The San Francisco 49ers had very high expectations coming into the 2013-2014 season. They were expected to be one of the top teams in the NFL and they did not disappoint. However, a loss to the Seattle Seahawks in the NFC Championship ended what looked like another promising Super Bowl run. Most would say that they are very proud of how the team performed this year, but it definitely feels as if they've left some unfinished business on the table once again. They have suffered three straight crushing playoff losses in games that were all decided in the final minutes of the game. It's tough to criticize a team that has made the NFC Championship three straight seasons, but success in the NFL can turn to failure in a very short time. Injuries, free agency, and poor performance can all lead to a bad season, and luckily for the 49ers they haven't been victims of that, although that could change at any time.
There are many issues that the 49ers will have to address this offseason when it comes to their roster, including multiple key players becoming free agents, which must be addressed in order for the 49ers to remain successful not only next year, but for years to come. It's only going to get tougher for the 49ers in the coming years with the emergence of the Seahawks as an elite team and being part of the NFC West—the best division in football.
The 49ers have multiple players that will become free agents this offseason, including Anquan Boldin, Donte Whitner, Tarell Brown, Anthony Dixon, Phil Dawson, and Jonathan Goodwin. All of these guys played major roles this season for the 49ers, which will make for some very tough decisions from the front office.
The most crucial player for the 49ers out of the free agents listed is clearly Anquan Boldin. Boldin led all 49ers receivers this year with 85 catches and 1,179 yards. He was Colin Kaepernick's favorite target the entire season and played a huge leadership role for the 49ers. The only thing that could prevent the 49ers from wanting to sign Boldin is his age, but it would be crazy not to try to bring him back for one or two more years. He proved to be one of the best offseason acquisitions of the year, and judging by his tweet below, it sounds like he would love to remain a 49er:
Thank you @49ers fans for embracing my family and I during our first year in San Francisco. Your support this year was amazing.
— Anquan Boldin (@AnquanBoldin) January 20, 2014
Phil Dawson is a free agent who I feel absolutely needs to remain a 49er. He has proven that he can make big kicks in big games, and the 49ers should respond by rewarding the veteran with a new contract. Placekicker is one of the most underrated positions in the NFL and Dawson has proven that he is one of the best, not only this year, but in past seasons with the Cleveland Browns as well.
Donte Whitner poses a very interesting decision for the 49ers. At times he plays like an All-Pro safety, and other times he looks lost, especially in the passing game. He is a great tackler, sometimes too good, which has led to multiple fines from the NFL. The 49ers could potentially going either way here. They could try to continue their success through the draft, or sign Whitner to a short term deal. Ultimately, I believe the team will bring him back on a short term deal. It would be smart for the 49ers to draft a safety for future development who could learn from the leadership of Whitner and Eric Reid.
Tarell Brown had a solid season at the cornerback position for the 49ers. He played as the nickel corner for part of the season, and started the other part of the season. The 49ers would probably like to bring him back, but the fact that they just signed Tramaine Brock to a contract during the season might mean that they will pass on re-signing Brown. If they can afford him, it makes sense to bring him back.
Anthony Dixon is a fan favorite that many teams would love to have on their roster. He can play running back, fullback, and is a great special teams player. His versatility makes him a very valuable player, which may cause the 49ers to be unable to re-sign him if another team decides to overpay for him. In a perfect world, Dixon would be back with the 49ers, where he has spent his entire four-year career.
Jonathan Goodwin has done a very good job at the center position since joining the 49ers. However, his age may cause the 49ers to pass on re-signing him. He is 35 years old and has never been considered a vital piece to the stellar 49ers offensive line, which can't be said about the other four starting linemen. The 49ers will likely move in a different direction, either through the draft or free agency.
The 49ers also have decisions to make regarding other minor free agents such as Colt McCoy and Mario Manningham. It would be a good idea to bring McCoy back as Colin Kaepernick's backup because he is now familiar with the system and would be a solid option if Kaepernick were to go down with an injury. Manningham on the other hand has struggled with injuries in both seasons with the 49ers, which will most likely cause the 49ers to part ways with him. The team would probably benefit in drafting a wide receiver as an alternative to re-signing Manningham.
There is a lot of work to be done when it comes to free agency for the 49ers. Keeping these free agents will be very important for the continuing success of the team, but if the team feels it needs to move in a different direction, it will not hesitate to do so. It should be very interesting to see who stays and who goes.
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