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Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Does anyone want to play for the San Francisco 49ers?

Apr 1, 2016 at 3:22 PM13

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It wasn't too long ago that the San Francisco 49ers reestablished themselves as the envy of the NFL. They were an organization that seemed to be doing all the right things and headed in the right direction.

Things changed a couple of years ago when news started to leak about a rift between management and then head coach Jim Harbaugh, who was seen by the fanbase as a savior following years of frustration. Everything seemed to snowball from there leading to his "mutual" parting of ways, the hiring of a position coach with little experience as his replacement, and the departure of players via free agency and surprising retirements. Here we are years later and the team is still trying to rebuild its roster and its image. After observing the difficult time that the organization has had accomplishing those tasks, we are forced to ask a very simple question. Does anyone really want to play for the 49ers?

Of course, that question is a bit extreme. There are certainly players that want to be with the team, but given recent events, it is tough to not ask the question and wonder if management and the overall view of the organization is making San Francisco a less desirable place to play football for certain players.

Anthony Davis

Davis' abrupt retirement in early June last year threw the 49ers' offensive plans into chaos, and the team paid for it all season long. The team went into the 2015 offseason and draft thinking that Davis would be part of the offensive line and planning accordingly. Was that poor planning on management's part? Perhaps. Regardless, his retirement forced a shift in plans and threw backups quality players into starting roles. You know you are in trouble when bargain bin players like Jordan Devey and Erik Pears are announced as starters given the task of protecting your quarterback.

Following a year off, Davis has continued to declare his intention to return to the NFL after recovering from injuries that forced him to miss nine games in 2014, most notably the lingering symptoms from a concussion. In the nine games that Davis had missed, the team averaged 66 less rushing yards per game.

Since Davis has failed to officially file for reinstatement, the 49ers have been moving forward with their 2016 offseason plans without him. Earlier today, Davis took a strange shot at his former and would-be boss.

That would be general manager Trent Baalke. It's probably not the wisest move for someone to take a public shot at a potential employer, which begs the question, "Does Davis even want to play for the 49ers?"

We know he wants to return to the NFL and plans to do so. If he files for reinstatement, the 49ers will own his rights. Could alienating management prior to returning be a preemptive move to try and get out of San Francisco?

In the past, new 49ers head coach Chip Kelly has not looked fondly on players that do not buy into his system and has been fine with letting those players go. Plus, some question how Davis would fit into Kelly's offensive scheme. By stalling his return and missing part of the team's offseason program, he is forcing the 49ers to move forward with their offseason without him, perhaps even finding a suitable replacement for him prior to his reinstatement, making him a tradable asset.

Could it have been an April Fools joke? It doesn't seem to be Davis' MO. If it was, it was executed poorly and some in the media don't believe that to be the case.

Yesterday, Matt Maiocco of CSN Bay Area stated that, during last week's NFL owners meetings, Kelly said that he was comfortable with the 49ers' offensive line. "Obviously, the O-line, led by Joe Staley, there's a lot of talent there, too," Kelly said. "I think it's a good group."

That's the very same offensive line that gave up 53 sacks last season, which tied them with the Cleveland Browns for second worst in the NFL (The Tennessee Titans were first). The 49ers could certainly use all of the help that they can get along the offensive line. Maybe Davis knows that and a quick return would lessen his chances of playing elsewhere.

Colin Kaepernick

Bob Stanton-USA TODAY Sports

We all know the continuing narrative by now. Kaepernick was benched in November in favor of Blaine Gabbert. Shortly after, a revealed injury to his left shoulder forced the team to place the quarterback on injured reserve. He is currently recovering from multiple surgeries. While none are expected to be long-term issues, he has had surgeries on that shoulder, his right thumb, and his left knee since being placed on injured reserve and had been recovering from his surgeries at the Steadman Clinic in Vail, Colorado.

In February, just a day after Baalke stated that the quarterback would be on the roster on April 1 and after Kelly enthusiastically discussed working with him, Kaepernick's representatives requested permission to seek a trade, which the 49ers eventually granted. That led to numerous reports and drama surrounding a possible roster move to land him with another franchise.

The Cleveland Browns were reportedly interested, but after being unable to figure out a salary agreement with Kaepernick's camp, they dropped out of the race following the signing of Robert Griffin III. They later denied that talks between them and the 49ers evolved that far.

The New York Jets were in the rumor mill as well. However, they seemed to be taking a "wait and see" approach before eventually declaring that they were out as well.

That leaves just one potential trade partner in the Denver Broncos. Talks between the two teams have stalled since March 10 and the issue seems to be compensation. The Broncos reportedly value Kaepernick at a fourth round draft pick while the 49ers know that he would immediately be inked in as their starter and feel that he is worth more. The Broncos, who are just $1.62 million under the cap per the latest NFLPA report, reportedly asked Kaepernick to take a $7 million pay cut following a possible trade.

Kaepernick will be present for the 49ers' offseason activities when they kick off on Monday. He has to be or he will forfeit his $400,000 bonus that kicks in when he attends at least 90 percent of the team's voluntary offseason program. However, all other indications would make it easy to say that Kaepernick does not want to be in San Francisco anymore.

While a trade is still possible, the 49ers have to be hoping that they can mend the relationship with their disgruntled quarterback. Perhaps once he is with his teammates, has an opportunity to work with the coaching staff, and the playbook, his view will change.

Free Agents

The 49ers entered the new league year with over $60 million in salary cap space. A healthy sum for a rebuilding franchise to go along with 12 draft picks. The team could have restocked their roster and filled a number of holes, if they could convince free agents that the organization was a desirable place to continue their football careers.

It was predicted that, with a lot to prove, the 49ers would be more aggressive in free agency by spending the money needed to show that they were serious about becoming relevant again. While they may have tried, Baalke's sales pitch has apparently fallen short.

The team was reportedly aggressive in their pursuit of former Kansas City Chiefs CB Sean Smith, who was deciding between the 49ers and the Oakland Raiders. He eventually chose Oakland. One of their own free agents, G Alex Boone, could not get out of San Francisco fast enough, signing with the Minnesota Vikings.

The team was able to re-sign their top free agent, NT Ian Williams. Of course, now you have to wonder if that was due to his rehabilitation from injury. You have to wonder how many teams would have offered him a massive contract given the fact that he is unlikely to be ready for the start of the season in September. His best bet ended up being a return to San Francisco. on a deal that was eventually reduced to just one year.

The team was able to bring in OG Zane Beadles for a relatively small sum, a shockingly solid addition of a player whose career seemed to diminish in Jacksonville. Then there is QB Thad Lewis, a long shot to make the team, especially if the 49ers end up drafting a quarterback within the first few rounds of the NFL Draft later this month.

WR Eric Rogers was signed from the CFL and is an intriguing prospect but comes to a team that already has a lot of competition at the position. It was reportedly Kelly's sales pitch that sold Rogers, who was coveted by numerous NFL teams, on playing in San Francisco.

Here is a list of the players that the 49ers were reportedly interested in during free agency and lost out on – and these are just the ones that we know about.

RB C.J. Anderson (Denver)
RB Lance Dunbar (Dallas)
CB Casey Hayward (San Diego)
OL Ted Larsen (Chicago)
LB James Laurinaitis (New Orleans)
WR Marc Mariani (Chicago)
RB Doug Martin (Tampa Bay)
LT Russell Okung (Denver)
CB Sean Smith (Oakland)
LB Courtney Upshaw (Atlanta)
OG J.R. Sweezy (Tampa Bay)

Despite a desperate need to infuse the roster with talent, Baalke reverted back to his old ways with his refusal to overspend on a single player. He either really believes in his system, feels that he has a good deal of job security, or both. Of those on the list, only Smith and Larsen seemed to be giving San Francisco serious consideration before closing to play elsewhere.

A good plan would have been to address the offense, especially the offensive line, in free agency and then the defense in the draft. Now the 49ers are forced to look solely at the draft to begin their rebuild, a philosophy that they would love fans to believe was the plan all along. The problem is that they have drafted poorly in recent years, further accelerating the team's demise.

One has to wonder if the 49ers get it. Does Baalke get it? Does Jed York not recognize that Baalke may be part of the problem? If Chip Kelly fails in San Francisco, which I truly hope he does not, then Baalke may quickly become the newest scapegoat and eventually find himself on the outside looking in.
The opinions within this article are those of the writer and, while just as important, are not necessarily those of the site as a whole.


  • m_brockalexander
    Apparently not. Guess us fans will have to rely on Baalke to build through the draft where the kids have no choice whether to come here or not.
    Apr 2, 2016 at 9:09 PM
  • Jack
    All we have to do David is look at Alex Smith, he's doing very well with a consistent system. The 49ers are changing coaches, systems, which we saw kept Alex from improving. People were calling Alex a "Bust ". I'm sure Kaep is competitive and wants a organization that is consistent, and professional. Which has not been the case since Eddie D. Sad, sad, sad.
    Apr 2, 2016 at 5:10 PM
  • LongTimeNinersFan
    Except for draftees (who have no choice), NFL teams are like any other organization when it comes to attracting good employees. Competent people want to work for and with other competent people. IMO the the Niners can't now attract a superior HC because they know that Baalke won't get them a decent roster and is difficult to work with. What is worse, when Baalke is fired (and he will be) Jed will have a very difficult time attracting a superior GM candidate ... because who in the hell would want to work for Jed, a complete incompetent? Maybe this explains why Jed hasn't fired Baalke already ... Baalke is just power-drunk enough to put up with Jed's sh**.
    Apr 2, 2016 at 12:12 PM
  • Ninerzbacker
    "terrified ... " Yep. That's exactly how this organization behaves .... The teams and organizations that win don't wait for opportunities, the create them. They don't seize the moment, they dictate the moment. Eddie D. MADE things happen. Bill Walsh, Joe Montana and Ronnie Lott imposed THEIR will on others, keeping THEM on THEIR heels. That is why this organization (recently) repeatedly fails.
    Apr 2, 2016 at 9:36 AM
  • Jeff
    FYI, a good friend of mine is a very highly regarded NFL analyst. He knows current and former Niner coaches and there is some truth to the perceived dis function in 9Dr land. Also, Keep is not the ideal fit for Kelly he can not make quick reads and or anticipate throws. Gabbert is a better fit for that. That is why they are going to treat Kaep just like Washington did RG3. That means he will compete for the starting job knowing he will not win they will keep him in active all season and trade him or release him next year when there's no liability of injury. Trader Trent is terrified of drafting a quarterback early has he knows it will be on him if it fails. They go with Myles Jack or Buckner, if neither is available they trade down.
    Apr 2, 2016 at 8:05 AM
  • Dustin
    Is it correct to call someone a scapegoat when they are the person most responsible for the problems that are being reacted to with the firing? Just asking. Correction of an error may be the better way of phrasing it.
    Apr 2, 2016 at 5:50 AM
    Response: Excellent point.
  • RishikeshA
    Thanks David, like everyone else I'm disappointed we didn't make a move in free agency. However, after the first wave was signed should this team have thrown good money after bad with overpriced free agents? The team needs a face of the franchise desperately, let's see if they go after one of the two QB's in the draft. If not same old, same old.
    Apr 1, 2016 at 9:07 PM
    Response: Overpriced? No. But there were guys that signed for realistic contracts after that first week or so. Guys that could have helped and allowed the team to focus elsewhere during the draft. Now the team heads into the draft with just as many holes as it started with and given Baalke's track record, it is unreasonable to believe that he will hit on all 12 picks. There will be opportunities to sign players later, but only at Baalke's price level. Devey and Pears anyone?
  • JJ
    Look... A really good and informative article. However, as I have been saying to a lot of my 9er friends, what is going on seems to be part of the plan. York and Trent knew we had a young roster. They knew it would be hard to get people to come out to the bay via all the backyard whispering and FO/coach/player drama past two years. I think they really wanted Hugh but knew that he might not take the job, and as classic Trent could only do .... He would not overpay. Chip fell right into their lap. He is coming off of holding too much power in philly (bodes well for Balke becaus he Likes to have final say), he likes the younger players because it makes his game plan easier when the "buying in" aspect comes into play (I think it was Matt borrows who wrote a great article about how young the 9er team is as a result of lost players etc) and it gives the 49ers a chance to redeem themselves to the fan base buy hireing a bizarro harbaugh and in a way ... Admitting they were wrong to let Harbaugh go. This is why he hired tomsula, work with the players for a year then get a better coach to pull them through. I don't know, I'll always be faithful but man ... These two years have been hard !
    Apr 1, 2016 at 8:39 PM
    Response: Thanks for the comment. Hue Jackson was never offered the job though. Maybe management was playing their normal wait and see games? I don't know. He took the Browns job because they offered it to him. He really wanted to be an NFL head coach and would have reportedly accepted the 49ers job had it been offered to him. And I don't think they hired Tomsula as a one year filler. I think that after Harbaugh, who they could not work with, they just wanted someone who would go along with whatever they said. That's why they passed on Gase. But agreed, these past two years have been very tough and confusing.
  • Ninerzbacker
    David; you are correct. I played golf this past week at La Costa and had to pleasure to run into and speak to Khalif Barnes and Donald Penn of the Raiders while I was there. Penn just signed a 2-year, $14 million contract and Barnes is presently in negotiations with a couple of teams (whom I wont name). When I suggested that they should have looked at joining the 'Niner's, (I was wearing my '9'er's hat), given the cap space they have; they just rolled their eyes and made it clear that neither they, nor any of their peers wants anything to do with this organization .... Jed is a laughing stock and Baalke MUST go!
    Apr 1, 2016 at 5:03 PM
    Response: Not what I wanted to hear. Believe me, while I admit that I am speculating about a lot of this, deep down, I am hoping it is not true. Thanks for the perspective though.
  • Robert
    Jed York should have fired Baalke along with Tomsula, as his dad did when he fired both Erickson and Donahue in 2005. But evidently York trusts Baalke, and I have no idea why. Baalke seems to rub people the wrong way, be it with coaches, players, or the media. I wouldn't care so much about that, except that he's really not that good of a GM to compensate for his short comings. Even the bewildered Terry Donahue had better luck and didn't whiff on an entire draft class like Baalke did in 2012. That alone, should be enough to get a GM fired. Outside looking in, it seems like the 49ers are an organization with it's head in the sand, and destined to fail. Hopefully things will turn around, but the FO has really done nothing thus far to help change that perception. Until the 49ers can prove they know what they're doing, most free agents will look for employment elsewhere and media moguls like Kawakami will keep pointing out the obvious.
    Apr 1, 2016 at 4:53 PM
  • Tom Cox
    Hey Corva, It is Doom and Gloom! Have you been watching and seeing what's been happening the last Season or two! Our Team went from a Championship Team, to a Team with no direction, (Especially at the Top), Free Agents don't want to Play here, The word is out about our Franchise, And it is not going to change until Trent and Jed go away! Right on David!
    Apr 1, 2016 at 3:51 PM
    Response: I tried not to go full Kawakami in the article. Again, it is just a serious question that I wanted to put out there. The nice thing is that draft picks won't say no to playing for the 49ers. That goes for the young players on the roster too. With so many positions up for grabs on the team, the 49ers are the perfect place to be for younger players.
  • WildBill
    Poorly written article. A lot of teams can't sign players unless they over pay. Especially when you are not a playoff team. History shows that Baalke never did it before and yet they made the superbowl. It also shows majority of the times it does not end up well. Unless you are a piece or two away no sense overpaying, if you do it better be for the right piece(s). The Broncos are a good example they were a piece or two away. So they gambled and won, but are now paying for it. As for Kaep and Davis (which is an April fool joke initself), it is clear that they are head cases. Then there is the Chip Kelly argument, of course the player has to buy in, EVERY TEAM is like that. Even Walsh, Phil Jackson and the rest of the winners, if you don't you get shipped out. Even when you do, if you are no longer useful you get let go or traded. Again look around the league.
    Apr 1, 2016 at 3:48 PM
    Response: You touched on a lot there that I agree with but doesn't fit into your overall point. Real quick, the 49ers made it to the Super Bowl largely on an established roster. And true that you do not win games in March, but why would anyone choose the 49ers over another team if the view is that they are not willing to spend money on new players or even on their own free agents? Also, Torrey Smith is a good example of overspending because of your own weaknesses (drafting WRs). A good signing, but Baalke was also willing to overspend here to make sure they got their man. As for Kelly, I did not say that he was different than any other coach. I said that Davis may be using that to his advantage as a method to possibly be elsewhere. Again, that is speculation and I admit that, but his delays do not bode well for his future as a Niner, if there is one.
  • CorvaNinerFan
    What kind of question is that? We hear so much gloom and doom from a number of so-called'd be nice to read a positive article for a change. There's plenty of that to write about, if you take the time to see it. Carlos Hyde's recovery, Kap's recovery, Beadles, Eric Rogers, Coach Kelly & his staff, the upcoming draft, etc. Come on, man, it's there, just write something positive.
    Apr 1, 2016 at 3:28 PM
    Response: I appreciate positive stories and the glass half full view as much as the next person, but sometimes you have to be realistic. There are good stories on the team, but this is the second straight disappointing offseason and I wanted to examine that aspect, especially in light of Davis' comments today - which is what kicked this off. And while I think Kelly is an improvement on Tomsula, like many fans, I'll wait until he proves he can start winning again to classify him and his staff as a positive. Also, I briefly touched on Beadles and Rogers.

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