With the San Francisco 49ers falling one game short of making it back-to-back trips to the Super Bowl, they will now need to regroup, recollect and reorganize their personnel. A task easier said than done as 49ers GM Trent Baalke will have to negotiate 14 players’ contracts, as they are all unrestricted free-agents, the question remains which players will he retain? From WR Anquan Boldin to SS Donte Whitner, Baalke has some serious negotiating that will need to take place in the near future.
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However, I have said all along that Boldin should be Baalke’s No. 1 priority. A player I like to call “Golden Boldin,” he has done nothing but elevate this Super Bowl contending team into a potential dynasty. A dynasty that can’t get off the ground until the 49ers end their Quest For Six, it will be imperative for Baalke to re-sign one of the all-time greats. With that said, I have identified, analyzed, and dissected the 49ers top three needs heading into the 2014 off-season. So without further ado, the top three needs are:
1. Strong Safety
With SS Donte Whitner officially becoming a free-agent, that leaves Baalke with little wiggle room. A position that he believes can be replaced through the draft or free-agency, do not expect Whitner to come back unless he takes a significant pay-cut. A highly unlikely scenario, do not be surprised if Baalke let’s him walk just like FS Dashon Goldson.
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With Whitner all but gone, that now leaves a gaping hole in the secondary. Sure the 49ers signed S Craig Dahl this past off-season but he is not a starting caliber safety, leaving me to wonder which direction the the 49ers will go in. Will it be free-agency or the draft? There is not much quality depth in either at the strong safety position as SS Bernard Pollard and SS Dion Bailey (USC) are the only players I feel capable of fitting Fangio’s scheme. So it will be interesting to see which player will fulfill the role of patrolling the back end of the defense, as Fangio needs a sure tackler that can also provide a presence in the passing game.
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Again, Baalke will have to figure out a way to keep a solid No. 2 cover corner that rarely gets beat deep in CB Tarell Brown. A fundamentally sound football player as Brown has played extremely well, it will be interesting to see how much money Baalke will invest in T-Boogie considering they extended CB Tramaine Brock’s lucrative contract earlier in the season. And with my good friend CB Chris Culliver coming back strong from an ACL injury, that all but leaves Brown as the likely odd man out.
Not to mention, CB Carlos Rogers is a player that should be a cap-casualty due to underperforming on the game’s biggest stage, the 49ers will need a solid No. 3 cornerback that can provide some much needed depth while providing a fountain of youth. Could the 49ers bring in TE Vernon Davis’ younger brother CB Vontae Davis or will they draft a young corner to groom like CB Jason Verrett (TCU) or CB Justin Gilbert (Oklahoma St.)? Baalke has some serious decisions to make as he tries to retain as many players possible under the NFL’s salary cap. And with the NFL transcending into a pass happy league, you can never have too many cornerbacks or pass-rushers at your disposal.
3. Wide Receiver
Despite many NFL pundits believing wide receiver to be the 49ers most glaring weakness I can assure you it’s not. With WR Michael Crabtree, WR Quinton Patton, and TE Vernon Davis as quality primary targets, all Kaepernick needs is a viable deep-threat at the wide receiver position. And with WR Anquan Boldin likely being Baalke’s No. 1 off-season priority, look for Baalke to lock him up in the next couple of months. A missing piece to the puzzle as the 49ers need that outside presence, some free-agents include WR James Jones (San Jose native) and WR Jacoby Jones. And if those free-agents command top dollar the 49ers may be wise to trade up and draft a young receiver such as WR Mike Evans (Texas A&M).
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With Baalke likely doing his due diligence, he has a plan. Whether that plan includes Boldin and/or Whitner remains to been. However one thing is for sure, if the 49ers want to win a Super Bowl now, Baalke will need to cash in on some of those draft picks, as the 49ers window of opportunity for Super Bowl success is quickly dwindling.