49ers Free Agent Watch: Mike Iupati

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Following the 2009 season, the 49ers desperately needed help to fix their porous offensive line. The team had two picks in the first round of the 2010 draft and used them to select tackle Anthony Davis (11th overall) and guard Mike Iupati (17th overall).

The picks were a homerun and helped transform the San Francisco offensive line to one of the best run blocking units in the NFL. While the powers that be decided to lock Davis up with a long term deal, they have taken a chance by letting Iupati hit free agency this year.

Iupati may very well get north of $7 million per year on the open market, and when you consider that Alex Boone is scheduled to make $3.7 million next year, it’s highly unlikely the 49ers will invest that much cash into their guards.

Also working against Iupati returning is the fact that their are multiple players already on the roster who could replace him. Brandon Thomas is coming off an ACL injury but San Francisco selected him in the 2014 draft with the idea that he could slide into Iupati’s spot. There’s also Joe Looney who played decently enough at times, and the loser of the Daniel Kilgore/Marcus Martin battle at center will also be in the mix.

In a perfect world, it would be ideal to keep a player like Iupati around, but the NFL is a salary cap league and teams have to make choices. The 49ers will mostly likely choose to let Iupati move on.

Photo: Getty Images

49ers Free Agent Watch: Michael Crabtree

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When the 49ers selected Michael Crabtree with the 10th pick in the 2009 draft, they envisioned the Texas Tech product being their number one receiver for the foreseeable future. Unfortunately for both parties, the marriage didn’t always work out as planned.

Overall, Crabtree’s career in red and gold was a disappointment. In his six seasons with the the 49ers, Crabtree only eclipsed the 1,000 yard mark once (2012) and scored 26 touchdowns in 79 games.

For his career, Crabtree averages 4.4 receptions and 54.8 yards per game. If you take those totals over a 16 game season, it would equate to about 70 catches and 877 yards. In today’s pass happy NFL, those numbers are a little above average at best.

Crabtree has also had issues with injuries, only playing in all 16 games in three seasons.

Based on what San Francisco has already seen of Crabtree, it would be difficult to imagine them breaking the bank to bring him back. They already have Anquan Boldin and Stevie Johnson under contract at hefty sums for next year, and also have youngsters Bruce Ellington and Quinton Patton vying for playing time.

There’s also a strong possibility that the 49ers will eye a receiver early in this years draft, and could even move up to make a play for someone like Amari Cooper or Kevin White. If not, there were still be quality at the position when they pick at 15, and will have a shot at many other talented wide outs including Devante Parker.

If Crabtree is willing to come back on a team friendly deal, it’s possible the two sides could work something out. If not, all signs point to Crabtree playing elsewhere in 2015.

Photo: Christian Petersen/Getty Images

49ers Free Agent Watch: Frank Gore

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At 31-years old, Frank Gore defied age once again in 2014, and bucked the trend of older running backs struggling to maintain a high level of play.

Despite an inconsistent workload, Gore still managed to gain 1,106 yards on the ground which was good for ninth best in the NFL. He saved his best for last, gaining 302 of that total in the final two games.

After 10 years and 11,073 yards, it’s hard to imagine the 49ers taking the field without their all-time leading rusher. That could be the case in 2015, however, as Gore is a free agent.

Although his contract status is still up in the air, general manager Trent Baalke made it clear recently that he has every intention of trying to bring Gore back to the team.

“We’re still working on it,” said Baalke. It’s not something that’s going to get done yesterday. It’ll take some time to resolve. It’s our intention to have Frank back.”

Whether or not the deal actually gets done remains to be seen. Gore will be 32 when the season starts, and any contract will need to be short term and for less than money than he is accustomed to making. It’s always possible another team could swoop in and offer Gore more money, and there were rumors that the Indianapolis Colts could be interested.

If Gore does not return to the 49ers, they are equipped to handle the loss. Carlos Hyde showed flashes of brilliance in his rookie year, and could step into the lead role. San Francisco will also be welcoming back Kendall Hunter, who missed 2014 with a knee injury. Hunter played well when spelling Gore from 2011-2013, gaining 1,202 yards on 262 carries.

The 49ers could also look to draft a running back at some point, or dip into the free agent pool. Early reports indicated that the team could be interested in Ryan Matthews if we Gore were to leave. When healthy, Matthews performed well for the San Diego Chargers, and is a solid option on an incentive laden deal.

Photo: Getty Images

Jean-Francois set to visit 49ers

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The 49ers could be welcoming back a familiar face in the near future.

Ricky Jean-Francois, who played for San Francisco from 2009-2012, is set to visit the team after being released by the Indianapolis Colts earlier in the Week.

Jean-Francois started five games during his 49ers’ career and amassed 49 tackles and a forced fumble. He’s actually the last person to start in place of defensive line stalwart, Justin Smith.

The 49ers have a need up front, as they cut long time starter Ray McDonald in December, and Smith is still up in the air about whether or not to return to the team for a final season. The other defensive lineman currently on the roster are Glenn Dorsey, Ian Williams, Quinton Dial, Tony Jerod-Eddie, Tank Carradine, Kaleb Ramsey, Lawrence Okoye, and Mike Purcell.

At 6-3 and 300 pounds, Jean-Francois is capable of playing on the end or at nose tackle in the 49ers’ 3-4 scheme. He is also scheduled to visit the Washington Redskins, who now employ former 49ers’ general manager Scott McCloughan at the same position. McCloughan was the man who drafted Jean-Francois in the seventh round of the 2009 draft.

Photo: Getty Images

Audio: 49ersGab Head Coach Candidates Podcast

By Michael Andrews

It’s Official: Jim Harbaugh Out as Niners Coach

The worst kept secret is official – Jim Harbaugh is out as coach of the 49’ers. CEO Jed York confirmed the move after the Niners beat the Cardinals Sunday.

“Jim and I have come to the conclusion that it is in our mutual best interest to move in different directions,” York said.

Harbaugh confirmed the move as well. “It’s been the time of my life,” the now former coach said.

It was a successful tenure with the Niners, as Harbaugh led San Francisco to a 44-19-1 record in the regular season and a 5-3 in the postseason, including one trip to the Super Bowl, a loss to the Ravens.

Harbaugh is going to be the next head coach at Michigan, taking a reported four-year deal for $48 million. As for the Niners, no word on any possible candidates as to who will be the next man on the sidelines.

Colin Kaepernick Says He Will Play Better in 2015

49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick said Tuesday he’s intent on improving his mechanics and all-around game in the offseason, Cam Inman of Bayareanewsgroup reports.

“It’s hard to break habits in-season,” Kaepernick said. “You don’t want to completely change something because it can throw off everything else you’re doing.”

Kaepernick may seek out a mechanics coach, saying “that’s still in the works.” It’s also something that Tom Brady, Drew Brees, Alex Smith and others have done in their offseasons.

“I change things every offseason — a little bit here, a little bit there — to make sure I’m staying on top of things I feel are my weaknesses,” said Kaepernick “I’ll do the same this offseason to make sure I’m better prepared for next offseason.”

49ers and Jim Harbaugh Reaching End of the Road

So it’s come to this. The relationship between Jim Harbaugh and the San Francisco 49ers organization has apparently deteriorated to the point that it’s become a foregone conclusion that the coach will not return for the final year of his contract in 2015. How does a coach who has won 43 regular season games (and technically counting) in less than four years get the axe? A coach who has won five playoff games (and definitely not counting) in three years will be handed his walking papers. A coach who has amassed the fourth best winning percentage in the modern era of football will be without a job (unless traded) in the very near future. The fact that Harbaugh has produced such historically successful results yet is not going to coach the 49ers next season speaks to the level of disconnect there is between Harbaugh, the front office and the players on the field. Harbaugh’s offense has hit a wall in his fourth season and the almost daily drama that’s included in the Jim Harbaugh package has become too much for the team and the organization to handle. On the surface it seems insane, but it appears that Coach Harbaugh has finally worn out his welcome in San Francisco.
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