When I went to bed on Sunday night, I was hopeful.
Sure, Frank Gore was on his way out but it's not like the team is losing the 26-year old version. Gore still looks to have juice left in the tank but a multiple year contract with $7 million guaranteed for a 32-year old running back? The 49ers had to let him walk. Besides, rumors were flying that the team had a "done deal" with former Baltimore Ravens wide receiver Torrey Smith, who has a career average of 16.9 yards per catch. Someone to stretch the defense on the outside! Finally! Great pickup, life is good, I'm going to bed.
I slept with my phone on my nightstand because it's free agency time and, of course, the first thing I had to do when I opened my eyes at 7:10 AM (eastern time) was check Twitter for NFL updates. Almost immediately, I saw a report that the 49ers were shopping Colin Kaepernick. As expected, general manager Trent Baalke strongly denied this.
After confirming that the report wasn't coming from some fake account, I came to two conclusions that anyone who watches the 49ers as closely as I do would. 1) There's a good chance this is true because you can't believe a word the 49ers' front office says, and 2) Kaepernick played poorly enough last season that it's possible the team doesn't view him as the long term answer anymore. If that's the case, he could get the Jim Harbaugh treatment.
Basically what the Jim Harbaugh treatment means is the team will start leaking things like: Colin Kaepernick was out all night partying before a game. Colin Kaepernick spits on bibles. Colin Kaepernick only goes to Children's hospitals to laugh at sick kids, etc. All the while, they will say that Kaepernick is their quarterback, and then cut him immediately after the season.
Anyway, as some of you may or may not know, I write for a few sites about the 49ers (check me out on Twitter y'all @AlSacco49) and I soon went to work on a story about Kaepernick, thinking that would be the big news of the day.
When I finished, I went back to Twitter to post the article, only to see that the team's seven time Pro Bowl, face-of-the-franchise linebacker, Patrick Willis, was retiring.
After getting over the initial shock, and seeing the reasons behind it, you can't help but pull for Willis in every aspect of his life. He came from a hellish childhood and became a inspirational man, a servant of God and a Hall of Fame football player. He's an all-time great 49er, and I wish him well.
Besides, It looks like Justin Smith is going to come back and the defense will be...oh wait...
Just when I was able to breath again about Willis, reports surfaced that Justin Smith would be retiring too. The 49ers had lost both of their defensive cornerstones for the past seven years in about an hour.
I eventually wrote a quick story about the retirements, only to find out that Matt Barrows ran into Justin Smith at the gym (wait, Barrows lifts?) and Smith said he's still up in the air and may not retire after all. That's good news, but I can't right now. I just can't. I was done writing and going to try and avoid Twitter (which lasted all of about 10 minutes).
After work I went to my daughter's skating lessons trying to ignore the NFL because...well to hell with this...what else could go wrong today anyway?
Well, turns out I'm weak and was checking updates within about five minutes of her hitting the ice. First thing I saw was that the 49ers had strong interest in Greg Hardy.
For those not familiar with Hardy, he's a ferocious defensive end from the Carolina Panthers who recorded 26.0 sacks from 2012-2013. He's also the guy who supposedly choked his girlfriend and threw her on a pile of guns or something ridiculous like that.
Win with class!
At this point I'm thinking Jed York needs a team of public relations people just to help him go grocery shopping...ummm...hold on...Mike Iupati's signing with the division rival Arizona Cardinals. Time to go home kids!
On the car ride back to my house, word breaks that Gore is reconsidering his deal with the Philadelphia Eagles! Could he be having second thoughts about leaving San Francisco? Will the offensive leader return?
Well it turns out Gore is having second thoughts, but it's about whether or not to go play with Andrew Luck in Indianapolis, not coming back to the 49ers.
I'm drinking. Heavily.
After dinner and a couple of Bell's Two Hearted Ales, I'm back on Twitter because I'm a glutton for punishment. Did Joe Staley steal a car? Did the team decide to cut Navorro Bowman? Did they decide the keep Craig Dahl? Oh, wait...dammit.
In addition to Dahl somehow managing to still be a professional football player, apparently fullback Bruce Miller was arrested for spousal abuse. Yep, just hours after a report that the team (who win's with class!) was interested in someone like Hardy, of course one of their players would do something like that.
Take a walk Miller.
As 11:30 PM roles around, I say a prayer thanking God that this awful football day is almost over, until I remember that it's only 8:30 PM on the west coast. So many more bad things can happen.
With one eye open, I check Twitter one last time and see that Dan Skuta has signed with the Jacksonville Jaguars. I shut my phone off completely, telling myself tomorrow will be better.
See ya, March 9th. I'm out.
I wouldn't leave all of you in despair. After all, haven't you been through enough?
The team reportedly offered Gore a one-year deal worth $4 million. That's a very fair price for a running back his age. Carlos Hyde has promise and it's a good bet another veteran back will be added to go along with Hyde and Kendall Hunter. The 49ers will miss Gore, but he can't play forever and there's no guarantee he won't decline this season.
Willis hurts, no doubt. You can't replace a future Hall of Famer but the team may have at least a future Pro Bowler in Chris Borland to step up. Not many franchises can say they have a replacement they're excited about when a player the caliber of Willis departs. The 49ers can.
The Niners prepared for Smith's possible departure by signing Darnell Dockett. If Smith does indeed retire, the 49ers will still boast a defensive front of Dockett, Tank Carradine, Quinton Dial, Glenn Dorsey, Ian Williams and Tony Jerod-Eddie. That's still pretty good, especially if Carradine takes the next step in his development.
Iupati was a terrific run blocking guard but he struggled in pass protection. Breaking the bank for a guard is not smart, and it was the right move to let him walk. Baalke was prepared for this, and the team has Brandon Thomas, Joe Looney and the loser of the Marcus Martin/Daniel Kilgore center battle as options to replace the three-time Pro Bowler.
Skuta got a five-year $20.5 million deal from the Jaguars, which is far more than he was worth to the 49ers. Skuta was a very good early down linebacker but he's behind Aldon Smith, Aaron Lynch and (right now) Ahmad Brooks on the depth chart. He may have just been a product of the 49ers' system anyway, and Jacksonville overpaid for him.
As far as Miller and Hardy...I don't know what to tell you. The 49ers should stay as far away from both of them as possible in my opinion. In the case of Miller, remember that the team invested a late round pick in Trey Millard, who didn't play last year while he recovered from a knee injury. Considering Miller's situation, Millard's time could be now.
So people, the long and short of this is that while 3/9/15 will go down in 49er infamy, things aren't as bad as they seem. This is still a good team (not great, but good), who can compete for a Wild Card spot in 2015. However, much of their success is going to depend on the development of their quarterback, but that's another story for another day.
Here's to a better March 10th and beyond!