Five Positions the San Francisco 49ers Need to Address in Off-Season
San Francisco 49ers: 5 Off-Season Positional Needs
The San Francisco 49ers went 11-4-1 last season and made a trip to the Super Bowl. Unfortunately for them, they came short of claiming their sixth Lombardi Trophy. Now that the off-season is in effect, general manager Trent Baalke and his front office must address their weaknesses via the draft or free agency.
Despite having an explosive offense led by Colin Kaepernick and a defense that finished third-overall during the regular season, the 49ers can still get better on both sides of the ball. On the bright side, the core pieces remain in place to make another deep run at the playoffs.
If Baalke and head coach Jim Harbaugh can find the complementary pieces to surround their young franchise quarterback with, there’s no reason that they can’t improve in year two under Kaepernick.
Defensively, the 49ers should return at least nine of their 11 starters. Nose tackle Isaac Sopoaga and safety Dashon Goldson are unrestricted free agents. If San Francisco retains the two-time All-Pro in Goldson, that will make shoring up the defensive unit a bit easier.
The 49ers will have a whopping 14 draft picks in the 2013 NFL Draft, but with their roster pretty much set, it’d be difficult for any mid-to-late round selection to make an immediate impact. Given the option of trading the extra picks for a veteran, or moving up in the draft, San Francisco can be flexible.
With the new league year set to kick off on Mar. 12, find out the top-five positions the 49ers should target.
After a disastrous season, David Akers practically punched his ticket out of town. Given his erratic play and age, it’s hard to believe that he will return to the Bay. Making just 69 percent of his field goals, the 49ers should not have much trouble finding a younger, more reliable kicker.
The 49ers have a pretty solid cornerback trio with Carlos Rogers, Tarell Brown and Chris Culliver. But the secondary gave up its share of big plays in the postseason, most notably the 46-yard and 56-yard touchdown reception by Julio Jones and Jacoby Jones, respectably. San Francisco also surrendered eight touchdown passes during their playoff run. Adding another cover corner will provide more stability to this group.
3. Wide Receiver
Once again, the 49ers find themselves in the market for a No. 2 receiver. Mario Manningham and Kyle Williams are coming off serious injuries, while A.J. Jenkins has failed to live up to his 30th-overall selection in last year’s draft. There are also doubts that Randy Moss will return.
Michael Crabtree was Kaepernick’s only trusted wideout, and the lack of outside weapons might have played a role in them coming short in the Super Bowl.
If the 49ers can get a veteran receiver like Wes Welker, Dwayne Bowe or Mike Wallace, the receiving group can become an area of strength. Should their existing wideouts make a full return from injury coupled with the re-emergence of tight end Vernon Davis, this unit can instantly have depth.
2. Nose Tackle
San Francisco’s run defense took a big step backwards in 2012. Their rushing yards allowed per game went from 77.2 in 2011 to 94.2 yards last season. They also gave up seven rushing touchdowns in 2012, compared to just three in 2011. While those numbers are still impressive, it just didn’t feel like the same lockdown defense.
In order to get back to their dominant ways, they have to pursue a nose tackle who can clog up the middle. With Sopoaga’s play deteriorating, along with the fact that he’ll be 32 years old at the start of the season, the 49ers should look in a new direction. A tackle who could occupy multiple blockers would do wonders for Patrick Willis and NaVorro Bowman.
1. Defensive End/Pass Rusher
The 49ers struggled getting to the quarterback in their three playoff games. Combined, their front seven accounted for just four sacks in that span. Justin Smith was hampered by a triceps injury, and Aldon Smith was held in check in his final six contests. When it came to pressuring quarterbacks, it was seemingly Aldon or nothing. San Francisco finished with 38 sacks, but Aldon accounted for 19.5 of them. The front office needs to find someone who can complement him on the opposite end.
With more teams using three- and four-receiver sets to spread out defenses, an extra edge rusher should be the 49ers’ top priority.
You can follow Travis on Twitter @TravisChan1
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