The 49ers figure to be in the market for linebackers this off-season, starting with their own. The club did not place the franchise tag on linebacker Julian Peterson, meaning he will hit the open market when free agency is scheduled to begin on March 3. Derek Smith, Andre Carter and Brandon Moore are slated to become unrestricted free agents. Coach Mike Nolan says he is hopeful that the club will be able to re-sign some of their own free agents before they hit the market. Smith, the team's leading tackler, appears to be the club's top priority.
TEAM NEEDS/OFF-SEASON STRATEGY
The 49ers, who have won six games combined the past two seasons, have a lot of holes at virtually every position on the team. Most of the 49ers' problems surround the passing game - both offensive and defensive. They need offensive players to help quarterback Alex Smith in the passing game. Defensively, the 49ers have a dearth of players who can rush the passer and cover receivers.
They will certain make concerted efforts to re-sign linebacker Derek Smith and kicker Joe Nedney. Because they received the veteran salary exemption in signing Nedney to a one-year contract last year, they can't sign him before the start of free agency. The club is close to working out a deal and will likely announce his signing on March 3. Linebacker Julian Peterson might warrant too much money for the 49ers to re-sign him. The 49ers will not use their franchise tag on Peterson, who has filled that role the last two years.
Cornerback Ahmed Plummer landed in the doghouse last season while missing the final 13 games after undergoing what the club thought was minor surgery to remove bone chips. The 49ers are expected to release him to save $1 million in cap space.
1. Pass rusher: Whether it comes from a defensive end or an outside linebacker, the 49ers need a player who can put hits on opposing quarterbacks. That was one of the team's most glaring needs last season. If North Carolina State defensive end Mario Williams is still around when the 49ers pick in the first round, don't expect him to get away.
2. Defensive back: The 49ers believe starting cornerback Shawntae Spencer will be a reliable player, but there is nobody else the club would feel confident having as a starter in 2006 especially because they will likely release Ahmed Plummer instead paying the $5.5 million salary he is due to make. Also, Tony Parrish is a solid safety, but the 49ers would like to upgrade at free safety.
3. Receiver: Arnaz Battle showed signs of being a productive receiver, but when he missed much of the season with injuries, the receiving corps did not have the depth to respond. Brandon Lloyd is a one-dimensional receiver who has an aversion to catching the ball in traffic. At the very least, the 49ers need to find a reliable No. 3 pass catcher.
UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS
S Marques Anderson; FB Fred Beasley; TE Steve Bush; DE/LB Andre Carter; OT Anthony Clement; DE Travis Hall; FB Chris Hetherington; TE Terry Jones; WR Jason McAddley; LB Brandon Moore; PK Joe Nedney; LB Julian Peterson; LB Saleem Rasheed; S Kris Richard; LB Derek Smith
RESTRICTED FREE AGENTS
QB Ken Dorsey; WR Brandon Lloyd.
RB Frank Gore will have approximately five months of rehabilitation has he undergoes extensive surgery on both shoulders. Gore has already undergone one surgery. The club is expecting Gore to be ready for limited work during their last minicamp. They expect him to be available for full work early in training camp.
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