Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

It's easy to see why some teams in the NFL would stray away from the high risk, often minimal reward circus that is free agency. After all, it's rare that you ever get what you pay for, even if the actual numbers involved in the contracts tend to be misleading. For example, WR Marvin Jones signed a 5-year, $40 million deal with the Detroit Lions this offseason. In reality, only $20,000 million of that is guaranteed. However, he does carry a fairly significant dead cap hit for the next four seasons. Jones has 134 receptions, 1,729 yards and 15 his career. Basically he averages 45/576/5 and got number one receiver money. Ouch.

So you can't really knock the San Francisco 49ers for watching from afar as other franchises open up their wallets to mid-level players. Plus, GM Trent Baalke has been steadfast in his approach/opinion to free agency, so you would think fans would know what to expect at this point.

"As you know, we've never been huge believers in the opening market of free agency," Baalke said recently in a pre-draft media session. "Because let's face it, no matter who you take in the opening market, you're over-paying them. History proves that–90% of the guys who entered free agency have never made a Pro Bowl; 90% of the ones that get signed as free agents never make the Pro Bowl. So you've got a less than 10% chance of hitting on a Pro Bowl-caliber player, yet you're paying him at the top of the market. It's like buying a stock at it's high."

Fair enough. I think a number of people would agree with Baalke's assessment, however, it's still easy to see how fans can be frustrated. The reason is, while the 49ers' maxim may hold some merit, their actions don't always support the ideology.

Take the whole CB Josh Norman situation for example. Not long after Baalke's pre-draft meeting, news broke that the Carolina Panthers had rescinded the franchise tag on the All-Pro corner. This was largely due to the fact that Norman wanted a contract worth upwards of $15 million per season. That's a big number for any player, especially one who's approaching 29-years old. Naturally, given Baalke's statement's and the way the franchise generally operates, there was little chance he would even be considered an option for the frugal 49ers. The only thing was, well, they were reportedly the leading candidate to sign him.

Now it's not like Norman was ball parking contract demands here, and could have been had on the cheap. He wanted to be the highest paid corner in the league, and was pretty adamant about it. So the notion that San Francisco had strong "interest" and was the leading candidate to sign him seemed strange. Did they just feel like Norman was worth the gamble because he's already been a Pro Bowler?

In the end, we all know how this ended. The Niners were allegedly strong players in the pursuit at first, and then that all sort of fizzled out as the process went along. Ultimately, Norman signed with the Washington Redskins for 5 years and $75 million with 36.5 million guaranteed. That's a huge contract, but it's in no way a shock.

I find it hard to believe that the 49ers were ever seriously considering that deal. They were said to have interest at "their price," but what does that even mean? It's like the York's are the parent's and Baalke is their 9-year old son shopping at a toy store. The son has "interest" in that sweet new PlayStation 4, but that's just slightly out of the $20 price range the parents have given him. It's just not ever happening. Why even bother?

I think in the warped minds of Baalke and Jed York, they really believe if they show "interest" in players they never had any intention of actually signing, they think it somehow shows that they're really trying here. The truth is, all it does is frustrate the fan base.

It's the same way of thinking that brought us a wasted season under Jim Tomsula in 2015. Sure, there was "interest" in Adam Gase, Vic Fangio, and Mike Shanahan, but in the end they went to the clearance section again and settled for Tomsula. The results were a disaster, which everyone saw coming except, apparently, the front office.

You could give them credit for firing Tomsula (while eating the rest of his contract) and spending big on Chip Kelly, but I would argue even that was more of a public relations move. I don't think York expected the kind of backlash he got from fans this year, and felt pressured to make a change. They spent on the coach...and that's it. Is that why they're sitting on so much cap space? Did mommy and daddy tell Jed he can splurge on the coach, but that means he has a limited budget on players? Food for thought.

In theory, the notion of building through the draft is appealing, assuming you have a general manager who can execute the plan effectively. Whether or not Baalke is that person is a topic for another another day, but right now it's hard to not feel at least a little cheated by the 49ers. I think they're right in not spending like crazy when they need so much and are rebuilding, but it also wouldn't hurt to supplement with an affordable veteran here and there. It's like the franchise is playing money ball in a sport with a salary cap. It's all just frustrating, and easy to see why fans have so much venom towards the organization at the moment.

Al Sacco has covered the 49ers for various sites over the years. He's been a guest on multiple podcasts and had his work used by ESPN NFL Insiders and USA TODAY. Follow Al on Twitter @AlSacco49