The 49ers, as currently constructed, are probably talented enough to play in the Super Bowl right now.
But, if they add a big, No.1 wide receiver this offseason they could be big preseason Super Bowl favorites for 2012, even without an elite quarterback.
They’d have a complete juggernaut of a roster. Their biggest weakness would be Alex Smith, and he’s not weak.
So, which wide receiver should they add?
He needs to be big. He needs to be an ‘X,’ or a split end. Michael Crabtree and Joshua Morgan (who’s a free agent but will likely re-sign on a one-year deal) are more flanker/slot receiver types. The Niners need a very good version of Braylon Edwards. If he’s fast, that’s even better. But he needs to be a red-zone threat first and foremost.
Two free agents fit that description: Dwayne Bowe and Vincent Jackson.
Bowe is 6’2” and he weighs 221 lbs. He’ll be 28 years old next season, and in 2010 he caught 15 touchdown passes from Matt Cassel. He’s exactly what the 49ers need.
Jackson is 6’5”, 241lbs., and he’ll be 29 next year. He caught nine touchdown passes this season.
Either guy would probably make the Niners preseason Super Bowl favorites, but would they likely sign in San Francisco?
I say no for a couple of reasons. One is the Niners will have to spend most of their money re-signing their own free agents. They probably won’t have enough money to spend top dollar on a top wide out.
Here’s the other reason: Would a top wide out want to sign with the Niners? Yes, he’d have a very good chance to win a Super Bowl, but he wouldn’t have a good chance at making future Pro Bowls. Greg Roman typically calls only 20 to 30 pass plays a game. Plus, Alex Smith is still the quarterback. Could Bowe or Jackson put aside his ego to come play for the conservative Harbaugh, Roman and Smith, or would they rather sign with other contenders who have more prolific passers and more aggressive offenses?
I’m betting Bowe and Jackson sign elsewhere.
But Trent Baalke likes to build through the draft, anyway, and there are a couple intriguing first-round prospects: Michael Floyd and Alshon Jeffery.
Floyd is a 6’3”, 224 lb. 22-year-old from Notre Dame. He’s big, he’s got great hands and he’s a premier red-zone receiver. He’s not extremely fast, but he’s fast for his size and he is a downfield threat. He’s probably going to get drafted somewhere in the teens of the first round, so the Niners would have to trade up to get him. The trade would cost them their first and second round picks, at least.
Jeffery is a 6’4”, 229 lb. 21-year-old from South Carolina. He’s bigger and slower than Floyd. If Floyd is a red-zone-target-plus, then Jeffery is just a red-zone target. On the other hand, he’s less expensive – he’ll probably be available for the Niners when they pick at the end of the first round.
I say Baalke should trade up for Floyd. He has the potential to be a No. 1 wide receiver, and I don’t think Jeffery does.
The Niners roster is so talented they can afford to trade their second round pick this year to jump up in the first round and grab a big-time wide receiver.
They don’t need depth. They need their missing Super Bowl piece.