Departures are Part of Niners' Grand Plan

Or, that's what can be surmised, at least, as 49ers enter free agency period and approach draft by saying goodbye to Walker, Sopoaga and Goldson

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    NEWSLETTERS

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    Tight end Delanie Walker has now signed with the Titans. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

    It would be easier if 49ers general manager Trent Baalke would just hold a news conference at the start of each day, outline his plans and hopes and take questions from not only the media, but fans concerned about the state of their team.

    Then maybe everything would be clear.

    But since Baalke and the rest of the Niners leadership group isn’t about to reveal the team’s  hand in public, the media and fan base are left to wonder what the team’s plans are this offseason.

    So far, the specifics of the Niners’ offseason plan are hidden in Bay Area fog.

    On Tuesday, the official opening day of trading and free agency in the NFL, Niners news was fast and furious.

    The trade of quarterback Alex Smith became official, as did the trade for Ravens wide receiver Anquan Boldin.

    Also, versatile tight end Delanie Walker signed with the Titans, veteran nose tackle Isaac Sopoaga signed with the Eagles and safety Dashon Goldson – a key member of the 49ers secondary over the teams’ two very successful seasons in 2011 and 2012 – is now a hot commodity who appeared ready to sign with the Tampa Bay Bucs Wednesday morning.

    Defensive lineman Ricky Jean Francois, too, appeared on the verge of signing with another team.

    It seems like too much change for a team just coming off a trip to the Super Bowl.

    Yet Baalke entered this offseason hoping to upgrade his defensive line and secondary – the team’s weaknesses in pass defense were exposed in the postseason – while adding more firepower to the offense.

    And in a league where teams must maintain a constant vigilance on the salary cap, ensuring they get the most bang for their bucks, Baalke certainly hopes to upgrade talent this season while minding the cap.

    Already, former Packers safety Charles Woodson has been reported set to visit the 49ers as a possible replacement for Goldson, and other reports say the team may be interested in Ravens safety Ed Reed. The Niners may also have interest in defensive tackle Glenn Dorsey of Kansas City.

    With cap money available and 14 or more picks coming in the April, the exits of Smith, Walker, Sopoaga, Francois and Goldson are part of Baalke’s grand plan – or what we can assume is his grand plan.

    This is a strong safety class in free agency, and the Niners may well be able to upgrade the position without paying out the long-term, expensive deal that Goldson wanted. And Sopoaga and Francois weren’t deemed high-impact players, and this draft is rich in defensive linemen.

    As James Brady of SB Nation pointed out Wednesday, saying goodbye to some of these players – most of whom have played very well and been part of the team’s success – is just the first step for Baalke and the Niners this offseasn.

    “There will need to be some turnover,” he wrote. “San Francisco didn’t maneuver to have multiple second- and third-round picks for nothing. They want those (drafted) players to make the roster. They want to draft a guy who will come in and do something next season. Bringing in young talent is crucial for this team’s continued success.”

    And, so is picking up a key free agent or two, as is expected.

    San Francisco wants to make certain it manages its salary cap well, as key players approach new contracts over the next few years, including wideout Michael Crabtree, linebacker Aldon Smith, quarterback Colin Kaepernick and offensive linemen Mike Iupati and Anthony Davis.

    By allowing players such as Walker and Goldson to leave without becoming ensnared in long-term deals may not only open roster slots for young players this season, but allow the team to retain its stars later.

    Or, until Baalke holds his daily news conferences, that’s what we can surmise.