Friday, March 05, 2004

49ers Off-Season Update

It's been an even busier off-season than I'd expected so far. So far, considering the lousy prospects going in, things have gone pretty well for the 49ers. They managed today to sign Ahmed Plummer to a long-term contract. He and Mike Rumph will make fine starting corners. Linebacker Julian Petersen got the franchise tag and will be back for next year. In other words, the defense is looking great. Last year's dominant 49ers defense is pretty much coming back. And then there's the offense. Here's where we're looking at big changes. Owens is gone, but not the way we expected. Thanks to a paperwork snafu, we get a second-round pick out of the deal. That's just a free player -- we were expecting to get nothing. More surprisingly, Jeff Garcia was released as a salary cap casualty. Garrison Hearst asked to be released when it became clear that Kevan Barlow is the starter (we've got a nice long-term deal with him now). The 49ers (dubiously, I think) gutted the O-line by releasing both Ron Stone and Derrick Deese. Tai Streets's fate is still undetermined, but it seems likely that he'll leave. So the Niners lose six of eleven starters on offense. But now the good news about the offense: Barlow is more than capable as running back. Fred Beasley's staying, and we shouldn't miss a beat with the running game. I liked Garrison Hearst a lot, but the 49ers shouldn't miss him too much. Barlow can get it done. At quarterback, Tim Rattay looked good the three games he started last year. Very good. I'm cautiously optimistic. I'm a huge Jeff Garcia fan, but Rattay has been a patient backup a long time. I'm sure he's picked up a thing or two. I'm more worried at wide receiver -- we need starters. Maybe young badasses like Brandon Lloyd and Cedric Wilson can step up, or maybe we'll bring in a veteran or two. It'll be ok. The big question mark is O-Line. And the other good news: the Niners have turned themselves, pretty much in the past two weeks, into a very cap-healthy team. They're young, they're good, and they're getting rid of the dead money. This is good news. And we're poised for a *great* draft -- with the bonus T.O. pick, we can do some great things in this year's very deep draft. There's a lot of room for optimism right now in 49er-land.

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