The San Francisco 49ers’ first free agent pick-up of the offseason is much better than last season’s. Don’t get me wrong, I really appreciated Brandon Jones’ lone catch for 18 yards. He got a first down on that one. Not to mention his nine punt returns for 26 yards. That’s almost three yards a return. Way to work hard and earn that $5.4 million dollars of guaranteed money.
This season, David Carr is the first free agent signed. I’ve never been a David Carr detractor, and I never thought he got a fair deal being the thrust into the NFL on an expansion team. I’m hoping however, people realize that Carr was brought on to mentor, not compete. See, David Carr is an expert at what Alex Smith is going through. He knows what it’s like to be the scapegoat for a losing team. Like Smith, Carr received the brunt of the blame for the franchises woes. In his first five NFL seasons with the Houston Texans, Carr was sacked an astonishing 249 times. When you average getting knocked on your back 3.27 times a game, your confidence in yourself and your team will surely diminish.
Once Carr left Houston, he was hoping to regain his confidence and passion for the game without any pressure as the back-up to Jake Delhomme of the Carolina Panthers. Unfortunately, Delhomme suffered an injury after the third game and Carr was pressed into action once more. He was on a much better team, but we saw what 249 sacks in 76 games do to a player. Carr was skittish in the pocket. He didn’t set his feet. He held onto the ball too long. He didn’t trust his instinct, or his O-line to protect him.
Carr spent the last two seasons as a member of the New York Giants. He was never called into action for any “real” playing time. In his two seasons there, he played very sparingly and accumulated 340 yards with three touchdowns and zero interceptions. He was sacked three times on his 45 pass attempts, which falls in line with his average, solidifying his knack for holding onto the ball. Although the sacks are concerning, the lack of interceptions is a nice sign to see.
For all the speculators, I do not envision any type of quarterback controversy. I believe Alex Smith played well enough last season to be penciled in as the starter. However, Mike Singletary doesn’t want to guarantee any position. Carr is a good move for the franchise in the sense he will bring leadership and much needed experience to the current quarterbacks. Smith, and Shaun Hill have played in a combined 62 games compared to the 91 games of experience Carr brings. He is also a cautionary tale about asking a young quarterback to do too much by himself. As if it isn’t tough enough to make the transition from college to professional football, Carr had to do it as the starter on a brand new team. The difficulty multiplies exponentially in that case. Players and coaches who have never worked together shouldn’t reasonably be expected to succeed.
I do have to wonder how much this signing had to do with not wanting Carr to go to another team, namely the Arizona Cardinals. Among other teams, the Cardinals were interested in him, and were next of the list of places for him to visit. The Cards must have had the same idea to sign a veteran to help out their young, unproven quarterback. They’ve already been rather busy in free agency, both losing and adding players. I’m a little disturbed at the low price the Baltimore Ravens were allowed to acquire Boldin. What’s even more disturbing is the fact that other teams weren’t willing to part with at least a second rounder. How good, or bad I guess, do teams think Boldin is? Considering the New England Patriots demanded, and received a first round pick for Deion Branch, a player who has never had a 1,000 yard receiving season, or has caught more than five touchdowns. But that’s another argument for another day and another forum.
The 49ers shouldn’t be too busy this offseason. The draft is where I believe they’ll make the biggest splashes. After free agent losses of OT Tony Pashos and WR Arnaz Battle, the depth pool must be restocked. Other than the glaring holes along the offensive line, and the absolute desperate need for a return man, the roster is solid. If Nate Clements can work his way back to a top cover-corner, the defense can be one of the NFL’s best. The signing of David Carr improves the depth and hopefully will allow Smith to further grow as the quarterback.