There are signs that things are turning around in regards to the San Francisco 49ers and then there are signs that appear to point to 2009 being more of the same. There is of course no possible way to know for sure what will transpire as free agency opens this evening at 9:01pm PST. With general manager Scot McCloughan making it clear that the team will “take it slow” in this juncture of the offseason though one can at least speculate. There are free agents to be had, free agents who play positions which are of particular need to this 49ers team yet the word out of Santa Clara is that those who cost the most money will not be targeted by the team.
-So much for my pipedream of Albert Haynesworth clogging up the middle as Manny Lawson and newly drafted Brian Orakpo wreck havoc on opposing quarterbacks from their OLB positions-
Perhaps that was never going to happen anyway, however lacking a truly viable option at nose tackle if Ronald Fields departs for more money than the 49ers want to pay would make one think of looking to fill that position of need. Of course as I write this there are many of you saying to yourselves;
“What position on the team isn’t a position of need James?”
Good question and my only answer would have to be maybe inside linebacker and that would only be if Takeo Spikes is resigned something both sides have said they want to happen. Tight end could be another one however the team will look to draft a late round player there with the expected departure of Billy Bajema.
In all honesty looking at the roster as a whole if anyone can tell me that there is truly a position not including the two listed above, which does not bring with it an innate need for more talent than please do so.
Quarterback – Shaun Hill is the only player at this position (the most important on the field perhaps) that is a sure thing to be on the roster in 2009. Alex Smith has not reworked his contract as of yet and there is no guarantee that he will. There are many of the Faithful who don’t want him to anyway, citing his lackluster career thus far as the reason he should not be back. One Bay Area reporter who writes about the team from her lofty perch at the San Francisco Chronicle recently stated that the only way that Smith will ever be any good is if he leaves for another team thereby gaining the chance at a complete new start. I am not sure I agree with this sentiment and do have at least a glimmer of hope that Smith is back this season and can somehow be the quarterback he was envisioned to be when the team drafted him in 2005.
There is really no one else available via free agency at quarterback, save for Gus Frerotte and to put it lightly, he is not a player I am sure anyone wants to see on this team. If he was to be signed why not simply retain last year’s signing Jamie Martin? At least his locker wouldn’t have to be changed.
Offensive Line- With Jonas “Mr. Glass” Jennings due to be cut before too long there is a real need for not only a competent starter at right tackle but also some quality depth along the line in general. This is a position so lacking in talent that speculation has the team selecting a right tackle with its first round pick at 10th overall. Specific places on the line such as center and left tackle are set but again, more depth is needed for the entire unit.
Wide Receiver- The team has stated that it will not resign Bryant Johnson for the coming season and McCloughan said recently that Isaac Bruce’s return was 50-50 (more on this later) at best. That leaves the very real possibility that Arnaz Battle will be this unit’s most seasoned player. Josh Morgan and Jason Hill show loads of potential but they cannot be fully counted on to step up and start yet. Dominique Zeigler may have a real chance of being named to the 53-man roster at the end of training camp in August however Mark Bradford, Maurice Price and Michael Spurlock (signed solely as a backup plan in case Allen Rossum signs elsewhere) do not invoke fear in opposing defensive secondary’s.
Free Safety – With the hope that Dashon Goldson will step up enough to unseat incumbent Mark Roman from his starter’s role this position would appear to be set. Adding former Atlanta Falcon Jimmy Williams to the mix helps as well but Goldson has shown a propensity for getting injured and Williams will be lucky to report to camp under 235 pounds and without a cheeseburger hanging from his mouth. More help is needed here too.
Keep in mind I have only listed four positions here, there are of course more in need of talent and the hope is that they will be addressed accordingly. Again the key word here is hope.
It may just be me, but if I hear McCloughan use the term “50-50” to describe the odds that a player will return to the team next season I am going to jump off the Golden Gate! I mean really? That’s all you can say Scot? You said it about Bruce, Spikes and even J.T. O’Sullivan. Could you have not added a little flavor to it and placed JTO’s chances of being retained at 30-70 or 20-80, or heck how about 0-100? Is it not clear to everyone already that once Martz was cut loose O’Sullivan would soon follow?
Basically the word from the 49ers to the fans is don’t expect anything exciting to take place tonight at 9:01 PM PST or even in the hours and days afterward. It may take a week or two for there to be any real signings made by the 49ers. The club will take it’s time and make some moves in free agency as it sees fit, it probably just won’t be the moves which land the game-changing, playmakers that are needed at so many positions on the field.