1. Sharpen Specials Teams; Adios Akers, Ginn

The Niners' special teams went from being the NFL's uncontested best unit in 2011; to downright dreadful in 2012 (this excludes you, Andy Lee). David Akers and the coverage unit held a heavy hand in doling out three different losses this season. Akers is single-handedly responsible for both a tie and a loss to the St. Louis Rams, thanks to whiffing on 41- and 51-yard game-winners. Once an unwavering force at the kicker position, Akers has since become a gigantic liability. He shanked at least one FG in over half the Niners' regular season games and failed on a 38 yard chip-shot that could have been crucial in the NFC Championship game had San Francisco not pulled it out in the end. Akers needs to be gone yesterday and a successor needs to be appointed ASAP so he can get acclimated with the wacky winds of The 'Stick.

Meanwhile, Ted Ginn Jr. followed suit, becoming a shell of his former self in 2012. In 2011, Ginn was regarded as one of the best overall returners in the game. He returned a kickoff and a punt return for a touchdown (in a single game, mind you), and ranked 3rd in kick return average and 4th in punt return average. This year, Ginn was stripped of kick return duties in favor of LaMichael James during the regular season and his punt returning was pedestrian at best. With no value as WR, and susceptibility as a returner, the Niners have no reason to stick with Ginn any longer. If you need further rationale for cutting him, look no further than his inexplicable decision to not call for a fair catch at the 49ers 10-yard line with a defender breathing in his face against the Saints. The mind-boggling faux pas resulted in a recovered fumble and easy TD for New Orleans.

Lastly, the coverage unit was just not up to snuff this year. Sure, there was a non-holding call against Anthony Dixon that should have negated a kick-return TD opening day in Green Bay, and then there's the double-team holding against Bruce Miller in the Super Bowl that allowed Jacoby Jones to score a crucial TD to open the second half; but if coverage was what it was in 2011, those non-calls wouldn't have been so crippling. Someone else would have been there (Blake Costanzo, come back). With the way the Super Bowl ended, one has to question whether the 49ers hoist a sixth Lombardi trophy if they don't give up a kick return touchdown to go down 22 points. Assistant Head Coach Brad Seely needs to get on these guys and get a lot more out of this unit in 2013. Hopefully some talented youngsters with a nose for the ball can earn a spot and make coverage the airtight force it was in 2011.

2. Add Wide Receiver Depth, Deep Threat

Déjà vu from last season, isn't it? Despite drafting A.J. Jenkins and bringing Moss/Manningham on board, the 49ers still find themselves looking for talent at wideout. Manningham was coming along nicely with Colin Kaepernick until an ACL injury sidelined him for the year. The same can be said for speedy Kyle Williams, until he suffered a similar fate. That left the Niners thin once again this postseason, and with Moss more than a few steps below what he once was, the Niners could only rely on Crabtree—a penchant that proved deadly in the final moments of Super Bowl XLVII.

Firstly, the Niners need to assess what they currently have on the roster. With that said, Moss is likely to be cut. Harbaugh heaped praise on Moss' veteran leadership and locker room presence, but now he's provided all he can to this team off the field, and his on the field returns don't warrant a roster spot. The WR group will receive a boost once Williams and Manningham return, but they also have to see: A. When those players will be available and B. How they come back from injury. To that end, Manningham has led an injury-riddled career up to this point so the Niners have to have a contingency at the #2 WR spot if that trend continues. Meanwhile, A.J. Jenkins will have to bulk up and undergo a boatload of improvement to justify a roster spot, let alone his status as a first round pick.

There's some talent in the free agency pool and Dwayne Bowe would be a perfect fit. He's the big, downfield threat the 49ers lack and the type of WR a strong-armed QB like Kaepernick covets. But Bowe will have a hefty price tag and there's no guarantee he won't be locked back up by Kansas City now that they boast a new coaching regime and, likely, a new QB under center. Greg Jennings, again, would be a nice fit; but these players come with a price—a price the 49ers likely won't be able to/want to commit to as they look to extend Michael Crabtree and sign Dashon Goldson to a long-term deal. Keep an eye on Wes Welker though. At the right price, I wouldn't be surprised to see him in red and gold next year. Either way, expect the Niners to utilize one of their 14 draft picks to nab a quality, deep-threat wideout.

3. Bolster Defensive Line

2012 showed that the 49ers defense is far too dependent on Justin Smith. When you're a player of Smith's caliber, that's understandable.—but the effectiveness of an entire defense shouldn't hinge on a 34 year-old's right tricep. In particular, Aldon Smith and the secondary were rendered useless without Smith wreaking havoc and commanding double teams. And while overall fatigue and widespread shoulder injuries may have impacted the defense as well, it was clear that the moment Smith went down in New England—everything changed.

This defensive line is an older unit and, compounded by the expiring contract of Isaac Sopoaga, the Niners have to get young talent and depth here. So much so that they may decide to spend their first round pick on d-line. Ricky-Jean Francois has shown that he has what it takes to be the starting nose tackle, and he may even be the better option over Sopoaga. So look for the Niners to let Sopoaga walk, draft a high-round defensive end, and spend other picks on defensive line depth.

4. Add Secondary Competition

Despite having talent in the secondary, opposing teams threw the ball all over the yard against them in the latter half of the season and postseason. This correlates back to the Justin Smith injury but it also goes far beyond that. Goldson and Whitner are an intimidating duo at safety but they're also a big liability in coverage. Whether it's miscommunication, a lack of skills, or a combination of both, the safety duo has given up more than their fair share of big plays. In terms of cornerbacks, Carlos Rogers and Tarell Brown played admirably again this season. But Rogers is not a speedster by any means and he's getting older. Tarell Brown, meanwhile, lacks the size and frame to matchup against bigger wideouts. Lastly, Chris Culliver showed decline from this season to last and became the team's biggest goat after a horrendous Super Bowl performance coming on the heels of anti-gay sentiments.

So this is a tricky situation for the Niners. The talent is here, but there's definitely something wrong with this secondary. Physical? Yes. Coverage saavy? No. Goldson is likely to be signed to a long-term deal and I think he should be solely based on his improvement, his punishing style, and his nose for the ball. Whitner, on the other hand, may be expendable in favor of a safety that can cover better. I see the Niners giving Whitner another shot this year, but they would be wise to invest a draft pick at the position in case things go sour, as well as for the future. They can then move Goldson to his more natural strong safety position, and get a cover man in at free safety.

In addressing cornerback, the Niners will definitely draft some depth but the starters are likely to remain in place. Despite Culliver's political imperfection and countless gaffes in the Super Bowl, he showed promise prior and could bounce back in year 3.

Those hoping for Revis may be looking at a pipe dream. The 49ers are committed to building a financially sustainable dynasty, and signing a very high-priced veteran who has experienced significant injuries in two of the past three seasons would starkly contrast with their philosophy.