Why the 49ers still want Crabtree

OK, now it’s time to give Michael Crabtree a little love . . .

 

I still haven’t found a respected football person who believes Crabtree (and agent Eugene Parker) has much of a case to get paid more than dictated by his draft position as No. 10 overall pick. Public sentiment is solidly on the side of the 49ers.

 

And there appears to be a large faction of 49ers fans who have voiced the opinion that the 49ers should turn their backs on Crabtree and move on without him. A couple weeks ago, I wrote that the 49ers’ best option might be to try to salvage something with a springtime trade.

 

But I keep going back to what somebody in the 49ers organization told me leading up to the draft: “In four years, the best player from this draft will be Michael Crabtree.”

 

The person did not tell me that Crabtree would be the best player as a rookie. He projected out four years. If you knew that Crabtree, in 2012, would be the best player to come out of this draft, wouldn’t you want him on your team and not some other team?

 

(Some of you might also ask, “If the 49ers think he’s going to be the best player, why don’t they pay him like it?” The answer: That’s not the way it works. The market value is created by where the player is drafted. In Aaron Rodgers’ official Green Bay Packers bio, it reads, “Rated by Packers personnel as one of the top players in the 2005 NFL Draft, (he) slipped all the way to Green Bay‘s No. 24 slot.” Making adjustments to the fact Rodgers plays quarterback, his contract was commensurate to where he was selected, not where he ranked on the Packers’ draft board.)

 

This Crabtree contract conflict has been relatively acrimony-free. The 49ers still want Crabtree on their team for at least five seasons, and they don’t want this impasse to get personal.

 

I don’t know Michael Crabtree. But I’ve spoken to enough players and people around the 49ers to know that he does not have many (or any) friends on the team. He is very confident. He has also been described as a loner. But I don’t get the impression he does not have the kind of personality that is going to rip apart a team like another notable receiver we’ve seen around these parts.

 

Once he gets on the field, Crabtree is a no-nonsense guy – from what I’ve heard. He’s working hard. He remains in great shape. (Also, the foot is not a concern. The 49ers believe he is completely healthy. When they last saw him at the end of OTAs, he was near full speed. He has reportedly caught passes from Trent Dilfer on three recent occasions.)

 

This contract stalemate will not mean a thing once he signs – if he signs.

 

Things have been so unpredictable during this entire situation. What’s Crabtree’s end game? I have no idea. It certainly strengthens his position to make everybody believe he is ready to sit out the entire season. The 49ers took a significant step recently to shut down one of Crabtree’s potential running lanes when they filed tampering charges against the Jets. Word is that the 49ers feel “pretty positive” about their accusations.

 

The only way it would make sense for Crabtree to sit out the season is if he knows there’s another team (or two) willing to pay him the kind of money he desires. I’ve heard the 49ers are not pursuing tampering charges against any other team.

 

Crabtree would be taking a huge gamble if he decides to sit out the season rather than take the $16 million guaranteed offer the 49ers have on the table. In the game of risk/reward, Crabtree has a great deal to lose.

 

That’s why if Crabtree decides he is not going to sign with the 49ers this season, it defies all logic.

 

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The high side of Crabtree’s contract offer might bump up against B.J. Raji’s max of $28.5 million. But there have to be concerns from Crabtree’s camp that he will come nowhere near reaching those incentives and escalators in Jimmy Raye’s run-oriented offense.

 

After all, through two games, only three 49ers wideouts have caught passes. Isaac Bruce, Josh Morgan and Arnaz Battle have combined for 14 receptions for 170 yards. There are 10 wide receivers in the league with more yards receiving than those three combined.

 

And, now, Brandon Jones – the 49ers’ highest-paid wideout — is rounding back into shape and should make his debut in the near future. There will be an even-greater WR logjam when (if) Crabtree signs. After all, the 49ers have not shown a willingness to put more than three wideouts on the field at the same time.

 

Tight end Vernon Davis is one of the team’s top targets, so he’s not going to come off the field in passing situations. Also, Raye loves to keep Frank Gore (or Glen Coffee) in the game on third downs as a pass-protector or check-down option.

 

When (if) Crabtree signs, 49ers coach Mike Singletary is not going to give him anything. He’ll have to prove worthy of winning playing time over all the other receivers who have been here since the opening of training camp.

 

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I took part in a Crabtree round table on National Football Post with Andrew Brandt, Robert Boland and Wes Bunting. Check out the podcast under the Sept. 25 entry.

 

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