49ers -- offseason at a glance

49ers -- offseason at a glance
March 29, 2012, 6:07 pm
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Since the middle of last season when 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.And that point was amplified when new contracts for quarterback Alex Smith (cap figure of 9.25 for 2012) and cornerback Carlos Rogers (5.5 million) were structured to take up cap room now rather than later.The 49ers did not save up to make a big free-agent acquisition -- such as Pittsburgh wide receiver Mike Wallace, who remains available as a restricted free agent.
Again, the 49ers' strategy was to let the initial surge of free-agent overspending die down and then make reasonable deals. This approach brought former New York Giants Mario Manningham and Brandon Jacobs to the 49ers.REPORT: 49ers agree with RB Brandon Jacobs
Manningham did not secure a top-dollar free-agent contract, so it made sense for him to sign a two-year deal with the 49ers. Jacobs, whom the Giants released earlier this month, ended up with a one-year deal near the minimum level.While the big spending is over, the 49ers still have the ability to add a veteran player or two at the minimum level.Here's a look at the team's scorecard after more than two weeks of free agency:ADDITIONS
WR Mario Manningham (UFA, Giants): He was Eli Manning's third option behind Hakeem Nicks and Victor Cruz with the Giants. Manningham averaged 50 receptions a season over the past three years. He comes to the 49ers and will be looking for more action while competing with fellow wideouts Michael Crabtree and Randy Moss, as well as tight end Vernon Davis.
RB Brandon Jacobs (UFA, cut by Giants): Last week, Anthony Dixon expressed disappointment in his 2011 season while speaking with reporters outside the 49ers' practice facility. "I can do way more for the team than I did," Dixon said. The 49ers want a backup running back who can be an every-down option. And that's why the club signed Jacobs to a one-year deal. Think about the NFC championship game. At the beginning of the fourth quarter, Frank Gore hobbled off after gaining 6 yards. Dixon was called upon. He gained 3 yards on a second-and-4 play from the New York 49. Then, on third and 1, the 49ers went with Dixon again. He was stopped for no gain, forcing the 49ers to punt. The 49ers look back on that sequence as an example of where Jacobs can make the team better.
WR Randy Moss (UFA, Titans, 2010): This was a low-risk signing for the 49ers, who guaranteed Moss no money. It's basically a sixth-month tryout for a wide receiver who ranks as one of the all-time great talents. If Moss still has his speed and passion for the game after returning from retirement, then it's a great move. If not, the 49ers can cut ties and move on.
QB Josh Johnson (UFA, Buccaneers): This is all about competition. Coach Jim Harbaugh says that the quarterback job is not anointed, it's earned. And it's up to Johnson to earn his spot on the depth chart. It seems highly unlikely that Johnson can win the starting job right away, but this move is a signal to Alex Smith and backup Colin Kaepernick that they'll continue to get pushed.
RB Rock Cartwright (UFA, Raiders): The 49ers signed him for his play on special teams. He covers kickoffs and punts. In a pinch, he can also return kicks. And in an extreme pinch, he can play some running back, too.
CB Perrish Cox (UFA, 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. Acquitted for a sexual assault charge in March, Cox is receiving a chance from the 49ers to rebuild his career and his reputation. He also has return skills.
LS Brian Pontbriand (UFA, street free agent): Former Pro Bowl long-snapper played for 49ers special-teams coordinator Brad Seely with the Browns. But after a couple of bad games last season, he was released. It's difficult to envision him with much of a chance to beat out the 49ers' own Pro Bowl long-snapper, Brian Jennings, who has been Mr. Steady since his arrival in 2000.RE-SIGNINGS
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 holding their collective breath on Peyton Manning's decision. 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 CSNBayArea.com. The bottom line is that the 49ers made a one-year financial commitment, and 2012 is potentially another make-or-break season for Smith.
WR Ted Ginn (UFA): The top return specialist on the market wanted a chance to be more than a return specialist. But after taking trips to meet with the Lions, Ravens and Vikings, he returned to the 49ers on a one-year deal to be the team's return specialist. His importance to the team became obvious after his absence from the NFC championship game was the major game-changer in the 49ers' loss to the Giants.
CB Carlos Rogers (UFA): On the first day of free agency, Rogers got a good handle on the market and quickly struck a deal to return to the 49ers on a four-year contract, 29.3 million contract. With the re-signing of Rogers, the 49ers were able to pull off the accomplishment of keeping their defense intact from a year ago.
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 he should remain in that role into the foreseeable future. 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): He was not the coaches' nominee for the Pro Bowl, but it's pretty clear the front office evaluated him as the team's most valuable special-teams performer. Spillman signed a three-year contract, which included a 925,000 signing bonus. He had a role last year as an extra defensive back in the goal-line and short-yardage defense. Right now, he is the third safety on the roster behind starters Dashon Goldson and Donte Whitner.
LB Tavares Gooden (UFA): The 49ers wrapped him up for one year to serve as a core special-teams player, as well as a backup at inside linebacker.
CB Tramaine Brock (EFA): The exclusive rights free agent will be back to compete for a roster spot after being the 49ers' No. 4 cornerback for much of last season.
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.FRANCHISE PLAYER
S Dashon Goldson (UFA): He fired agent Drew Rosenhaus and hired Ben Dogra of CAA Sports, with whom the 49ers have worked closely in the past. 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.
RESTRICTED FREE AGENT
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. 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.SUBTRACTIONS
OL Adam Snyder (UFA, Cardinals): The 49ers presented Snyder with a contract proposal that was considered a "low ball" offer. Hitting the market paid off for Snyder, who found a team that valued his services more than the 49ers. Snyder signed a five-year, 17.5 million contract with the division-rival Cardinals.
WR Joshua Morgan (UFA, 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.
CB Shawntae Spencer (released, 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.
LB Blake Costanzo (UFA, 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 a little more versatile.UNSIGNED FREE AGENTS
RG Chilo Rachal: Benched at halftime of the 49ers' third game, Rachal is free to find a job elsewhere. He took a free-agent visit to meet with the St. Louis Rams, but left town without a contract.
S Reggie Smith: The sides agreed that Smith should look for a better opportunity. It's been a quiet offseason, and the door on a return is not completely shut.
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 with no compensation. The 49ers have been focused on improving their depth at wideout.OTHER FREE-AGENT VISITS
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. He worked out March 26 with the 49ers, 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 ended up signing -- as he'd planned all along -- with the Patriots.FREE-AGENT WORKOUT
On March 19, the 49ers arranged for a mass workout of players who were mostly out of the league last season. It was a way for the 49ers to update their information on the pool of "street free agents." The 49ers have yet to sign any of the players. Among the reported players who took part in the workout:QB Brian Brohm (Packers, Bills); QB Matt Gutierrez (Patriots, Chiefs); RB James Davis (Browns, Redskins); RB Albert Young (Vikings); RB Chauncey Washington (Jaguars, Cowboys, Jets, Rams); WR Johnnie Lee Higgins (Raiders); WR Keary Colbert (Panthers, Broncos, Seahawks, Lions, Chiefs); OT Langston Walker (Raiders, Bills); OT Alex Barron (Rams, Saints); C Cory Procter (Cowboys, Dolphins); C Jon Cooper (Vikings); DE Bobby McCray (Jaguars, Saints); LB Quentin Moses (Raiders, Dolphins); CB Jackie Bates (Chiefs); S Dominique Harris (Buccaneers); S Jerome Boyd (Raiders).