49ers have needs to fill after Day 1

Maiocco: Goldson likely to follow Walker out of San Francisco

49ers have needs to fill after Day 1
March 13, 2013, 7:00 am
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Charles Woodson turns 37 in October but he is still a play-maker who can line up all over Vic Fangio's defense. (USA TODAY IMAGES)

Three of the eight longest-tenured 49ers players are no longer on the team after the first day of the new league year.

Nose tackle Isaac Sopoaga had the second-most service on the 49ers' roster behind long-snapper Brian Jennings. He was a fourth-round pick in 2004, courtesy of general manager Terry Donahue and then-coach Dennis Erickson. Sopoaga is now a member of the Philadelphia Eagles.

[RELATED: Sopoaga headed to Philly]

Quarterback Alex Smith, the first selection in 2005 of the Mike Nolan-Scot McCloughan era, was officially traded to the Kansas City Chiefs.

[RELATED: Alex Smith: A good 49er]

And tight end Delanie Walker, a sixth-round pick in 2006, will make more in guaranteed money from the Tennessee Titans ($8.6 million) than he made in his seven seasons with the 49ers combined ($7.7 million).

[RELATED: Report -- Delanie Walker headed to Titans | 49ers' offense will change without Walker]

The 49ers can be expected to lose at least one more free agent on Wednesday, as safety Dashon Goldson received the royal treatment of a private jet ride Tuesday to visit with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Also, nose tackle Ricky Jean Francois is in Philadelphia at this moment. If a deal is not worked out, Jean Francois is expected to take other trips. The Indianapolis Colts could be the next stop on his itinerary.

Meanwhile, the 49ers are set to visit Tuesday with Kansas City Chiefs defensive lineman Glenn Dorsey and safety Charles Woodson, whom the Green Bay Packers released last month.

The 49ers already appear to be in line to pick up a few compensatory draft picks in the 2014 draft. And that has become commonplace for the organization. They do not overpay to retain their own players, and they look at players, such as Woodson, who have been cut and do not count as "gains" in the complex compensatory formula.

The strategy has worked over the past few seasons for the 49ers. Think about it: When was the last time an NFL team won a Super Bowl powered by high-priced free agents?

The 49ers will sign free agents -- and, yes, Dorsey and Woodson are possibilities -- but it will be at the prices that fit with their long-term model. The 49ers are thinking ahead several years. They expect to be Super Bowl contenders as long as they have quarterback Colin Kaepernick and a solid nucleus around him.

After the 2014 season, the 49ers have five players who could command huge contracts -- Kaepernick, receiver Michael Crabtree, outside linebacker Aldon Smith, right tackle Anthony Davis and left guard Mike Iupati.

The 49ers will want to retain as many of those players as they can with long-term contracts, and they do not want to do anything now that might jeopardize that.

[RELATED: 49ers free agency tracker]  

Here is a look at the 49ers' needs after the first day of the new league year:

Safety: Goldson is as good as gone, so the 49ers will likely need a replacement for the two-time Pro Bowl safety. Woodson and a strong draft class could provide the answer. Yes, Woodson turns 37 in October but he is still a play-maker who can line up all over Vic Fangio's defense. He missed nine games last season due to a collarbone fracture. In 2011, he intercepted seven passes and broke up 17 more. With draft picks at Nos. 31, 34 and 61, among their scheduled 14 selections, the 49ers can draft a safety to learn behind Woodson for a year. Kenny Vaccaro (Texas) will likely be gone, but Matt Elam (Florida) and Eric Reid (LSU) are among their other options.

Nose tackle: Sopoaga is gone, and Jean Francois might be out the door, too. The 49ers gave a $1 million signing bonus to third-string nose tackle Ian Williams to retain him through 2015. The 49ers need a starter, though. Dorsey could fit on the defensive line. The 49ers used a nose tackle on approximately one-third of their defensive snaps. The nose tackle is the first player who comes off the field when the defense goes with extra defensive backs. It is also a good year for defensive linemen in the draft, so they can be expected to select a big body or two.

Kicker: Davis Akers was released last week, and the 49ers do not have a replacement. Veteran free-agents Lawrence Tynes and Phil Dawson are among the possibilities. It might be a little too risky for a team that expects to make a Super Bowl run to go with a rookie, but the 49ers have that option, too. The most draftable kickers appear to be Dustin Hopkins (Florida State), Quinn Sharp (Oklahoma State) and Caleb Sturgis (Florida).

Backup quarterback: With Alex Smith now slated to start in Kansas City, the 49ers do not have a backup. That person could be Scott Tolzien, but he would have to earn the job in the offseason and training camp. There aren't a whole lot of great options in free agency. In the draft, Matt Scott (Arizona) and E.J. Manuel (Florida State) would be a good fits for the 49ers' new-look offense that is taking shape with Kaepernick at the controls.

Backup tight end: Walker signed with the Titans for starter's money. The 49ers will not be paying much to any backup with Vernon Davis signed through 2015. The only other tight end on the roster is Garrett Celek, who made the team as an undrafted rookie and saw more action last season than any of the team's drafted players. The 49ers can be expected to add a low-level veteran, as well as use a draft pick to bolster the position.

Those are the positions where the 49ers have their most dire needs. But there are other positions they could fortify with veterans or draft picks:

Cornerback: The 49ers were not happy with the play on the outside during the postseason, so they could look to add a bigger body. They are interested in Miami's 6-foot-3 cornerback Sean Smith, but his price might end up being too high. Nnamdi Asomugha is available at a fraction of the price of a couple years ago when he signed with Philadelphia and under-performed. And until the New York Jets do something with Darrelle Revis, his name will continue to surface. The 49ers return every cornerback from a year ago: Carlos Rogers, Tarell Brown, Chris Culliver, Perrish Cox and Tramaine Brock, who was tendered at $1.323 million for one year as a restricted free agent.

Return specialist: This might not be as big of an issue as one would think, even with Ted Ginn Jr. being a low priority to re-sign. Kyle Williams is due to return from ACL surgery at the start of training camp. Cox and LaMichael James are next in line for punt-return duties. On kickoffs, James was pretty good after taking over the job. Williams and Kendall Hunter are also possibilities. Still, it would not hurt to bring in more competition.

Wide receiver: Do the 49ers need a deep threat? That's why they drafted A.J. Jenkins in the first round a year ago. Michael Crabtree and Anquan Boldin are the starters. The 49ers have Mario Manningham under contract for one more season. He is not expected to be ready for the start of training camp due to his season-ending knee injury, but the 49ers can take their time. He would be the likely No. 3 receiver, unless Jenkins makes significant strides. Williams has the chance to work himself into a role. Still, the 49ers can be expected to add to the competition with another addition or two.

Backup outside pass-rusher: Parys Haralson is under contract and could serve as a backup to Aldon Smith and Ahmad Brooks. The 49ers also have a couple of 2012 draft choice returning, Darius Fleming and Cam Johnson. Fleming missed his entire rookie season with a knee injury. He was a constant at the team's practice facility during the season, working out to get back on the field. The 49ers visited last week with pass-rusher John Abraham, recently released by the Atlanta Falcons, so they are looking at veterans, too. Abraham remains unsigned.

Special teams: The 49ers looked at backup inside linebacker and special-teamer Lorenzo Alexander (Washington). With backup inside linebackers Larry Grant and Tavares Gooden hitting free agency, and the club not placing a tender on Darcel McBath as a restricted free agent, the club will need to add backups to run down and cover kicks.

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