Four Areas the 49ers Must Address in 2011

The Jim Harbaugh era has arrived in San Francisco. Now the hard work begins. While I am a big proponent of the idea that Mike Singletary held back a roster that was good enough to win the NFC West in 2010, it does not mean that the 49ers were set on personnel. The 49ers still need to address their talent level at key areas going into 2011.. Here are four that I think are the most important to address and could help the 49ers not only capture the NFC West, a division that figures to improve next year, but also compete for a championship. Let’s not forget that the 2011 off-season will be unique in that there could be no CBA and thus no player movement outside of the NFL Draft. But for the purposes of this article, we’ll assume that the NFL and the player’s union hammer out a deal in time (and we all hope and pray that they do exactly that…because what the hell else are we going to do on Sundays in the fall and early winter?).

1. Quarterback – By far the most glaring need not only for 2011, but for much of the past 6 years or so. Alex Smith was supposed to be the guy. He had six years to prove he was the guy. Whether it was his own innate talent that failed him or whether it was the lack of strong coaching is irrelevant now. The 49ers cannot keep experimenting with Alex Smith and risk the most important position on the team. There is also no guarantee that Troy Smith or David Carr will be back, and the team opted not to sign fan favorite Nate Davis to a future quarterback. Honestly, I never felt like any of these names were the answer to the position in the long term, and I won’t miss any of them. Trent Baalke said that the 49ers would explore all avenues in terms of acquiring a quarterback and they might need to hit all three options: the draft, free agency, and trades.

It would be nice if a seasoned veteran like Carson Palmer fell into the team’s lap. However, teams will likely not part with quarterbacks that still have something left in the tank. Jim Harbaugh has worked with Tampa Bay backup Josh Johnson. The 49ers could also explore trades to acquire promising Green Bay Packers backup Matt Flynn or Kevin Kolb of the Eagles, although he would likely command a very high price tag. In the draft, the 49ers could target Jake Locker, although none of the top quarterbacks (Cam Newton, Jake Locker, Ryan Mallett) are seen as sure things.

2. Cornerback – Seeing opposing receivers’ burn 49ers’ cornerbacks over the top was a familiar sight to fans in 2010. While Shawntae Spencer remains solid and Tarrell Brown adds depth, the 80 million dollar man Nate Clements does not seem suited to be a dependable starter any more. He also commands a high salary cap figure, which makes it harder for the team to retain him 2011. Fortunately this is a strong free agency class and draft class for the cornerback position. In free agency, the 49ers could target Nnamdi Asomugha who just opted out of his contract across the Bay Area. Carolina Panthers corner Richard Marshall is another option that would likely command a slightly lesser price tag. The draft features two top 10 worthy cornerbacks in Prince Amakamaru and Patrick Peterson, and at least one of them should be available when the 49ers pick at 7 in the upcoming draft.

3. Pass Rush – In 2009, the 49ers were amongst the top five teams in sacks. However, this was a misleading number for several reasons. First, a lot of those sacks came against lesser quality opponents such as the lowly 2009 Rams. Secondly, the 49ers did not have a “go to” guy in terms of a pass rusher, choosing to do it via pass rush by committee instead. In 2010, that strategy failed. Travis Laboy enters 2011 a free agent. He had five sacks this past season but was not a constant pressure guy. Ahmad Brooks showed promise as a pass rusher in 2009 but also had a somewhat disappointing 2010 season. Manny Lawson has never developed into the relentless pass rusher that many people envisioned him to be as an OLB in a 3-4 scheme, and he’s a free agent who might not be retained. Parys Haralson has underperformed for two years in a row now since receiving a contract extension. He is not starting material. The 49ers need to find a guy who can bring in 10-12 sacks consistently. Names such as Daquan Bowers and Von Miller should be a priority on the 49ers draft board. The 3-4 defenseallows for enough creativity from a defensive perspective, but good 3-4 defenses have good pass rushers. Look at the OLB’s of the Steelers or the Packers. Lawson and Haralson are average at best, with Haralson much more suited to be a back up.

4. Wide Receiver – I might be the only one who thinks this, but consider me unimpressed by the 49ers receiving core. Yes, Michael Crabtree has flashed promise and will probably excel in a West Coast Offense with a competent, offensive coaching staff. After that, the talent pool gets fairly bleak. Josh Morgan is a decent WR but he suffers from a case of disappearing or completely failing in terms of concentration. Ted Ginn Jr. might be the team’s answer at kick returner, but he is not an answer as a WR and has not been consistent enough as a receiver in the NFL. If anything, Ginn is a nice slot guy from time to time, but he can’t take over games. The 49ers have also missed having a veteran receiver on the team that can show some of the younger guys the ropes. There should be a plethora of veteran WR options via free agency this year. Steve Smith, Chad Ochocinco, and dare I say the initials…T.O., could be available as they are released from their current teams in favor of younger guys. There is also AJ Green, the best WR prospect since Calvin Johnson, to consider in the draft. However, AJ Green could go in the top 3 picks.

The 49ers are sure to have other holes on their roster besides the ones mentioned above. However, no team is perfect and completing the roster takes some time. But if the 49ers can just find the right combination of fixes via free agency and the draft as they pertain to the four areas mention above, I believe that they can be one of the top teams in the NFL and dominate their division. Quarterback remains the high priority, as finding the right one there could expedite the team’s growth .

  • LoneTexas49erFan

    I never thought I would say this, but I would like to see T.O come back and redem himself here to the fans. He sold us out by going to the cowbillies, and that betareyed me so much! Going to the eagles was cool, because they are the east coast side of us running the west coast offense, but going to the billys broke my heart, and I burnt my jersey that day when he went to our Arch rival. When T.O. went to the star that made my year back then made my day, and showed me T.O. hated the billys as much as me. It hurt to see the T.O. go to the Billys, and rave about there orginization and how he wanted retire a billy, that was all brainwashing from Irvine and the billys posey. That broke my heart, because he was born as a player in San Francisco, and he was our kid. He trained under our legend Jerry Rice, and he was suppose to carry the tradition that Rice left, but his Ego got ahead of him. I rememeber when we got him in 96' and we had Stokes and Streets, I miss those guys so much!

  • LoneTexas49erFan

    Thats what we need now are big tall targets in the draft at receiver, these little receivers arent cuttin it, streets wasnt real tall but Stokes and T.O. man awesome pair. We need receivers 6'3 and above, big guys not 6'2 and below, we need some big targets, and the west coast offense addresses that!

  • John Connor

    No doubt, T.O. would be a good pick up. He's one of (if not) the last remaining 49er with a link to their successful years.

  • LoneTexas49erFan

    But ya, I thinkHarbough has a good eye for talent and he wants the best, he wants a Lombardi for himself and this team ASAP!!! I love that about Harbough, I'd be the same way!

  • LoneTexas49erFan

    Harbough will find that QB via trade draft or free agency, he will find a proven QB, he does not want crap in here and the way we did things in the past will change.

  • torrguy

    Well written, I agree on all 4 areas. I do think if they had someone on the opposite side, Many Lawson could be retainable.

    As for receiver, I would like to see ochocinco, however I worry about him negatively impacting Crabtree.

  • Josh Meeker

    If the 49ers bring TO back I might have to boycott…how short our memories are. The reason TO was the last player from successful 9ers teams is because he destroyed the team. Ran Garcia out of town, ran Mooch off, then screwed us out of a better trade with Baltimore and we got crumbs from Philly for him. The hell with T.Old!

    • danny

      could not agree more, if we need experience go with steve smith, no ochocinco either, we dont need clowns

  • John Connor

    Mooch and Garcia weren't retained due to Donahue, including a plethora of other players. It had very little to do with Owens. Garcia's production diminished and his cap number was too high. York and Donahue both wanted Mooch gone because he wasn't winning Super Bowls.

    • 49ersNews

      John is correct…also don't forget that with Donahue it came down to two players to invest in/re-signing. They decided to pay Julian Peterson over Owens.

  • Gandrew

    Where are you getting the idea that Prince Amakamaru and Patrick Peterson will last until the 7th pick? Every mock that I have seen shows them gone by 7.

    • Vini Chopra

      In every draft, a few guys slide. If someone such as Nick Fairley starts picking up steam, that could force one of the corners to drop. Also, if a team falls in love with a QB like Newton or Locker after the combine, that should cause one of the corners to drop.

  • LoneTexas49erFan

    John Conner your correct on that, Donahue and York Senior single handely sent Owens and Garcia packing wanting to be out with old and in with the new approac, Donahue thought he was sucha good GM and he wanted to try to build the tam to his liking, and York Sr. followed suit. Donahue destroyed this team that in my opnion could of one at least one superbowl if we would have kept Garcia who was only getting better and ofcourse T.O., it really pisses me off and still does after all these years and hence T.O. had a chance to play for the Billys, man that pissed me off even more!! But ya T.O. was hard to deal with and he accused Garcia of some things, but he was passionate and emotional because he did want to win for us. But ya, when he left us it was like Tyson leaving Custamato and going to Don King, he went all down hill from there! He had his most succesful years with us for sure and he mine as well rap it up here, Harbough will straigthen him out!

  • Marcel

    I will hop a plane from San Antonio to San Jose, rent a car and park in front of the 49er facility. I will wait there as long as it would take. Then when T.O pulled up in his custom Mercedes with the enlarged roof (to accomodate his huge head), I would hop out, and begin to beat the shit out of his knees with a crow bar.

    Please don’t make me have to go to jail. I would go…I am a 49er faithful and I would see it as my duty. Do not sign that dude to my beloved team. Lest we forget why Garcia would rather play in the UFL ,or wherever he is, instead of even listing to his childhood team. T.O. Is not welcome on the 49ers. Period

    • Josh Meeker

      I can only like your comment once, but believe me, I would greet him off the plane and after wiping my ass with his jersey I would then set it on fire and piss on the ashes!!

  • John Connor

    T.O. did more for the 49ers than Garcia ever did. He carried Garcia through all those pro bowls and he's definitely had the far superior career post-49er. If you clubbed T.O. you'd be harming the 49ers, not helping them.

  • MarcelsKiller

    Marcel–if you give me address, I will come to your house and sodomize you with a chain saw. Shut up you worthless cunt. T.O. is not only welcome here, he is DEMANDED here.

    Go suicide.

  • Deemo

    Wow you guys need to take a step back and think before you start typing that kind if stuff on this page. I am a 9er through and through, The only thing we can do as true fans is to support our team on their decisions no matter what the outcome is. Ya T.O would be nice just for the fact that he is a great wide reicever but his time has passed with the 9ers and he will not come back. Ocho would be a great pick up to but with his ego he will ask for more money then the 9ers would be willing to fork out. Take it easy guys, no need for the discusting treats.

    • Eddie M.

      Amen

  • Eddie M.

    Bring in D McNabb via trade for a 2nd round draft pick or
    bring in Kyle Orton WTF one of those with Davis Gore N Tree well go to the BOWL

  • Rudy Melendez

    WE GOT THE GM, COACH, AND THE WEAPONS!
    Can we change this new decade around! Can we pick up
    A big free agent at the qb position ! Up and coming
    Draft can we be looking for a young talented
    Shut down corner that are team needs.

    P.S. Thank you Jim Harbaugh
    For talking bout bringing back West Coast O

    I can see my San Francisco 49ers holding The Lombardi Trophy in Indianlapolis

  • J-Mack49er

    We HAVE to go after a TRUE shutdown corner. We need to go after Asomuaga and then go after a good pass rushing OLB. No more mediocre at best pass rushers like LaBoy or Haralson. When it comes to QB the Alex Smith experiment failed and Troy Smith is definetly not the answer. I say we should go after McNabb via trade. It seems as if he’s worn out his welcome in Washington and he would be a great fit considering he ran the west coast offense in philly for a number of years. If we can get him for a 2nd or 3rd round pick that would be huge. As far as WR goes Josh Morgan is OK but he is too inconsistent and he seems to disappear in games. We need that WR that can stretch the field. It doesn’t seem that we have any WR on the roster that can stretch the field consistently. It’s sad when our best deep threat is our TE despite his freakish athleticism. It would also help if Crabtree works hard on his route running during the offseason. Then we can talk about hoisting Lombardi Trophy #6!!! That’s just my opinion…