Risk and reward among 49ers’ offseason moves

It will be months, if not years, before we know the true value of the 49ers’ 2010 offseason transactions. But some of them clearly came with greater risk (and perhaps greater reward) than others. Here is a look at the team’s major moves since January 1, categorized according to the Homeland Security Advisory System - because something worthwhile has to come out of those much-ignored color codes.

LOW (GREEN)
Re-signing LB Patrick Willis:
Yes, $29 million in guarantees is a lot of cash for one man. If Willis sustains a career-ending injury, it will be money down the drain. But this guy has been as durable as he is produtive. He’s as close as it gets to a sure thing in the NFL.


Trading for WR Ted Ginn Jr.: A fifth-round draft choice is a pittance for a sprinter who will vie for both catches and kick returns, even if he’ll earn $1.036 million by making the roster.
Hiring Mike Solari as offensive line coach: Solari, who learned under the great Bobb McKittrick, is very highly regarded among NFL coaches. He was available, and the 49ers snapped him up. What’s not to like?

GUARDED (BLUE)
Drafting G Mike Iupati:
Offensive linemen are notoriously unreliable as first-round picks, and Idaho isn’t exactly an NFL factory. Iupati seems like a fairly safe bet, though, because of his strength and tenacity.
Drafting LB Navorro Bowman: No telling if Bowman has the toughness or instincts to play his way into Greg Manusky’s 3-4 defense anytime soon. Seems like he’s worth a third-round pick, though.
Hiring Kurt Schottenheimer as special teams coordinator: Despite Marty’s brother being out of football last year and not having coached special teams since 1994, it’s hard to argue with this hire. Schottenheimer has a strong NFL pedigree, including five seasons as a defensive coordinator.

ELEVATED (YELLOW)
Elevating Trent Baalke’s responsibilities:
On the surface, this seems like a risky decision. A little more than two years ago, Baalke was just a regional scout for the 49ers. It’s a big jump to making the final decision on draft day. Then again, the team was sort of behind the 8-ball when Scot McCloughan stepped down a month before the draft.
Placing franchise tag on NT Aubrayo Franklin: You could argue that $7 million is too much for Franklin. But the franchise tag is inherently safe: It’s for only one year, and the 49ers would get a pair of first-round picks should another team sign him away.
Trading QB Shaun Hill and signing David Carr to two-year contract: Hill knew Jimmy Raye’s system and had actually performed fairly well in SF. Then again, if you’re going to replace him, Carr seems like a solid No. 2 despite his unrealized potential.
Signing LB Ahmad Brooks to two-year contract: Brooks’ salary – $900,000 this year, $1.2 million in 2011 – looks inflated when you consider that he hasn’t started a game for the 49ers. His six sacks during a breakout season in 2009 present a counter-argument.
Signing LB Travis LaBoy to one-year contract: LaBoy is coming off major foot surgery and has entered the NFL’s substance program. That sounds risky. One season at $750,000 does not.

HIGH (ORANGE)
Drafting T Anthony Davis:
While most analysts liked this pick, Davis is anything but a sure bet. His motivation and conditioning will be in question until he shows his worth on the field. And when you consider that the 49ers traded away a fourth-round pick just to move up two spots -from No. 13 overall to No. 11 – and select Davis, the gamble looks that much bigger.

SEVERE (RED)
Drafting S Taylor Mays:
This kid has boom-or-bust written all over him. He’s big and fast. He also played a position at USC that doesn’t seem to exist with the 49ers. He seems like a smart player. He also got a few earfuls from Mike Singletary at the recent rookie camp. He could be a game-changing safety, a steal in the second round. Or he could be a sizable mistake.

 

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