There was an interesting article about the 49ers yesterday by former sports agent Joel Corry. It's the sort of state-of-the-franchise piece every 49ers fan should read once and one that really big fans ought to read a few times.
The thrust of the story is that, via sound salary-cap management and excellent scouting the 49ers have set themselves up to be the dominant team of the next decade the way the Patriots were the preceding one.
Ah, but that doesn't mean it will be easy.
Corry notes what many of us have been pointing out over the last six months - that following the 2014 season a slough of talented, young 49ers will see their contracts expire. That list includes Michael Crabtree, Mike Iupati, Aldon Smith and, of course, Colin Kaepernick, who - it's not a stretch to predict this - could be due for one of the biggest contracts in NFL history. The 49ers can begin working on extensions for Kaepernick and Smith after this season.
What I found interesting is that Corry also points to two veteran stalwarts and wonders whether this will be their final year on the team. Of defensive end Justin Smith, whose contract expires in March, Corry writes, "(Smith) might be an example of it's better to lose a player a year too early than a year too late since he will turn 35 during the 2014 season."
Last year at this time, Smith said he figured he had "three more good years in me, four more good years." Said Smith: "I don't want to be the guy who becomes the third down guy who plays 17 (snaps). I don't want to do that."
Meanwhile, Frank Gore is signed through the 2014 season, but he is due to have a big salary-cap number in his final season. "Gore could become a cap casualty in 2014," Corry writes. "Running backs in their 30s usually don't command $6.45 million salaries, especially on teams with good depth at the position."
During Gore's most recent contract negotiation in 2011, general manager Trent Baalke said the goal was to make the running back a "49er for life." Will that be the case?
The 49ers seemed to have Justin Smith and Gore in mind with two of their more prominent draft picks in April. They used an early second-round pick on defensive lineman Tank Carradine and a fourth-round pick on running back Marcus Lattimore.
That both players were drafted injured - especially Lattimore, who may not play this season - clouds things a bit as far as when these young players could take over. But it's clear the 49ers are preparing for the eventual departure of two veteran players who have been the backbone of the team in recent years.
-- Matt Barrows