49ers Blog and Q&A

News, notes and reader questions about the San Francisco 49ers

February 6, 2013
Ax Men? A look at which 49ers may not be back for 2013

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Which 49ers might not be around next season? The list below mostly shows the team's pending unrestricted free agents*. But there also are a few players - including Alex Smith - whose 2013 contracts at least make them susceptible to the cutting ax. Keep in mind that the 49ers expect to have 14 -- FOURTEEN! -- draft picks in April with perhaps more coming if they can trade Smith.

David Akers: Akers made all three field goals in the Super Bowl, but he needed a gift running-into-the-kicker penalty to erase a miss from 39 yards. Akers missed more kicks than any other kicker last year, and he's set to make more than $3 million. Those two sentences don't mesh very well. At the very least, the 49ers will bring in a young kicker, perhaps through the draft. Justin Medlock, who worked out for the 49ers in January, is a local guy.

Leonard Davis*: The big veteran was relegated to the team's jumbo packages and played only 128 snaps this season. He would have been the first guard off the bench, but Alex Boone and Mike Iupati enjoyed near-perfect health this season. With two young linemen, Daniel Kilgore and Joe Looney, waiting in the wings, and with the team having so much draft capital, it's hard to see Davis coming back. Then again, the 49ers don't have much depth at tackle, and Davis could have played there in a pinch.

Ted Ginn*: Ginn saw his work load decrease this season after LaMichael James took over kick-return duties. Ginn hardly contributed at all as a receiver, and his most notable offensive play involved a botched pitch in St. Louis and Ginn's dainty attempt to recover the ball. Still, it's possible that Ginn comes back. He's unlikely to get a lot of attention on the free-agent market (he certainly didn't last year) and he won't be expensive to resign. The 49ers also have all sorts of question marks at receiver, including injuries (K. Williams, M. Manningham), free agents (R. Moss, T. Ginn) and rookies who showed nothing in 2012 (A. Jenkins). Thirdly, the 49ers don't have a proven punt returner beyond Ginn, although James likely will be asked to work on that role this offseason.

Dashon Goldson*. I'm not sure what to make of Jim Harbaugh's comment from Tuesday that Goldson is the type of player you "reward" with a multi-year deal. The 49ers head coach hasn't been exactly spot-on when it comes to promising to take care of pending free-agents in the offseason. (See: Morgan, Joshua; Smith, Alexander D.). Furthermore, the 49ers have balked at Goldson's asking price in the past. He wanted to be one of the highest-paid safeties in the league after the 2010 season. He is in that category now - All-Pro, Pro Bowl in 2012 - but can the 49ers afford to meet that mark after doling out big deals to Willis and Bowman and with Colin Kaepernick's contract looming after next season?

Tavares Gooden*: He's the most athletic of the 49ers backup linebackers, and he's probably the most talented of the 49ers' coverage players. However, that unit was not as good as it was in 2011, a fact that was triple-underlined in red ink by Jacoby Jones' record-setting kick return on Sunday.

Jonathan Goodwin: Goodwin is exactly what the 49ers need on the offensive line - a smart, veteran center whose laid-back personalty is the perfect complement to the more fiery members like Anthony Davis, Alex Boone and Joe Staley. The other offensive linemen almost consider Goodwin, 34, a father figure, and it's unlikely the 49ers will break apart the cohesion that developed this year among the group. Still, if the 49ers are seeking salary-cap relief, this is one of the places you look. Goodwin is due to count more than $5 million against the cap, and there are two youngsters who can play center - Kilgore, Looney - on the bench.

Larry Grant*: The team's No. 3 inside linebacker didn't get a lot of attention as a restricted free agent last year, and he could be back next season. Grant is good on special teams, good in the locker room and has shown he's a capable backup in case either Patrick Willis or NaVorro Bowman goes down.

Clark Haggans*: The veteran hardly played at all (48 snaps) on a defensive front that did very little substituting at outside linebacker. You have to wonder, in hindsight, whether that was smart. Aldon Smith had 19 ½ sacks through the first 13 games, zero in the last six. My sense is that Haggans wants to be on a squad where he is better utilized..

Ricky Jean Francois*: Jean Francois gradually began stealing snaps from Isaac Sopoaga this year at nose tackle, and he also stepped in at defensive end for Justin Smith in the last quarter of the season. Jean Francois is five and a half years younger than Sopoaga, and it's only logical that the 49ers would prefer to retain him over Sopoaga. However, Jean Francois' age and versatility likely will make him more attractive on the free-agent market. This outcome will be determined by how much the 49ers think Jean Francois is worth and whether his agent feels he can get more money elsewhere.

Darcel McBath*: McBath would have been the first safety in the game if anything had happened to Goldson or Donte Whitner. Along with Patrick Willis, he snuffed out the fake field goal in the Super Bowl. But he also had the only shot to tackle Jacoby Jones on the kickoff to start the second half. (spoiler: he missed). McBath's status will depend on how confident the 49ers are with youngsters Trenton Robinson and Michael Thomas.

Randy Moss*: As we discovered over the last week, Moss wasn't exactly happy with his backup role and wanted to be a bigger part of the offense. When he got that chance in the playoffs, Moss played well but certainly didn't take over games or play like the greatest receiver of all time. He was merely decent. It's hard to envision any other teams giving Moss a better opportunity than he received in San Francisco. Furthermore, the injuries to Manningham and Williams mean Moss probably is needed more by the 49ers than by any other team. That all points to Moss being back. But he's been enigmatic over his career, and predicting what he'll do is a fool's game. Heck, he could decide to retire.

Alex Smith: Don't buy into the posturing by 49ers officials that Smith could be back in 2013. That scenario would be too much even for a good soldier like Smith, and the stink he'd be capable of raising would be terrible for the team's locker-room morale. Instead, the 49ers will try to trade Smith, who is only 28 and who is one of the few worthy quarterbacks in free agency and the draft this year. That, plus a reasonable contract, makes a trade plausible. If it's a trade, the 49ers will try to deal him out of the conference. Kansas City, Cleveland, Jacksonville and Oakland are possibilities. If Smith had his druthers, Arizona - which is relatively close and where he'd get to face his old team twice a year - might end up being his preference.

Isaac Sopoaga*: Sopoaga's snaps diminished this year and he even lost his job moonlighting as a fullback. Whether he returns or not may depend on how much attention Jean Francois gets on the free-agent market.

Delanie Walker*: Walker is the No. 2 tight end on the 49ers but would be No. 1 on 20 other teams in the National Football League. He's become an excellent blocker, especially on the move, and is nearly as fast as Vernon Davis. His hands are puzzling - they were excellent when he first came into the league (he was a college WR) but have been dubious in recent years as he's gotten bigger and concentrated on blocking. That facet of his game should improve with more practice. Walker should get attention on the free-agent market. He was very good in the Super Bowl.

- Matt Barrows



MATTHEW BARROWS

Matt was born in Blacksburg, Va., and attended the University of Virginia. He graduated in 1995, went to Northwestern for a journalism degree a year later, and got his first job at a South Carolina daily in 1997. He joined The Bee as a Metro reporter in 1999 and started covering the 49ers in 2003. His favorite player of all time is Darrell Green.

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