A couple days ago, I got into it with another 49ers fan in regards to which teams have had the best and worst offseasons thus far. He ranked the 49ers in the top five and the Oakland Raiders in the bottom five, and both moves made me scratch my head for awhile. Eventually, I argued for the Raiders and was nothing more than cautiously optimistic regarding the 49ers. I came to an eventual conclusion, with this tweet:
The crux of the "49ers have good offseason" argument lies in two things: the thought of these players just needing new scenery, and Harbaugh
That's Jim Harbaugh if you're just now joining us, and he was the big coaching hire of the offseason. Niners Nation amassed over 20,000 comments during the period of the team's pursuit of Harbaugh. Everybody was confused, the beat writers knew not of what was happening and the national media guys lied through their teeth. It was absolute chaos, so I'm sure you didn't miss it.
But first, we'll address the first part of the tweet.
Before the team signed Carlos Rogers, a lot of folks were in a state of panic. Trent Baalke preached patience and the fans were calling for blood, patience be damned. The team had lost Nate Clements, David Baas, Eric Heitmann and Joe Nedney, and were in the process of losing Manny Lawson and Aubrayo Franklin. For the "right now matters" crowd, everything was bad.
But the team conveyed interest in Rogers, after being linked to Nnamdi Asomugha, which is such a drastic step down, I don't even need to explain it. But it is what it is, and in the end, San Francisco signed him to a one-year deal. With the signing, they got a number one corner with a lot of potential to be great. But Rogers is flawed in more ways than one. Since being a top-end pick in the draft, Rogers has only played for the Redskins, and he's never been a big-name guy that creates turnovers or catches your eye.
Over the years, he's been called a lot of things. Some folks have said he's not a gamer, other said he's not dependable. There are those that would even call him a choker, if only Washington ever sniffed a championship. The comes from his lack of confidence, or his inability to keep his confidence once it is shaken. Rogers is a streaky player who never lived up to his draft status in Washington. The main thing he's needed for a couple years now is a fresh start.
With the 49ers, he'll get a chance to come in and be the number-one corner on a team desperate for his help. Fans in San Francisco want a corner they can embrace, after the team poured money into Nate Clements. Clements got a contract worth ... a lot of money, to put it simply. Too much money puts it more simply. Rogers can be the guy that Clements wasn't able to be, it's all about his confidence and his ability to turn things around on another team. In fact, he's the perfect candidate for a one-year deal, and that's why he got one.
When week one hits and Rogers is announced at Candlestick (because with all the new players on defense, they'll be announcing them, plus Patrick Willis always gets the biggest roar from the crowd), he'll come out to screaming fans desperate for his ability. He'll be playing alongside guys like Patrick Willis and Justin Smith, in a defense run by Vic Fangio, who will give him the best chance to succeed, along with defensive backs coach Ed Donatell. Rogers can turn things around in San Francisco.
Donte Whitner is another guy who, for one reason or another, needs a change of scenery. The 49ers clearly upgraded their safety position by bringing him in, but it's all up to him as to how much of an upgrade he actually is. Early reports out of camp are that Whitner is becoming a leader and outspoken voice on the defense. That's something he clearly needs to do, coming from Buffalo, where many considered him to be a bad egg in the locker room. Whitner was out of there before the week seventeen press conference began.
Which means that's not a glowing recommendation for Whitner, to say the least. His off-the-field and locker room issues mean that a change of scenery isn't only needed, it's required. San Francisco has the right group in place for Whitner to work with, so if he's going to play up to his potential anywhere, he's in the right place. If he wants to be a leader on defense and a vocal team leader, he can do it all he wants on the 49ers.
And to drive home the point, we come to Braylon Edwards. The 49ers were in the market for a wide receiver, because Michael Crabtree doesn't - to put it gently - inspire much confidence. Edwards is a fast receiver with great route running and physicality, but he's always had problems with drops. He's got a bad case of the T.O.'s.
In more ways than one.
Edwards has a myriad of off-the-field issues, and has always been considered somewhat of a liability in that regard. He needs a positive environment, and legitimately wants to get away from all of that negativity. Perhaps moving across the country to the Bay can help him with those issues. He's got the talent to be a number-one wide receiver, but does he have the support around him mentally to get past all of these mental barriers? We'll see.
These free agents are already very solid starters, but with a change of scenery, they could be great players. That's what this offseason will hinge on. Did anything actually get upgraded? Did these players break through the mental block and shine? It could be the difference between a winning and losing team, which, in the NFC West, could mean winning or losing the division.
Harbaugh is the guy, he'll have all the time in the world to do what it is he does and do it well. He's brought in coordinators he trusts and they come as a package - the biggest free agent signing this offseason. He was heavily pursued, and saw something in the 49ers he liked. More than the free agent signings, people will look at the Harbaugh signing as the deciding factor in regards to improvement or mediocrity.