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The Free Agents
Aaron Garcia was signed to give Giovanni Carmazzi a battle for the third-string quarterback job, and at this point you’d have to give the advantage to Garcia. Carmazzi hasn’t even mastered the passing techniques the 49ers feel he needs to in order to play in the 49ers system, and his pro career has never really gotten off the ground. Meanwhile, Garcia is coming off a 4500-yard season in the Arena League, showing the mobility and decision-making skills the 49ers covet from their signal callers.
Not that the 49ers are expecting him to repeat the Jeff Garcia miracle. If NFL personnel people considered Garcia a prospect, you’d have to think that he’d find a better job than third-string.
Kicker Jamie Rheem is the only other significant signing. Rheem, if he stays healthy, will likely be the favorite to beat out Jose Cortez in camp this summer.
Many of the remaining free agents signed were late cuts from last summer.
Give Mariucci, Mora Credit
Not to take anything away from Dick Jauron, who’s done a marvelous job in Chicago, but Steve Mariucci getting only three votes for coach of the year is an outrage. Chicago played a terrible schedule. They played only five good teams the whole year (Baltimore, Green Bay twice, Philadelphia and San Francisco) and went 1-4. We all know that they should have lost all five. The rest of the Bears schedule did not contain one team with a winning record; their combined record this year was 65-110. That’s a cake schedule. The 49ers, meanwhile, played the Rams twice (14-2), the Jets (10-6), the Dolphins (11-5), and Philadelphia (11-5) on top of the Bears. The 49ers coaching staff deserved the award as much as anyone in the league.
Was Mariucci too conservative? Perhaps. But I understand the run-first rational, and it produced a 12-4 season. It’s pretty hard to argue with those results. It’s also about time that fans start giving Jim Mora Jr. some credit for his job with the defense. If I’m not mistaken, only Marvin Lewis of Baltimore and Tim Lewis of Pittsburgh have a longer tenure at defensive coordinator than Jim Mora Jr. You cannot overestimate the pressure applied to coaches by ownership and fans to win, and win quickly. This is magnified in San Francisco, where the 49ers have suffered three losing seasons in their last 21.
“Whatever you do, put in a system that can win for you now,” ex-Cardinals coach Vince Tobin told Len Pasquarelli of ESPN.com. “Don't look long-term because there might not be a long-term unless you can get the immediate results everyone wants now on defense.”
Instead of being a slave to 49ers tradition, the 49ers staff took a look at their personnel, and structured an offensive and defensive game plan that would produce the most competitive team possible. That’s just flat-out good coaching.
Joel Buchsbaum’s pro prospect ratings are out, and he feels that Syracuse defensive end Dwight Freeney is worthy of a first-round pick. The Senior defensive end has had to fight off questions about his height (6-1) and size (255), but he’s stronger than a house, has a vertical leap of 37” (which is a good jump for a cornerback) and can run a 4.6 in the 40-yard dash. The 49ers might eye him for the late first, early second round if they want to go with a pure pass rusher with their first pick. Buchsbaum graded Freeney at 6.00, which is usually first-round territory in his grading system.
Two other ends to keep an eye on are Bryan Thomas of Alabama-Birmingham and Charles Grant of Georgia. Thomas is similar to Freeney but with more height. Grant is a little raw but has all the tools to be an everydown end.
There are plenty of options at corner in the first few rounds. Derrick Ross of Ohio State and Mike Echols of Wisconsin would both be a nice selections in rounds 2-3. Echols will slide because of his height (5-9) and because he’s a diabetic. But he never missed a game, has great coverage skills, runs a 4.4, and shut down bigger receivers like 6-3 Marquise Walker of Michigan and 6-2 Ron Johnson of Minnesota. With the Rams being the Rams, the 49ers need to emphasize speed and coverage skills at corner over height.
I remain adamant that the 49ers need to address their wide receiver situation and cornerback depth. Len Pasquarelli of ESPN lists the 49ers biggest needs as wide receiver, cornerback, and offensive line depth. As expected, the 49ers have turned sour on Tai Streets’ future with the team, and Terrell “Big mouth/Small brain” Owens is gone in two seasons. The 49ers will have to be clever to get a lot of value out of this draft, because they don’t have a third rounder this year (cap violations). However, Mike Triplett of the Sacramento Bee feels that the 49ers will take a cornerback and a pass rusher. Who knows?
It is also possible they may trade down and do some more wheeling and dealing. Bill Walsh will be in the middle of the action again.
I am also a little worried about defensive tackle depth, which is pitiful after Bryant Young and Dana Stubblefield.