The San Francisco 49ers are simply looking to get better, at every position on the roster that can feasibly be improved upon. No position is safe, not even the "sacred bond" that Jim Harbaugh and Alex Smith apparently shared, given the team's pursuit of quarterback Peyton Manning. They've looked at most positions, grabbing upgrades at the backup fullback position with Rock Cartwright over Moran Norris, and the wide receiver position by bringing in Mario Manningham and refusing to overpay for Josh Morgan.
Now they've turned their attention to the running back position, with the signing of former New York Giants back Brandon Jacobs. It's an interesting signing to say the least, especially given how Jacobs has been prone to trash talk about the 49ers in the past. That's just business though, and he'll at least be able to bond with Manningham to assimilate into the locker room. But what does Jacobs' signing mean on the football field?
It means, in so many words, that the 49ers want more than just competition at every spot - they want multiple feasible starters at every spot. Jacobs has been a starter in the past, and has had success in that vein, but is something of a streaky player. He's just not able to hold up over the course of an entire game or an entire season of entire games with his bruising "run you over" style of play.
Much like how Frank Gore is getting to that point in his career where the mileage on him is making it prohibitive to his ability to be that bell cow that he has always been. While he's the same age as Jacobs, he indisputably has more miles on him and needs more time off now than before. But the 49ers don't want that power running back production to drop off when Gore needs a rest.
They've got Kendall Hunter as the change-of-pace back and potential starter for the future, but when Gore needs a rest and the 49ers need some tough yardage, Anthony Dixon is the only option in that vein. And the 49ers don't have a ton of confidence in Dixon when it comes to that. In the playoffs, Dixon was given a couple crucial carries and couldn't produce a first down. When his ankle was grabbed and he fell well short of the first down marker, many figured Gore would have picked up that yardage.
Or perhaps Jacobs would have. This signing is mult-faceted at this point, in that Jacobs is here to increase the effectiveness of Gore, but he also could compete with him on some level, given Gore's $6 million contract number. At this point, it's open to interpretation what the ceiling for Jacobs is in regards to having an affect on the 49ers' current roster.
But we definitely know that the floor is attempting to make Dixon expendable. Even if Dixon hoped he could be a backup fullback, Jacobs is the kind of player that ... well, doesn't need one. Jacobs is a lead blocker for Jacobs, and always has been. Should be interesting, to say the least.