Setting Odds for 49ers Signing Their Top Free Agent Targets
Much to the dismay of San Francisco 49ers fans, the Seattle Seahawks are Super Bowl champs. With the season concluded, the focus will shift to the daily grind of the NFL offseason, including free agency.
Under the Trent Baalke/Jim Harbaugh era, the 49ers haven't been considered big spenders in free agency. This will likely not change in 2014, as the 49ers will look to re-sign key players such as quarterback Colin Kaepernick and receiver Michael Crabtree.
However, with free agency, expect the unexpected.
Only a handful of players actually receive big payouts, while the rest are waiting to pick up the leftovers. As shown in the past, the 49ers have done rather well with the latter group.
Let's take a look at some players who could catch the 49ers' eye in 2014.
Donte Whitner, SS
Odds: 75 percent
Will Donte Whitner take a similar approach to former 49ers safety Dashon Goldson? As we all remember, Goldson followed the money trail—as he should—to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to the tune of nearly $42 million.
After two average seasons, Whitner played fantastic football in 2013. Was 2013 an anomaly? The 49ers' opening offer will tell a lot about their interest level in bringing back the veteran safety.
The 49ers almost never stray away from their initial value of a player. With key free agents yet to re-sign, the cap space is a precious commodity that they can ill afford to waste.
Unlike Goldson, however, I think there is a strong chance that Whitner and the 49ers come to an agreement. The 49ers were lucky that Eric Reid made such a seamless transition at safety, a position that younger players tend to struggle with in their first few years.
Anquan Boldin, WR
Odds: 90 percent
The 49ers' focus this offseason, outside of locking up Kaepernick to an extension, is re-signing star receiver Anquan Boldin.
In his first season with the 49ers, Boldin was everything Baalke expected and much more. For just a sixth-round pick, the 49ers front office received great value for a Super Bowl-winning receiver.
Can both sides come to a fair agreement?
With Boldin turning 34 in October, the 49ers will in all likelihood steer away from a three- or four-year deal. A two-year deal with heavy guaranteed money is something both sides will consider.
Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea.com seems to agree, suggesting the 49ers offer Boldin a two-year deal in the range of $10 million—$6 million guaranteed.
Whatever the final numbers amount to, I would be hard-pressed to believe that Baalke and Boldin can't come to some agreement at the end of the day.
Look for Boldin to stay in the red and gold.
Kenny Britt, WR
Odds: 60 percent
At 6'3'' and 229 pounds Kenny Britt has the perfect size-to-speed combination you're looking for in a top-level receiver. However, as many have come to find out, Britt's maturity level hasn't caught up yet.
The 49ers or any team for that matter would be taking a slight risk in signing Britt.
On the surface, a Crabtree, Boldin and Britt combination could be lethal. After running a two tight end offense for most of Harbaugh's stay, the 49ers could look to spread it out more in 2014.
For this to be successful, the 49ers need to find more speed on the outside. Britt can bring that at a cheap price, but again, what if things don't go as planned? What if this turns out to be another Brandon Jacobs situation?
Britt can fill a need, but he'll have to convince the 49ers and other organizations that his off-the-field issues are a thing of the past.
Phil Dawson, K
Odds: 95 percent
Outside of Anquan Boldin, Phil Dawson is a must-sign for the 49ers this offseason. After many suffered through David Akers' up-and-down play, Dawson's steady leg was refreshing for 49ers fans.
In fact, I would say Dawson had one of his strongest years with the 49ers. Dawson tied his season high in attempts (36) in 2013, and made a season-high 32 field goals.
While I'm sure Dawson could get a pay raise in the offseason, he seems to like it in the Bay Area. After the crushing defeat to the Seattle Seahawks in the NFC Championship Game, Dawson stated he "absolutely" wants to return to San Fran.
Dawson is up there in age, but with kickers does it really matter? Baalke should get this one right.
Vontae Davis, CB
Odds: 50 percent
If 49ers fans are taking a ride to dreamland, Brent Grimes or Aqib Talib are probably the better players, but believe me, Vontae Davis has a real shot in signing with the red and gold.
As I said before, only a handful of players get big deals going into the open market. As good as Vontae Davis can become, he will likely meet the same fate as other 2013 free-agent cornerbacks like Talib and Grimes.
Now, the 49ers' future cap space is pretty grim; however, Baalke does have a little more than $5 million to work with this season. This is without any major roster cuts.
The 49ers would likely entertain this idea if either Whitner or Tarell Brown departs in free agency. Also, Carlos Rogers' cap figure may force the 49ers to cut the veteran cornerback.
In Vic Fangio's defense, Davis would be a great complement to Tramaine Brock. He's physical and under the right tutelage his potential is downright scary.
The 49ers could even use Vernon Davis as an inside source to his brother's mind. If you didn't realize it before, Vontae and Vernon are brothers.
Crazier things have happened, but I firmly believe teams will be reluctant to shell out big money in 2014. This could leave some talented players like Davis looking for one-year deals, which plays right in Baalke's hands.
Emmanuel Sanders, WR
Odds: 50 percent
After ESPN initially suggested that the 49ers should reach out to Emmanuel Sanders, the floodgates have somewhat opened. Is Sanders really a realistic target for the 49ers? I would say so.
Like the situation with Vontae Davis, Sanders likely won't see major offers on the table. Let's start with the obvious: Sanders isn't a No. 1 receiver.
However, on a team like the 49ers, he could be a dangerous threat on the outside. With a burner like Sanders on the outside, Davis, Crabtree and Boldin will have a field day working the middle of the field. In addition, Sanders could bring some special teams value to the 49ers, especially if they consider trading LaMichael James in the offseason.
The 49ers would likely have to get Sanders under a one-year deal for this to work, but this should be manageable for Trent Baalke and Co.