Colin Kaepernick took the 49ers offense to a new level (USA Today Sports Images)
After taking a few days to focus on the 2013 NFL scouting combine, "Shutdown Corner" resumes our TPS reports (Office Space), where we take a look back at each team's 2012 season and a look at what lies ahead for the 2013 offseason. We finish our spin around the league with the San Francisco 49ers.
2012 record: 11-4-1
What went wrong: Very little went wrong for the NFC champs, but they surely would have like to have done a better job taking care of business against the St. Louis Rams in 2012. The 49ers and Rams played for 75 minutes in a 24-24 tie at Candlestick Park on Nov. 11 and then nearly played another 75 minutes in a 16-13 overtime win for the Rams at the Edwards Jones Dome on Dec. 2. "Shutdown Corner" noted on Feb. 4 how those two games might have saved linebacker Ahmad Brooks $1.6 million in base salary in 2013.
During the regular season, the 49ers got very little from first-round wide receiver A.J. Jenkins and second-round running back LaMichael James, the team's first two picks in the 2012 NFL Draft. Jenkins was inactive for 11 games, logged just 35 snaps over the other five, and did not catch the one pass thrown his way. James was inactive for the first 12 games of the season, but gained 125 yards on 27 carries, caught three passes for 29 yards and averaged 29.8 yards on 14 kick returns on 76 total snaps over the final four weeks of the season. James scored his first NFL touchdown in the NFC championship game win over the Atlanta Falcons, while Jenkins did not play in the postseason.
The 49ers thought Brandon Jacobs could be the big-bodied complement to Frank Gore, but Jacobs struggled to get a jersey (inactive for 10 games) and had just five carries for seven yards before he was suspended by the team for three games and waived on Dec. 31.
After being one of the NFL's top special teams units in 2011, the 49ers backslid in 2012, finishing 20th in Football Outsiders' opponent-adjusted special teams DVOA (Defense-adjusted Value Over Average). A large part of that was due to the struggles of kicker David Akers, who was just 29-of-42 on field goal attempts. Nine of Akers' 13 misses were on attempts from inside 49 yards and the 49ers could look for a new kicker this offseason.
What went right: Head coach Jim Harbaugh's somewhat controversial decision to stick with Colin Kaepernick at quarterback after Alex Smith was concussed midway through the season turned out to be the right move. With the 6-foot-5, 233-pound Kaepernick under center, or in the pistol formation, the 49ers were a more dynamic offense, capable of giving opposing defensive coordinator fits preparing for the run-pass threat the 2011 second-round pick out of Nevada presents.
The 49ers had the NFL's fourth-ranked rushing offense, averaging 155.7 yards per game on the ground. Kaepernick (415 yards, five touchdowns) certainly played a part in that, but the workhorse on the ground was Gore, who ran for 1,214 yards and eight touchdowns, finishing fourth among NFL running backs in Football Outsiders' rushing DYAR (Defense-adjusted Yards Above Replacement) metric. With a potent rushing attack, the 49ers were just 23rd in passing yards per game, but were third in the league in passing yards play as Michael Crabtree emerged as a big-play threat, catching 85 passes for 1,105 yards and nine touchdowns in the regular season before catching another 20 balls for 285 yards and three touchdowns in the playoffs.
San Francisco's offensive line was first in Football Outsiders' "Adjusted Line Yards" metric and had two players – left tackle Joe Staley and left guard Mike Iupati – selected to start the Pro Bowl.
Defensively, the 49ers ranked third in total defense, second in scoring defense and ranked in the Top 5 against the run, the pass and on third downs. Over half of the 49ers were selected for the Pro Bowl, including starters defensive end Justin Smith, linebackers Aldon Smith and Patrick Willis and safeties Donte Whitner and Dashon Goldson, while inside linebacker NaVorro Bowman was a reserve.
Coaching/front office changes: Vice president of player personnel Tom Gamble was a candidate for GM openings this offseason before leaving the team to become the vice president of player personnel with the Philadelphia Eagles.
Estimated 2013 cap space: Around $850,000.
Possible cap casualties: The 49ers will free up $8.5 million in cap space when they officially trade quarterback Alex Smith to the Kansas City Chiefs. Additional cap space could be created this offseason by releasing kicker David Akers ($3 million) and outside linebacker Parys Haralson ($2.87 million). Veteran center Jonathan Goodwin is scheduled to earn $3.7 million in base salary and has a cap number over $5 million in the final year of his contract. Releasing him would save over $4 million in cap space, but do the 49ers really want to disrupt the continuity on an offensive line that was so productive last season?
All-Pro defensive lineman Justin Smith is scheduled to earn $8 million in cash with an $8 million cap number in the final year of his contract. The 49ers have the right to convert a portion of his $7.5 million base salary into a signing bonus and could extend the 33-year-old's contract to gain some cap relief in 2013.
Unrestricted free agents
Leonard Davis, G
Ted Ginn, WR/RS
Dashon Goldson, S
Tavares Gooden, LB
Larry Grant, LB
Clark Haggans, LB
Ricky Jean-Francois, DL
Randy Moss, WR
Isaac Sopoaga, DT
Delanie Walker, TE
Restricted free agents
Tramaine Brock, CB
Darcel McBath, S
RFA tender amounts in 2013 are:
• $1.323 million for right of first refusal and/or original draft round compensation
• $2.023 for right of first refusal and second round draft selection
• $2.879 for right of first refusal and first round draft selection
Franchise Tag candidates: The 49ers' most likely candidate to receive the franchise tag is Goldson, who played under a $6.212 million franchise tag in 2012 and earned Pro Bowl honors for the second consecutive season. According to Matt Barrows of The Sacramento Bee, the 49ers do not plan to use a second franchise tag on Goldson, which would have cost the 49ers $7.454 million in 2013.
Previous installments of the "Offseason TPS Reports" series:
AFC East: New England Patriots, Miami Dolphins, New York Jets, Buffalo Bills
AFC North: Baltimore Ravens, Cincinnati Bengals, Pittsburgh Steelers, Cleveland Browns
AFC South: Jacksonville Jaguars, Tennessee Titans, Indianapolis Colts, Houston Texans
AFC West: Kansas City Chiefs, Oakland Raiders, San Diego Chargers, Denver Broncos
NFC East: Philadelphia Eagles, Dallas Cowboys, New York Giants, Washington Redskins
NFC North: Detroit Lions, Chicago Bears, Minnesota Vikings, Green Bay Packers
NFC South: Carolina Panthers, New Orleans Saints, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Atlanta Falcons
NFC West: Arizona Cardinals, St. Louis Rams, Seattle Seahawks
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