In my humble opinion, you’re doing pretty well so far this offseason, Trent.
I’m not going to give you a final grade today. That wouldn’t be fair. You still have the draft in a few weeks, and that’s when you need to perform your best.
You have 14 picks. You may feel this year’s rookies will be better and cheaper long term than what’s available on the free agent market, and I’d agree with that. Without knowing whom you’re targeting in the draft and what potential trades up or down you may be cultivating, I can’t give you a grade that’s etched in stone.
What I can give you is a mid-offseason progress report. I’ll explain where your team has taken steps forward, where it’s taken steps backward and what you need to accomplish in the draft. If you have any questions at all, Trent, please call me at home or text my cell. Tuesdays are good for me.
Let me start by saying I really like the 38-year-old kicker you signed, Phil Dawson. As long as he kicks like he has his entire career (84-percent field goal percentage), and does not kick like David Akers did last season, the 49ers will be better. Good job, Trent.
But I can’t say you’ve improved the entire Special Teams unit. You lost Delanie Walker – a key Special Teams player (more on him shortly). You’ve added some bodies to Special Teams – Dan Skuta and Marlon Moore. Does their talent compensate for the loss of Walker, or are they merely bodies?
I can see why you signed DT Glenn Dorsey, and I can see why you’re optimistic about him. He was a top-five talent in the 2008 draft. The Chiefs used him in a two-gap scheme. Now that the 49ers will use him correctly in a one-gap scheme, he just might blossom into the player he was projected to be when he came out of college.
You were smart not to give Dashon Goldson the five-year, $40 million contract he wanted. He’s not worth that to your club. But now he’s on the Bucs and you have a crater at free safety. You signed Craig Dahl but he’s a backup. You need to draft a free safety. I’m sure you know all of that.
Delanie Walker is a big loss. I understand you didn’t want to pay a No.2 tight end starter’s money. The Titans did, so you let him walk. Understand you lost a key player.
He was the designated “move-man,” the guy who can line up everywhere, the jack of all trades in Greg Roman’s offensive packages. You do not currently have a player on your roster who can fill all of the roles Walker did.
You traded for Anquan Boldin, and he will add punch and seniority to your wide receiving corps, but he is not going to be the blocker and the backfield player Walker was in the Diamond formation.
Which player will fill that role, Trent? I don’t think your offensive coordinator wants to eliminate that role from his offensive attack. Is there a tight end in the draft with Walker’s athleticism and versatility? I’m sure you will address this.
Boldin gives the offense a slot receiver for third-down plays, but who is the outside receiver to finish the three-receiver set? You didn’t re-sign Randy Moss, a wise move, and Mario Manningham probably will be out for the majority of the regular season, so who, other than Michael Crabtree and Boldin, has caught any passes in regular or post-season competition?
Somebody must emerge from the rest of your returning wide outs. Who has that capability? Kyle Williams? A.J. Jenkins?
Even if you draft a wide receiver, Trent, will he be able to step on the field his first season? The last receiver you drafted could not.
Allow me to list two more things you know you need – a big-bodied cornerback who can match up with the Falcons’ Julio Jones in the playoffs, and a fast slot cornerback who can match up with the Seahawk’s newest receiver, Percy Harvin. You must draft those two defensive backs, or get them any way you can.
I’ve got one more move to go over with you, and then you can get back to work. Alex Smith. Good job trading him for a second and third round pick. That’s more than I thought you’d get.
But now, backup quarterback is more of an issue than you may be willing to admit. Scott Tolzien is a far cry from being to Colin Kaepernick what Kaepernick was to Alex Smith.
Will you draft a quarterback, or will you wait until after the draft to sign a journeyman?
Will the lack of a viable No.2 QB impact how often you can run the Pistol option package? If so, that would be a shame.
I hope you don’t think I’m being brazen, giving you all these suggestions, Trent. Yes, your team took a step backward in free agency, but you couldn’t avoid that. All you have to do is knock the draft out of the park, and I’ll give you an A on your final report card.
Good luck, Trent.
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