To Bay Area fans, the NFL offseason can be like one long fantasy football-like dreamfest.
The release of players such as cornerback Darrelle Revis, wide receiver Steve Smith and defensive end DeMarcus Ware bring visions of super rosters.
The fans' thinking: If the 49ers would just add Revis (or Smith or Ware) to their lineup, just think how good they’d be? Top that, Seahawks.
Unfortunately, reality football is much more difficult to orchestrate than fantasy football.
Big names also come with huge contracts and, sometimes, high mileage. Just because a player was great two years ago doesn’t mean he’ll be great in 2014. And, with all the restrictions of the salary cap, adding a high-priced star often can do severe long-term damage to a team’s roster.
Revis and Ware, of course, are going elsewhere, in huge deals to the Patriots and Broncos, respectively. The 49ers really were never in the running for either.
But now that Smith, the longtime playmaking pass catcher for the Panthers, officially has been released, some Niners fans no doubt are hoping San Francisco will bring him aboard.
After all, the 49ers need help at wide receiver, and a trio of Smith, Michael Crabtree and Anquan Boldin would be as good as any threesome in the NFL.
Reports are, however, that the Baltimore Ravens and San Diego Chargers may make a significant play for Smith. Adam Schefter of ESPN tweeted Thursday that “Baltimore has emerged as the favorite.” Other teams also may go after him, too.
There’s no doubt that Smith, 34, can still play. In 2013, he had 64 catches for 746 yards and four TDs. He is still super quick and ranks as the Panthers’ all-time receiving leader with 836 catches, 12,197 yards and 67 scores.
But would the 49ers be interested? And, if so, would they be able to get Smith at a decent price without hurting their chances of fulfilling other immediate needs, such as at cornerback, where both Tarrel Brown and Carlos Rogers are testing free agency?
Bill Williamson of ESPN.com wrote this week that the idea of Smith landing in San Francisco isn’t that far fetched. He’s a former teammate of head coach Jim Harbaugh, he’s from California and the idea of joining a team with Super Bowl potential might be enticing for him.
Williamson noted the Crabtree-Boldin-Smith trio would be “pretty intriguing.”
“Boldin and Smith are third-down monsters,” he wrote. “Someone would always be open, especially if the 49ers get the right speed guy in the draft.”
Still, there are way too many variables for the 49ers (or their fans) to pencil in Smith to the San Francisco lineup just yet. Although he seems a logical piece to add, GM Trent Baalke and Harbaugh may have other moves they’d prefer. And on the open market, even a 34-year-old may be in big demand.
Still, Williamson doesn’t rule out the prospect of Smith in a 49ers uniform. Maybe not probable, but possible.
“There would be other fine fits for Smith,” he wrote. “But there’s reason to believe why the 49ers could be an interesting fit themselves.”