Maiocco: Who's in, who's out for new-look 49ers

August 4, 2011, 4:29 pm
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Fans of the 49ers are working through the Seven Stages of Free-Agent Grief.Among their torrent of emotions, the ardent followers of the team have experienced shock. There's also been a healthy dose of anger. And they have begged the 49ers to bargain with any player whose name they recognize.After a busy past couple days for general manager Trent Baalke and chief negotiator Paraag Marathe, it seems a good portion of the fan base is stuck somewhere between acceptance and hope. (And if that doesn't sum up your position, you're free to express it in the comments section below).Here is a look at how the 49ers expect to fill the positions of the starters who are departing after a 6-10 season:Nose tackle
Isaac Sopoaga for Aubrayo Franklin
The 49ers never intended to bring back Franklin, as they did not place as high a value on his services as most thought they would. Apparently, the 49ers weren't alone. When Franklin hit the open market, he simply had a difficult time finding any interested teams. The 49ers brought Franklin in for a visit on Monday, and that might have prompted the New Orleans Saints to jump in and sign him to a one-year deal. The Saints did well to get a player of Franklin's caliber on the cheap. Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams said 49ers linebacker Patrick Willis was probably "crying in his milk." Sopoaga takes over for Franklin. He's bigger and stronger than Franklin, who played with great technique. Everything seemed to click last season for Sopoaga, who had a very good season at left defensive end. The 49ers are fully confident Sopoaga and clog up the middle and attract more double-teams.Left defensive end
Ray McDonald for Isaac Sopoaga
The 49ers locked up McDonald with a five-year, 20 million contract to assume the starting role. This should provide an upgrade in the pass-rush department. Although McDonald did not record a sack last season, he was the master of the near-miss. He was second on the team in quarterback pressures. McDonald will have to prove that he's as stout against the run because he did not get much playing time last year on base downs.Outside linebacker
Aldon Smith for Manny Lawson
The day the 49ers selected Smith with the No. 7 overall pick, it was apparent the club would make no attempt to re-sign Lawson. As it turned out, there was not much interest from anyone else, either. Lawson signed a one-year, 3.5 million deal with the Bengals. Lawson was a good player on first and second downs, but he never gave the 49ers much of a pass rush. And that's why they selected him in the first round of the 2006 draft. Smith, meanwhile, has looked impressive as a pass-rusher once the pads went on at training camp. Smith's job will be to rush the passer, and he should be better at that job description than Lawson, who recorded 14.5 sacks in 64 games with the 49ers.Inside linebacker
NaVorro Bowman for Takeo Spikes
The 49ers drafted Bowman in the third round last year to eventually play alongside Willis, providing the 49ers with another player with sideline-to-sideline range. Bowman struggled early last season as a nickel linebacker, while Spikes put together an outstanding year. When Bowman played the entire game in the season finale, he recorded 15 tackles and looked much more comfortable. Spikes received a three-year, 9.5 million deal from the Chargers, and the 49ers were never going to approach that kind of commitment to the 13-year veteran.Right cornerback
Carlos Rogers for Nate Clements
Obviously, Clements' salary was going to make his return unlikely. And the 49ers were looking for an upgrade at cornerback, anyway. Rogers has been in the league six years, and he still has his legs. Clements struggled with his cover skills down the field. One team source said Rogers impressed them as a cover man. He struggles with holding onto interceptions, but he is in position to make a lot of plays. Rogers was looking for a big contract that never materialized. So he signed a one-year deal with the 49ers.Safety
Madieu Williams for Dashon Goldson
OK, OK, we're jumping the gun on this one. The 49ers signed Williams to a one-year deal that does not include any guaranteed money. If Goldson re-signs, he'll be the starter. And the longer he goes without attracting interest on the open market, the more it looks as if the 49ers will retain Goldson's services. The Cowboys showed interest in Goldson. But on back-to-back days, the Cowboys re-signed Gerald Sensabaugh and added Browns free-agent Abram Elam. CSN colleague Mindi Bach reports that Goldson's agent, Drew Rosenhaus, is scheduled to meet this week with the 49ers. (Rosenhaus also represents running back Frank Gore, who is in line for a contract extension.) Williams is a respected veteran, but he is not a slam-dunk starter. The 49ers have to be pleased with Reggie Smith, who has been the top performer in the secondary during training camp. He has put himself in position to win a starting job, regardless of his competition. Taylor Mays is yet to take that next step.
Jonathan Goodwin for David Baas
Baas played very well last season in place of injured Eric Heitmann, and the 49ers placed a priority on re-signing him. However, when the New York Giants came strong with big money, the 49ers decided Baas wasn't worth the price. Baas has played only one season at center. Goodwin has played nine years in the league, including the past three as the New Orleans Saints' starter. He has a Super Bowl ring and a 2009 Pro Bowl appearance on his resume. The 49ers landed him Wednesday with a three-year, 10.9 million contract with 4 million guaranteed. He'll be the starter, freeing up Adam Snyder to potentially be the back up at every spot on the line.Kicker
David Akers for Joe Nedney
The 49ers replaced Nedney, the most accurate kicker in team history, with a five-time Pro Bowl player. But Nedney has been plagued by injuries, and the 49ers went after Akers, whom the Eagles had already replaced with a draft pick. Akers, 36, is still pretty good. He made 32 of 38 field-goal attempts last season with two misses in 11 tries outside 40 yards. The 49ers signed Akers to a three-year, 9 million deal.