Maiocco: Skepticism surrounds 49ers' approach

July 31, 2011, 1:47 am
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SANTA CLARA -- In the first five days of NFL free agency, the 49ers did nothing to excite their fan base.Oh, sure, there was the flirtation with cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha, widely considered the top free-agent on the market. But the 49ers bowed out of that competition, which the aggressive Philadelphia Eagles ultimately won.NEWS: Eagles land Nnamdi
The 49ers have holes on their roster at virtually every position. General manager Trent Baalke knows that as well as anyone. But, he said, it's all part of the plan."We went into this year with some needs, and we still feel confident we can address them -- but maybe not at the rate some people would've hoped we'd done so," Baalke said Saturday after the 49ers' second practice of training camp. The 49ers lost starting center David Baas to the New York Giants. They have yet to secure a replacement -- though the 49ers might be close to landing Chicago Bears free-agent Olin Kreutz.
The 49ers released cornerback Nate Clements, who immediately found a new home with the Cincinnati Bengals. They have yet to secure a replacement.NEWS: 49ers officially cut ties with Clements
The 49ers are expected to be without receiver Michael Crabtree for all of training camp. At least they've lined up a visit with a potential replacement.Plaxico Burress, who has not played since 2008, was scheduled arrive in the Bay Area on Saturday night to meet with coach Jim Harbaugh and team officials.The 49ers are in the market for a safety with Dashon Goldson testing the free-agency.Baalke is not letting anyone see him sweat."Every organization has their own approach to this," Baalke said. "There's going to be years when we are ultra-aggressive. But this isn't one of them. We have a plan, and we're going to execute it."Running back Frank Gore is not a free agent, but he's asking for a new contract, too. Gore skipped the first three days of training camp in hopes his holdout will lead to a deal that extends beyond the upcoming season."I don't think it caught anybody by surprise," Baalke said. "Certainly we'd like to Frank here. He's not here, so the only thing we can do is move forward and get the other guys ready to play."And that's the approach 49ers new defensive coordinator Vic Fangio has taken, too.The 49ers have already lost Clements and Takeo Spikes. It appears unlikely the 49ers will re-sign Aubrayo Franklin or outside linebacker Manny Lawson. Franklin's fate appeared sealed after the club paid Ray McDonald a five-year, 20 million contract. McDonald is slated to start at left defensive end, with Isaac Sopoaga moving to take Franklin spot at nose tackle.And Fangio did not seem too confident that Goldson would return, either."We got a lot of jobs open," Fangio said. "As it looks now, five starters from last year's team are not here and don't look promising for them to be here. That's a whole new defense right there."Baalke said he and Harbaugh do not consider this a rebuilding project."We're here to win football games," he said.RELATED: Harbaugh: 49ers 'working hard' at free agency
But Baalke's words certainly are not going to convince a fan base that would like to see the 49ers add some quality players while there are still some quality players to be found.The 49ers have not experienced a winning season since 2002, so there is plenty of reason to be skeptical about the 49ers' approach."I understand it," Baalke said. "It's tough for the fans to hear us saying, 'We're going to take a patient approach' when we've had as many seasons as we've had and not make the playoffs. That's understandable."We are going to be patient. We have been patient. We do have a plan. We're executing the plan. The only thing that's going to tell is the test of time. And how successful this plan is will be measured by how successful we are on the field."

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