski;. His basketball background created mitts that haul in the toughest of throws; He’s nimble enough to elude tight coverage in the end zone, racking up nine touchdowns over the first five games of the season before injury waylaid his Herculean efforts. 

Also, he has a background exclusive to Northern California. Thomas, who is just 26-years-old, was born in Stockton, CA, and thrived as a multi-sport athlete at Tokay High School in Lodi, CA. While each situation is unique, bypassing a chance to head home and bring a Super Bowl Championship to the team of your youth speaks loudly in free agency. Thomas was raised a Raiders’ fan by his father, but one must assume any opportunity to go home would be cherished.

But why would Thomas leave Denver when Peyton Manning‘s passes are as delicate as a handoff? Here’s the idea: we know that Peyton will return for another year; he spoke to the media with vitality last week, making jokes of age but ultimately stating that he feels great and that pushing onward is his foremost thought.

But when will his career come to an end?

He’s under contract through 2016, but in the last two years of his deal his cap hit will reach a lofty $21.5 million per season. The most important piece to retain for the Broncos this offseason is wide receiver Demaryius Thomas, and there’s no way he walks in free agency; the Broncos will meet his demands, as allowing one of the game’s best talents to leave is foolish. Rahim Moore, Terrance Knighton and Brandon Marshall could be signed as well.

The Broncos have an estimated $25 million in cap space in 2015. D. Thomas and Moore are inline for significant pay raises. Money isn’t tight yet, but the constriction will come fast.

And what about Adam Gase? The current offensive coordinator of the Broncos is being courted by a bevy of NFL teams, and the 49ers’ head coaching vacancy is considered the most sought after captaincy in the league. The 49ers are interviewing Seattle defensive coordinator Dan Quinn tonight, but they will confer with Gase and others before their search has culminated. While Manning keys J. Thomas’s production, Gase proficiently exploits the mismatches that Thomas creates.

We’re all forced to play the hand we’re dealt. If Baalke isn’t just feeding the fans what they want when he says the 49ers are ‘reloading, not rebuilding’ then a play for Thomas makes perfect sense. His impact will be felt immediately, and the 49ers will have their sorely missed red zone threat. Thomas desires a top five contract at the tight end position, but the 49ers are brilliant at inking deals and could meet Thomas’s demands while creating an accord that allows them to re-sign the likes of Mike Iupati and Chris Culliver.

Sign Thomas, Baalke, and let us know that this talk of reloading isn’t just another parlor trick by a front office that caused its fair share of drama this past season.