Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

49ers “interest” in Josh Norman a perfect example of why fans are frustrated

Al Sacco
Apr 25, 2016 at 9:04 AM42

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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 Not long after Baalke's pre-draft meeting, news broke that the Carolina Panthers had rescinded the franchise tag on the All-Pro corner.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
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.


  • Tristan
    "In reality, only $20,000 million of that is guaranteed." Only $20,000 million?! I'd take that deal.
    May 2, 2016 at 10:17 PM
  • Ninerman
    It has been proven that overspending for free agents rarely benefits a team. Its either superbowl or bust for any team period. Cant blame Josh Norman for signing with Washington most people have families and put them before any team and rightfully so. Team loyalty has disappeared because of the salary cap and money grubbing owners. When you have a genuine front office with a healthy relationship with the players some are inclined to stay with the franchise regardless of money, but not here and not for a while. Jed and Trent have single handedly lied and betrayed a loyal fan base. So I am very interested in seeing how the revenue will look this year when the ticket sales and 49er merchandise drop like a stock market crash. True fans are loyal to this team, so I will watch my boys this year in the luxury of my home. Stay strong brethren!!!
    Apr 27, 2016 at 11:01 PM
  • Sid
    " I have to respectfully disagree. Their interest was widely reported, and it's a microcosm of how the team operates." This simply isn't true and completely disingenuous. The FIRST report that was recopied was from Joe Pearson who's a Panthers Beat Writer who said "49ers called to inquired about Josh Norman." Then the second report was clearly and AGENT who pushd Norman to say "I've falled in love with the Bay Area" and it would be like "Lord of the Rings" to play there. Between the time the 49ers were reportedly interested and his trip to Washington, Matt Barrows writes a very good article from his 49ers sources called: "49er's Interested but will Proceed Cautiously" dated 4/21. In that article Barrows talks about the approach. Washington flys him out and he doesn't even visit the team. I'm confused how the 49ers are at fault for "generating news" in a player their interested, says he "loves the bay area", on record for asking him to visit, and signs the biggest deal for a CB with Washington? Sounds like it wasn't love to me and this was all and always about money... oh which by the way was the REASON why Carolina rescinded the tag.
    Apr 26, 2016 at 7:13 AM
  • Lucky Phil
    Ok, I got a know. Where did my last joke go wrong? Was it the taliban joke, the blue man joke or the black man group joke gone wrong. Because if your calling the NAACP, they have nothing but good things to say about me. It's Abe Lincoln and then Lucky Phil. Even Donald Trump has good things to say. You gotta give me something slack, I drop only my 49er jokes here.
    Apr 25, 2016 at 10:23 PM
  • Lucky Phil
    Hey, What happened to my Blue Man Group joke? Too much? My flaccid penis joke is ok but Blue Man? LOL Yeah, Your probably right.
    Apr 25, 2016 at 9:20 PM
  • Lucky Phil
    Did you know last Halloween, Jed York shaved his head, wrapped a pair of Christmas balls (ornaments) around his waist and walked around the neighborhood as a flaccid penis? Yeah! I think he would have a got a lot of candy that year if he didn't start at 8 am. What young boy looking like a flaccid penis doesn't want a Sugar Daddy?
    Apr 25, 2016 at 7:36 PM
  • samd
    if you are so damn smart why dont you work for an NFL team? shhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh
    Apr 25, 2016 at 7:19 PM
  • Lucky Phil
    Wouldn't it a be a great story, if 35 yrs from now, Baalke says, "See, I told you so". I would grab my false teeth out of an ashtray, slap them in my mouth, yank my old man balls off my Taylor Swift Keds, grab my Prince cassette tape, pull my hearing aid out of my crack pipe and jam "Let's Go Crazy". And sit in silence... my hearing aid battery is dead.
    Apr 25, 2016 at 6:58 PM
  • Lucky Phil
    Correct me if I'm wrong but this is the "Baalke Plan" from what I understand. #1 Do not sign any free agents, waste of my fricking time and money! #2 Let our own free agents leave, As Soon As Possible. Who the hell picked these guys anyway! Those NFL analyst love me when I stockpile draft picks. Here's my secret, #1 I hardly ever re-new contracts. #2 I never sign a free agent that will cost more than a $100 signing bonus. (Here's my genius, if you do all this ... you get a lot of comp picks) Don't tell the analyst's, they think I pull these draft picks out of my ass. #4 Build a Football Juggernaut through the draft. (LOL, When is that gonna happen?) Maybe, when Ballke breaks Barry Bonds Home Run record with draft picks.... Nope, that won't be enough lets hope he breaks Pete Rose's record for hits. I think if Baalke trades the entire team this week, we would get Twenty 7th rd. picks. this year. You know what the answer is to building a Super Bowl winner .... Just one more draft pick. If Baalke makes just one more deal for a 5th rd. draft pick this year, you are looking at my Super Balls this year!
    Apr 25, 2016 at 6:25 PM
  • apat0258
    "Sure, their was "interest" in Adam Gase, and Vic Fangio, and Mike Shanahan..." C'mon man! It is "there," in this context. Please take this as constructive, but two editing errors? Let's elevate da reporting game!
    Apr 25, 2016 at 6:24 PM
  • ap0258
    Holy sh*t. "In reality, only $20,000 million of that is guaranteed."
    Apr 25, 2016 at 6:18 PM
  • Lucky Phil
    Lets castrate that son of a bitch! And lets hope flaccid penis doesn't have anymore kids, this team is f$#@ked for my generation but hopefully in 2060 we win a Super Bowl. What's our 45 yr. plan, Sacco?
    Apr 25, 2016 at 5:18 PM
  • Mikecortese
    What ever interest the fourty-niners have in any free agent is nothing more than a smoke cloud that they blow up the @ssis of the Fans. Baalke indicated that these free agents rarely amount to much or don't contribute to make the pro bowl. Really, Justin Smith, Donte whitner, Dieon Sanders, Carlos Rodgers, Ken Norton, Rod Woodson, Mark Jackson, Tim McDonald, Gary Plummer. These Free agents all made it to the probowl within their first or second year. I may have missed one or two players.
    Apr 25, 2016 at 5:05 PM
  • Michael
    Some people below are way over thinking this article and jumping to conclusions that aren't so. Al is simply stating the 49ers front office generates news that they're "interested" in players when in reality they either have none or they have an absurd sense of reality. This amongst York's other horrible decisions are only further alienating the fan base. At no point is he stating the Niners should have gone after Norman and paid what the Redskins gave him.
    Apr 25, 2016 at 3:23 PM
    Response: Couldn't have said it better myself. Thanks, Michael
  • John
    They had to at least kick the tires on Norman or fans would've griped and been mad. Not sure he is actually worth all that money on a rebuilding team like this. If it were me, I'd wait to see who they draft first and which holes they fill, then scour the free agency wire looking to fill what spots remain. That's just my take on it.
    Apr 25, 2016 at 3:13 PM
  • Marco
    You are correct, Lucky Sperm Jed is playing 49er fans for fools. 49er fans send him a message, give him an empty stadium next fall!
    Apr 25, 2016 at 2:01 PM
  • 50yearformerfaithful
    The fish rots from the head. You are clinically insane if you believe the York family has the ability to produce a winner. Harbaugh was handed to them on a silver platter and they screwed it up, chose a failure over a proven winner and are in the basement of the NFL. RESULTS speak for themselves and LIKE FATHER LIKE SON THE YORKS KNOW HOW TO MAKE LOSERS OUT OF WINNERS. The 49ers will never, ever, win a super bowl with the YORKs EVER
    Apr 25, 2016 at 1:57 PM
  • Bill
    Sure. Trust Baalke to break the bank for ONE cornerback because the 49ers are ONE cornerback away from possibly reaching the Super Bowl. NOT! Jeez Louise, I'm glad you're not running this team, Al. The 49ers need a LOT of pieces -- young players -- not high priced veterans. Is a high priced veteran better? Sometimes, but that's not guaranteed. But the money IS. So - sometimes it's just best to ignore the whispers and stick to the notion of reloading through the draft. I know there are many who want this team to make a big splash and ink a big name to a big contract. Oh, wait, we did that already. His name is Colin. How did that work out, Al?
    Apr 25, 2016 at 1:41 PM
    Response: I think you missed my point, Bill. I didn't think it was smart to sign him either, my issue was that the team feigns interest when in reality they have absolutely no intention of pulling the trigger. Imo, it's the Yorks/Baalke just putting out that they are interested to make it look like thy're trying.
  • Juan
    Shelling out 15 mil a year for a 28 year old corner who will be 33 at the end of the contract is not a wise investment.
    Apr 25, 2016 at 1:40 PM
  • danol
    This franchise has a lot of problems and most of those problems are well known around the league. Lack of interest from top tier FAs is more a desire to play for a winning franchise, or at least one on the way up, that it is because Baalke isn't willing to spend the money. It looked to me like he didn't get enough interest to even check the balance of the checking account.
    Apr 25, 2016 at 1:32 PM
  • Jacob
    Josh Norman was not going to be the difference for the 49ers, so we as fans cannot be too disappointed that he is not a 49er. The 49ers need to be building through the draft not through free agency.
    Apr 25, 2016 at 1:18 PM
  • Marco
    Lucky Sperm Jed is an incompetent weasel! 49er fans should boycott the games and not renew their season tickets and send a clear message that the Yorks are not welcomed in the Bay area!
    Apr 25, 2016 at 12:46 PM
  • Peter
    Dude it sounds like you just wanted Josh Norman or you don't know what to write about. The Redskins did what the Redskins do, waste big money on high bust free agents. Rarely do free agents end up like Justin Smith. Baakle made the right move. Also there were many teams interested in Josh Norman so chill dude.
    Apr 25, 2016 at 12:42 PM
  • David
    To those that say that the interest in Norman was all his agent or just speculation, the 49ers did call Norman's representatives immediately following him becoming a free agent. The 49ers did ask for him to visit Santa Clara. None was scheduled. Had he made it out of Washington without an deal, then he may have scheduled a visit. The 49ers' interest, as reported by multiple legitimate sources, was real. If you want to believe that the interest was a rumor just because the 49ers themselves never stated that they were interested, then I really don't know what to tell you. They rarely show their hand, even after the game is over. Now, should they have offered as much as he got from Washington? Absolutely not. That is absurd, which is probably why his reps wanted him to visit Washington first. Their offer was reportedly already on the table, even before he arrived for his visit.
    Apr 25, 2016 at 12:37 PM
  • Frank M
    The Niners were among several teams interested in Norman...but it was the 'Skins who laid out huge bucks to sign him. They feel they're a player or two from being a serious SB contender. The Niners aren't, nor are the Saints, 'Fins or Jags. Fans who've followed the team for at least 10 yrs or longer understand the Niner FA tendency isn't to lay out that kind of money for players. Neither do some of the great teams, like the Pats, Packers and others. Fans need to understand this team's been all about building and sustaining their team primarily through the draft. FA isn't a sprint,'s a marathon. As in every off-season, there'll be some very good vets cut...and if you have the cap space as the Niners do, you can sign very good players for bargain prices. All I can say is for fans to be patient...improving the roster is the ultimate Baalke does that, it doesn't really matter.
    Apr 25, 2016 at 12:33 PM
  • A. Moe
    There are some things you kind of missed or neglected to consider when writing this piece. Sure....the Niners were called or considered a frontrunner in the Norman pursuit for all of an hour or two. But the question you didn't seem to address or ask was WHY? It was pretty clear to me that Norman and his agent used the Niners to drive up interest and the price. Everyone knew the team was sitting on a boatload of cash and it was their way of letting teams know that they had to come with top dollar offers to speak with him. How was it that the Niners were TRULY frontrunners, but he wouldn't even come to Santa Clara for a visit? THAT too was reported. The team asked him to come out, but nothing was set up by his people. I also believe that the team did seriously consider paying him in the 14 million dollar range, but you were disingenuous with your contract figures. Norman signed a 5 year deal worth75 million dollars with 51 million guaranteed. 15 of it was a signing bonus. He will make i believe 36million over his first two years in Washington? It's one thing to be interested and another to be irresponsible. That's what paying a DB 51 guaranteed is...
    Apr 25, 2016 at 12:10 PM
  • JBX
    on the Josh Norman signing with the Redskins...we Niner Fans shouldn't blame the FO for not signing him...he never made it to if he did and left without a contract then i can see why...
    Apr 25, 2016 at 12:03 PM
  • hector
    What really piss me off is the idea of wasting the huge cap of money just by sitting down. Sure, it would be bad overspend just for 2 or 3 overrated players can be a gamble but just throwing that money to a burning dumpster is silly because front office is not keeping free agents or extending current players contract also that money ain't gonna be there next season because NFLPA takes it back. So basically Niners are getting worse each day pass instead of improving. I foresee a worse record than last season and it will be because their bad judgement again...
    Apr 25, 2016 at 11:47 AM
  • Sid
    The entire basis of this article is an expectation set by a Tweet and then being disappointed the tweet (aka rumor) didn't come to fruition. Frustrated because a tweet didn't come true is a ridiculous precedent for expectations for not just sports teams, but life. Al I suggest waiting a few days after the tweet where Barrows gave the real statement in that the 49ers were really never as strongly interested as reported- aka as rumor stated. I know this is harsh, but 49er fans need to grow thicker skin and not scream bloody murder after every tweet and rumored byline in every sports blog and journal doesn't become true.
    Apr 25, 2016 at 11:34 AM
    Response: I have to respectfully disagree. Their interest was widely reported, and it's a microcosm of how the team operates. I think fans have a right to frustrated (as they are). If you follow/read me on a regular basis, you'd know I haven't killed the 49ers at all for their FA approach, but I don't put it past the York's to show interest in an effort to look like they're actually considering making a splash.
  • Dan Waterman
    Well thought article, you simply stated the reality the fans are feeling. So called "interest" is just a teaser to keep fans still interested, and definitely not spend any money. If they don't show "interest" in any players seat license requests would go down. The only thing is going to scare this greedy York Family is winssing half empty stadium, may the banner fly this year once again because it bugs the Yorks.
    Apr 25, 2016 at 11:31 AM
    Response: Thanks Dan

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