After the Seattle Seahawks won Super Bowl XLVIII, all 32 teams officially entered the offseason and started plotting how they could position themselves for a shot at Super Bowl XLIX. Shutdown Corner will look at the offseason blueprint for each of the 32 NFL teams, presenting one team a day (using the 2014 draft order, starting with the Houston Texans and finishing with the Seahawks), leading you right up to the start of free agency on Tuesday.
SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS 2013 record: 12-4
Projected current salary-cap space (according to OverTheCap.com): $8.4 million under the cap
Possible salary-cap casualties: CB Carlos Rogers.
Draft situation: The 49ers own the 30th pick in the first round and a league-high 11 picks (before compensatory picks are announced). They have the Kansas City Chiefs’ second-round pick from the Alex Smith trade. They have the Tennessee Titans’ third-round pick from a 2013 draft day trade. They have the New Orleans Saints’ seventh-round pick from the Parys Haralson trade. They have the Carolina Panthers’ seventh-round pick from the Colin Jones trade.
[Be sure to check out Shutdown Corner's NFL free-agent rankings. Click here for the list of offensive players, and click here for the list of defensive and special teams players]
Revisiting 2013: It was a fascinating season for the 49ers, who endured a couple of brief cold snaps sandwiched around winning streaks of five and six games. Colin Kaepernick didn’t make major progress in his first full season of starting after the Super Bowl run the year prior, and the offensive line didn’t always block the way it should. But Jim Harbaugh’s team was built to last. The defense toughened up, allowing 20 or fewer points in 11 of the final 13 regular-season games, and the offense got going. The 49ers even beat the rival Seahawks in Week 14 after losing to them by 26 in Week 2. But it wasn’t enough to topple them in the division, and after yet another impressive road playoff run with two victories, the 49ers fell in the final minute at Seattle in the NFC championship game as Kaepernick was picked off in the end zone. Three years, three conference title games, but zero championships.
Reasons for optimism: The 49ers have as strong a core as almost any team, with a power run game, a young and ascending quarterback and some good receiving targets. Defensively, there are playmakers on all three levels, along with good special teams. They are loaded again with draft picks to help fill their needs, with 11 currently and another fairly high pick likely to come their way in the form of a compensatory choice, after having lost Dashon Goldson and others a year ago. They also expect contributions from 2013 draft picks Tank Carradine and Marcus Lattimore, who are coming off injuries. Harbaugh, despite being tough to work with, has proven himself to be one of the league’s best coaches, backed by a strong staff.
Glaring hole to fill: Age and depth are problems on defense, where Justin Smith, Ray McDonald, Ahmad Brooks and Rogers all will be over 30 on opening day. Rogers could be cut, and Brown, Whitner and Wright are free agents, so the secondary needs some fresh bodies. In addition, NaVorro Bowman is coming off ACL surgery, so the depth at linebacker has taken a hit. Smith’s snaps need to be controlled at age 35, which is why it shouldn’t be surprising that the 49ers are looking at versatile and younger defensive linemen such as the Seahawks’ Michael Bennett in free agency.
Toughest decision: The long-term issues that are most pressing have to do with the contracts of Harbaugh and Kaepernick, and though neither one is likely to get an extension this offseason, the groundwork might slowly start to be laid. Will Harbaugh coach differently considering the drama surrounding his situation? Not likely. Much of the reports of internal strife are overblown. Can he be prickly or difficult to work with? Perhaps, but the results are there and the team can’t ignore that. Likewise for Kaepernick, facing a big payday won’t change his approach and a decision on his contract can wait for a team that wants to see him take another step in his development. But that doesn’t mean all of this isn’t fascinating to watch play out.
Best-case offseason scenario: The team will add depth on all three layers of the defense via free agency and the draft, with a heavier emphasis on the latter route. It might lose a few players, such as Rogers and Whitner, but those can be sustained. Adding one burner at wide receiver to complement Anquan Boldin, Vernon Davis and Michael Crabtree would be ideal, and supplementing the depth on the offensive line (especially on the inside) should be strongly considered. Also, don’t rule out the 49ers taking a developmental quarterback, considering their bevy of draft picks and to protect themselves in case things get off track with Kaepernick. That said, this team is loaded and is thinking Super Bowl now.
Previous Blueprints: 32. Houston Texans; 31. Washington Redskins; 30. Jacksonville Jaguars; 29. Cleveland Browns; 28. Oakland Raiders; 27. Atlanta Falcons; 26. Tampa Bay Buccaneers; 25. Minnesota Vikings; 24. Buffalo Bills; 23. Detroit Lions; 22. Tennessee Titans; 21. New York Giants; 20. St. Louis Rams; 19. Chicago Bears; 18. Pittsburgh Steelers; 17. Dallas Cowboys; 16. Baltimore Ravens; 15. New York Jets; 14. Miami Dolphins; 13. Arizona Cardinals; 12. Green Bay Packers; 11. Philadelphia Eagles; 10. Kansas City Chiefs; 9. Cincinnati Bengals; 8. San Diego Chargers; 7. Indianapolis Colts; 6. Carolina Panthers; 5. New England Patriots
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