Trent Baalke understands your pain. While other NFL teams have bellied up to the free-agent trough, the 49ers have been decidedly picky eaters. In fact, so far they've landed only one prominent free agent who was on another team last year, and that guy's a kicker, David Akers. Akers signed his three-year contract today.
Baalke's message during a brief interview with the media after Saturday's practice was this: Bear with us, we have a plan and we're following it.
"It's tough for the fans to look at it and hear us say we're going to take a patient approach when we've had as many seasons as we've had and not made the playoffs," he said. "That's totally understandable. But we are going to be patient. We have been patient. We do have a plan and we're executing the plan. And I guess the only thing is the test of time. And how successful this plan is will be measured by how successful we'll become on the field."
Baalke declined to speak about several topics. He was mum on whether receiver Plaxico Burress will visit the 49ers. He declined to talk much about Frank Gore's holdout other than to say the 49ers are prepared to move on without him but would certainly like him back. He wouldn't talk about Michael Crabtree's injury but did say that any interest in free-agent receivers had nothing to do with Crabtree's left foot.
And he didn't speak - directly at least - about the team's interest in the premiere free agent this year, Nnamdi Asomugha. The Philadelphia Eagles landed him on Friday and several other cornerbacks have found new homes since then. Richard Marshall joined Arizona. Chris Carr, in whom the 49ers showed interest, re-signed with Baltimore. And former 49er Nate Clements, whom the 49ers considered re-signing, will now be a Bengal.
That flurry has made the free-agent market thin indeed. One player who's still out there is Redskins free agent Carlos Rogers. Baalke was still a part of the Redskins scouting department when Washington drafted Rogers ninth overall in 2005.
Asked about Asomugha, Baalke said, "There's always a level of interest in every free agent that's out there." He later acknowledged that eight straight non-winning seasons may be discouraging some free agents from going to San Francisco. "They're looking for situations that bring them into a winning place," Baalke said. "And that's what we need to establish. We need to get back to where we were."
Asomugha's contract in Philadelphia - while hefty - is not as grandiose as some imagined it would be. If you read between the lines, you might conclude that the 49ers offered Asomugha more money but that he chose to go to a proven winner in Philadelphia.
* The 49ers suffered another injury today when tight end Nate Byham became entangled with linebacker NaVorro Bowman on a pass play. Byham was clutching his left knee and had to be carted off the field.
* Defensive coordinator Vic Fangio said there were "two or three" starting positions on defense that were solidified. The rest were wide open to competition. Two of the solidified spots, at least, are right defensive end and inside linebacker where Justin Smith and Patrick Willis line up respectively.
* Exclusive rights free agent CJ Spillman signed his contract today. That means that, like Alex Smith and the other free agents, Spillman can't practice until Thursday. Spillman had lined up at one of the starting safety spots Friday. Taylor Mays was in that position today.
-- Matt Barrows