Red and Gold offseason breakdown

The offseason has been whizzing by and the 49ers have been able to upgrade the offense and were able to maintain all the defensive starters from 2011 which is abnormal for any team. Even CB Carlos Rogers was impressed. "I've never been on a team that has all 11 starters back," Rogers said on a conference call Thursday. "This is a first for me. I'm pretty sure it's rare for a lot of guys. It's a credit to our front office and coaches."

New contracts being produced by the 49ers front office have been focused on using up cap space now and creating space for the future. The contract for Alex Smith will count 9.25 for 2012 and decrease in the following two years. Carlos Rogers has a contract structured in the same way. The middle of last season the 49ers restructured linebacker Patrick Willis contract in order to eat up more than $17 million on the 2012 cap, it was obvious the 49ers were saving cap space for future years.

Similarly to last offseason, the 49ers' strategy was to let the initial surge of free-agent overspending die down and then make reasonable deals with players who were unable to land the big deals they were seeking. This approach brought Mario Manningham and Brandon Jacobs from the Giants to the 49ers.

While the big spending is over, the 49ers still have the ability to add a veteran player or two at the minimum level. In all likelihood it would be a lineman such as Leonard Davis, Jason Brown or Deuce Lutui, both have visited with the team.

Here are the moves that the 49ers have made during Free Agency


WR Randy Moss (Titans, 2010): This signing is similar to the signing of Braylon Edwards last season. The team is taking a risk on an older player, guaranteeing him no money but offering rewards via incentives. Moss will have no room for slacking like he has on past teams. Moss has said that won’t be a problem if the team he is on is competitive. One would be hard pressed to find a more competitive team than this one. The 49ers improve by signing a fast receiver who can be mentioned among the best wide outs of all time.

WR Mario Manningham (Giants): Manningham will be replacing Morgan and at a discounted price. He has reliable hands like Morgan but is not as physical on the line or blocking. He will be able to improve on that however, Harbaugh likes his receivers to block often and well. He will be an overall upgrade despite being the number three option for Eli Manning in the past. He has a quickness the 49ers lacked at the position and will prove to be a valued asset, especially if he can maintain his 50 catches per season average that he has displayed the last 3 years in New York.

QB Josh Johnson (Buccaneers): Josh Johnson played under Harbaugh at San Diego State. He excelled under Harbaugh and set a school record for QB rating in a season under his tutelage. This signing strengthens arguably the weakest points on the 49ers roster. He will push for a backup role with 2nd year man Colin Kaepernick. Both have similar skill sets. It is obvious what Harbaugh likes in his QB, height, Speed and arm power. Alex Smith does not fit that mold, it will be a matter of time until one of these backups take over a starting role. Likely won’t happen until next year. However improbable, a few poorly played games could be enough for the 49ers to promote Kaepernick if they feel he is ready.

RB Rock Cartwright (Raiders): He is a special teams ace and will take the roster spot left vacant by Blake Costanzo. Harbaugh says he likes his players to be able to contribute in multiple ways. I see Cartwright contributing on running downs as a full back or tight end. Harbaugh loves his heavy sets and lost some versatile pieces when Justin Peele and Adam Snyder did not return to the team.

RB Brandon Jacobs (cut by Giants): Anthony Dixon has not been the backup that the 49ers want. He has the ability but he to often puts his head down and attacks at the first spot he sees. He however is more versatile than Jacobs in that he has a role on special teams. The 49ers want a back that can fill in if Gore goes down like he did in a few games last season. Jacobs fits that specific role better than Dixon. There will be a competition for this roster spot. I doubt the 49ers keep Gore, Hunter, Dixon, Jacobs, Cartwright on the roster. Dixon seems like the odd man out after this signing.

LS Brian Pontbriand (street free agent): Former Pro Bowl long-snapper played for 49ers special-teams coordinator Brad Seely with the Browns. But after a couple of game losing plays last year, I find it difficult to believe that he will take over for the 49ers pro bowl snapper Brian Jennings, who has been consistent since signing with the team in 2000. Competition is the name of the game, and Harbaugh will let no player get complacent with his place on the team.

CB Perrish Cox (street free agent): The fifth-round selection of 2010 was out of the NFL last season after getting cut by the Broncos before the start of the season. In 2010 he led all rookie CBs in passes defended, he also has skill as a return man. He was acquitted for a sexual assault charge in March, Cox says he will never be put in a compromising situation again. Cox is optimistic he will be able to contribute as a nickleback. He will have his work cut out for him, he will have to compete with Brown, Culliver, and Brock; All of which are thought highly of in the 49ers organization.


QB Alex Smith (UFA): Even when he was coming off the best season of his career, nothing came easily for Smith. The 49ers' offer of $8 million a year for three years currently ranks tied for 18th among NFL quarterbacks. He visited the Miami Dolphins while the 49ers were seeking out the services of Peyton Manning. The Dolphins were not interested in going as high as the 49ers' offer, so Smith didn't have any other options. After Manning signed with the Broncos, the 49ers bumped up the guaranteed money of Smith's deal from $8 million to  $9 million while keeping the total package the same, sources told The bottom line is that the 49ers made a one-year financial commitment, and 2012 is potentially another make-or-break season for Smith, my guess is that unless Smith throws for 3,000 yards and has less than 9 INTs and 20+ TDs, the 49ers start to look in the direction of Colin Kaepernick or Josh Johnson

CB Carlos Rogers (UFA): OnRogers explained in an interview that the 49ers would receive a home town discount to retain his services. The 49ers flirted with the idea of signing Eric Wright but soon after resigned Rogers to a 4 year contract of, $29.3 million. Rogers led the niners in the regular season with 6 INTs along with safety Goldson.

WR Ted Ginn (UFA): Ted Ginn said in an interview that the 49ers would have been in the super bowl if he was healthy enough to return the kicks in the NFC championship game. However he grew unhappy with his role and wanted to be a featured receiver despite his lack of ability to locate the deep ball. He will work hard this offseason to prove he is worth more than the one year deal that he signed after failing to find a proper suitor after visiting the Rams, Vikings and Lions.

LB Ahmad Brooks (UFA): The sides agreed to a six-year extension before the free-agent signing period. Brooks was an every-down player in 2011 for the first time in his career and produced well. He credits the 49er organization for his continued growth and gives credit to DE Ray McDonald for making his job easier on the outside. And for the first time in his career, he is remaining in the Bay Area in the offseason to work out regularly at the 49ers' practice facility.

DB C.J. Spillman (RFA): The team's most valuable special-teams performer, Spillman racked up tackles as a gunner during punts and had a role in goal line situations which he executed very well. Spillman signed a three-year contract, which included a $925,000 signing bonus, sizable for a special teams player. Right now, he is the third safety on the roster behind starters Dashon Goldson and Donte Whitner.

LB Tavares Gooden (UFA): The team saw him as a key part of their special teams unit, he has unique speed for a LB which helps him get down the field quick during kicks. He will be back on a one year deal

CB Tramaine Brock (EFA): Brock saw significant playing time despite being the #4 CB on the roster. The team has high hopes for Brock and he will continue to compete with a group of underrated corners.

DT Will Tukuafu (EFA): He opened the season as the fifth defensive lineman before sustaining a season-ending dislocated wrist. He signed a two-year extension. He is a valuable versatile DL who can play DE.


S Dashon Goldson (UFA): The sides will start to work on a long-term deal. Currently, Goldson counts $6.212 million on the cap as the team's franchise player. There is some optimism that a long-term deal can be reached, which could lower his 2012 cap figure.


LB Larry Grant (original round tender): After filling in admirably late in the season for Patrick Willis, Grant was hoping to find a starting job in free agency. He played well, batting down passes, forcing a fumble and shooting the gaps and making tackles behind the line. But the market is soft for inside linebackers. And, furthermore, teams are reluctant to give up a draft pick as compensation. In the case of Grant, it's a seventh-round selection. It appears likely Grant will return to the 49ers on a one-year, $1.26 million deal to serve as the primary backup to Willis and NaVorro Bowman. He is a starter on any other roster.


OL Adam Snyder (Cardinals): Snyder was not considered starting caliber due to his size but was a versatile lineman who played center, guard, tight end and tackle during his time with the 49ers. He replaced Chilo Rachel in week three and played admirably. Snyder signed a five-year, $17.5 million contract with the Cardinals.

WR Josh Morgan (Redskins): After Morgan's season-ending injury, Harbaugh said it was a priority to re-sign him. But, clearly, the Redskins placed a higher priority on Morgan, who signed a two-year, $11.5 million deal with his hometown Redskins just hours into free agency. Manningham came at a cheaper price.

CB Shawntae Spencer (Raiders): After injuries kept him sidelined in training camp and early in the season, the 49ers moved on without him. He was a healthy scratch from the 49ers' two playoff games. The club released him to save $3.3 million. Spencer signed a one-year deal with the Raiders, and looks to have an inside track at a starting job.

S Reggie Smith(Panthers): The sides agreed that Smith should look for a better opportunity. Smith had a hard time wrapping up ball carriers. He is the second safety added this off season along with with Haruki Nakamura from the Baltimore Ravens, another young player who could potentially compete with Sherrod Martin for a starting job.

LB Blake Costanzo (Bears): The 49ers never offered him a contract after he was voted as a Pro Bowl alternate on special teams. The front office made the decision to pay Spillman and go after Cartwright in free agency. Costanzo plays special teams exclusively, and the 49ers were looking to replace him with a player who is more versatile.


RG Chilo Rachal: Former first rounder pick was benched at halftime of the 49ers' third game, Rachal is free to find a job elsewhere. He was a major cause of offensive line woes early on. He took a free-agent visit to meet with the St. Louis Rams, but left town without a contract.

FB Moran Norris: The 11-year veteran lost his starting job to Bruce Miller, who made the conversion from defensive end in college to fullback in the NFL. The 49ers are looking for more versatility from any backup.

TE Justin Peelle: The 49ers got what they wanted from the 10-year veteran. Peelle was a blocking specialist. Nate Byham, who fills the same role, returns after missing last season with a knee injury.

S Madieu Williams: He might have a better idea of his future after the draft when teams assess their needs and figure out if they need a former starter who is available for a minimum contract.

WR Brett Swain: Not tendered as a restricted free agent, Swain is free to sign with any team at any time. The 49ers have been focused on improving their depth at wideout.


G Leonard Davis: The three-time Pro Bowl player spent the last two months as a backup with the Lions but did not play. He recently underwent foot surgery to correct a lingering condition. He should be fine in about two months. He remains unsigned after visiting the 49ers on March 14.

G Deuce Lutui: After dealing with weight problems, Lutui served as backup to right guard Rex Hadnot last season with the Cardinals. Worked out with the 49ers on March 26th, and is an option for the team to add to compete with youngster Daniel Kilgore. He remains unsigned.

QB Peyton Manning: When Alex Smith did not sign the 49ers' initial offer, the 49ers did their homework on Manning. As Peter King wrote this week, Harbaugh and offensive coordinator Greg Roman watched Manning work out on a lighted field at Duke in a parked car. Then, they emerged, wearing hoodies to conceal their identities, to get a closer look. The 49ers were a finalist for Manning's services. But he signed with the Broncos, instead.

G Geoff Schwartz: The Panthers did not tender him as a restricted free agent, and he visited with the 49ers on March 20. Schwartz saw a bigger commitment from the Vikings, and signed with them.

WR Chaz Schilens: The former Raiders wideout visited the 49ers on March 13, and signed with the New York Jets.

WR Brandon Lloyd: He visited the 49ers on March 14, and signed with the Patriots.

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