Baalke on free agency and positive thinking

SANTA CLARA –

New general manager Trent Baalke spoke to the media behind a tent at the end of practice this afternoon.

He insisted he has a plan and he’s executing it, even though the 49ers haven’t brought in any big name free agents.

Here’s the transcript.

Q: There are reports that Plaxico Burress is on his way here. Is that accurate?

BAALKE: Like we’ve said all the time, we’re not going to talk about what our plan is or who’s coming or who’s not coming. That’s up to you guys to determine.

Q: With the injury to Crabtree does that make signing a wide receiver a priority?

BAALKE: I don’t know. Obviously every decision we make we’re trying to get the best roster put together that we can. Michael’s injury doesn’t have anything to do with whether or not we’re bring in another receiver.

Q: Has free agency gone as you expected so far?

BAALKE: It has. Obviously it’s at the stage of free agency where a lot of the big names come off the board and command big salaries, and then there’s a lull. We’re starting to get into that lull period. And then guys are going to start to get signed one by one.

Q: Did it catch the organization off guard that Gore was going to hold out for an extension?

BAALKE: I don’t think it caught anybody by surprise, but once again the contract status of players we’re not going to get to in the media.

Q: Do you have reason for optimism that he’ll be back here soon?

BAALKE: You’re always optimistic. The one thing we know about Frank is he loves to play football, so you’ve got to keep optimistic about everything.

Q: Have there been talks about an extension?

BAALKE: Once again, we’re not going to get into anything to do with contracts or anything regarding players. That’s going to remain between the team and the player.

Q: How bothered are you that Frank isn’t here by his choice not by yours?

BAALKE: I don’t think ‘bothered’ is the right word. Certainly we’d like to have Frank here, he’s not here, so the only thing we can do is move forward and get the other guys ready to play. You can look at the positives and the negatives like I always say. The positive side of it is that the young backs are getting a lot of work.

Q: Is this team prepared to go without Frank Gore into the regular season?

BAALKE: I think you always have to be prepared for everything that comes up, so are we prepared to do it? Certainly. There’s other players that are going to have to step up, but at the same time we fully expect Frank to be back.

Q: What affect did David Baas signing with the Giants have on your plans?

BAALKE: I don’t know that it affected us. We were prepared for the possibility. Was it something that we necessarily wanted to take place? No, but we certainly were prepared for it.

Q: Do you see this year as a rebuilding year or as the year to go for it?

BAALKE: Coach and I have been very, very on the same page in the sense that we’re never in a rebuilding process. We’re here to win. I don’t know if you look at any job in the National Football League as a rebuilding process, but we have a new football coach, obviously we have a new general manager, there’s a lot of newness, the staff is new, and we think there’s going to be change and that’s what we’re going through right now.

Q: Do you have the three defensive lineman that you expect to be your starters in Ray McDonald, Isaac Sopoaga at the nose, and Justin Smith?

BAALKE: That remains to be seen who the starters are going to be. That’s a process. We feel very good about the defensive front, not only with the veteran guys but also the younger guys that we brought in. It’s going to be a competitive group, it’s nine-deep, and we’ll roll out the ball and see who wins those jobs.

Q: From the outside looking in, I don’t know if you have a perception of this, but the fans look at it and say, ‘guys are leaving the Niners, the Niners aren’t getting anyone.’ Harbaugh talked yesterday about you guys taking a patient approach to free agency. Would you say that to fans who, some of them, appear to be scratching their heads?

BAALKE: I understand, it’s tough for the fans to look at it and hear us saying we’re going to take a patient approach when we’ve had as many seasons as we’ve had and not made the playoffs – that’s totally understandable. But, we are going to be patient, we have been patient, we do have a plan, we’re executing the plan, and I guess 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 become on the field.

Q: Could the newness of the team work against you in free agency?

BAALKE: There’s a lot of things that work for you and against you in free agency. A lot of it’s timing. I don’t think the newness has anything to do with it. Obviously, when players are looking at their options on where to go, they’re looking for a lot of times situations that bring them into a winning. That’s what we need to establish. We need to get back to where we were.

Q: How close did you think you might have been to signing Nnamdi Asomugha?

BAALKE: I’m not going to discuss how close we were to any of these people.

Q: Was there interest on your part?

BAALKE: There’s always a level of interest in every free agent that’s out there.

Q: When you said there’s going to be a lull, do you think some players were over paid in the rush to sign people and the lull will bring prices down?

BAALKE: I think that’s been proven over time that that is the case. I’m not going to sit here and say every player that signed early is overpaid, but you do pay a premium in free agency. If you look across the league right now, there’s teams that are being ultra aggressive. That’s the plan they went into free agency with, and that’s neither right nor wrong, that’s their plan. Our plan wasn’t to be ultra aggressive early in free agency, and that’s neither right nor wrong. Only time will tell who’s approach works the best, but if you look at what’s happened across the league and you look at the 32 teams, there’s a bunch of teams that are doing it the exact same way we are, and a bunch of those teams have been very successful doing it that way. Who’s to say what’s right or wrong? I’m not going to sit here and try to justify what we’re doing. We have a plan and we’re going to execute it.

Q: With all that cap space aren’t you compelled to be bigger players in free agency?

BAALKE: What we’re compelled to do is put the best football team together, the most competitive football team we can. Does that always mean that spending big in free agency is the way to do it? I’ve been through that. I don’t think that’s necessarily the right way to do it all the time? Is it always the wrong way to do it? No, every organization has their own approach to this. There’s going to be years where maybe we are ultra aggressive but this isn’t one of them. We have a plan, we’re going to execute it, and it’s not unlike a bunch of other teams in the National Football League at this point in time.

Q: Could you explain what it is about this season that makes you less aggressive?

BAALKE: There’s a lot of things that play into whether you’re going to be aggressive or not aggressive. Just like the draft, and I’ve always said it, there is a time to be aggressive, and that aggressiveness pays off. There’s also a time to be very patient and that has paid off. So I don’t think it’s any different. 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 have hoped we’d have done so.

Final moment in this scene. As we were leaving, a PR guy announce that the team had officially signed kicker David Akers.

“See, there’s a positive,” he said, as he raised his hands in victory.

 

Follow me on twitter @grantcohn.

 

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