The San Francisco 49ers are now Super Bowl favorites. In 2013, that is. But the next season includes plenty question marks, issues common with Super Bowl contenders.
Many players actively listed on the 49ers payroll are at a particular career cliff. A cliff that is called free-agency that is, and 27 players to be exact. The 49ers front office also has salary cap issues to deal with, as every super bowl favorite does. But there are a few ways out of the mess.
Seven of those players are receivers, arguably the 49ers most plagued position. Michael Crabtree, A.J. Jenkins and Quinton Patton are the three wide-outs that will still be under contract, and QB Colin Kaepernick will be due for a contract negotiation.
Moreover, the 2014 draft class is weaker than the 2013 class, offensively speaking. The 49ers have always strayed from making offers to big named free agents, and I doubt the 2014 offseason will be any different.
So say goodbye to hopes that Victor Cruz will beat the drums with “Niners Noise” and forget all about Jimmy Graham. But there are several lesser known players that the 49ers may target to add depth to their roster in 2014.
Jacoby Jones, Andre Roberts, Doug Baldwin and Darius Heyward-Bey will all be up for bidding, and will not cost a whole lot of money considering the potential impact that they could make. Baldwin, who played under Harbaugh at Stanford, is someone that all of the NFL should keep an eye on. He possesses speed, great catching ability, and drive that many overshadowed receivers have.
Jones, Roberts and Heyward-Bey are known through the NFL and may cost more than Baldwin, but the cost should pay off per WAR (Wins over replacement).
It’s also no secret that Baalke likes veteran receivers, lending to a notion that current Redskins WR Santana Moss. He’s a player that can stretch the field, coach the younger players, and comes with virtually no ego.
Reciever is really the 49ers sole position of need, outside of cornerback, but corners can be had for cheap thus there is no reason to dive into the subject. One aspect that is worth discussing is the salary cap issues. The 49ers have approximately $20M in cap space entering 2014, but could create much more with very little effort. One clear-cut and probable move is to restructure MLB Patrick Willis’s contract yet again. He has converted his salary to the NFL minimum, and taken the difference in signing bonuses for the past two years. Restructuring the contracts of CB Carlos Rodgers and OLB Ahmad Brooks could also create more than $12M in space.
Actually, converting salaries into bonuses could become rampant next season and the benefits could create all the space necessary to continue the title of super bowl favorite.