Now that every San Francisco 49ers fan and player has finished gritting their teeth after watching the Seattle Seahawks hoist the Lombardi Trophy in MetLife Stadium, it is time to put the 2013 season to rest and focus on how to make the quest for six successful in 2014. While most teams might be looking for that explosive playmaker on offense, or a dynamic game changer to add to their defense, the 49ers key to remaining a top team going into next year is not so much who they can pick up, but rather who they can keep.
Last offseason the 49ers made key acquisitions to their team such as the signing of Phil Dawson, who made clutch, game-winning field goals at the end of regulation both in the regular season and in the postseason. They signed a special teams ace in Kassim Osgood, who was a major contributor with a blocked punt and many crushing blows to punt and kick returners across the league. And maybe the most important acquisition last off season for the 49ers was wide receiver Anquan Boldin, who became the 49ers’ MVP after stepping in for Michael Crabtree, who went down with an Achilles injury early in training camp.Boldin finished the year with 85 receptions for 1,179 yards and 7 touchdowns.
Aside from the newcomers that are in need of a new contract, there are some 49er veterans who have the ability to walk if not presented with a new deal. The biggest of this group is Donte Whitner, the 49ers’ hard-hitting strong safety who has helped set the tone for this smash mouth defense ever since his arrival in 2011. Being recognized nationally as a top tier defense every year in the Jim Harbaugh era, losing Whitner would be a huge blow.
Staying with the defense, Tarell Brown has established himself as a dynamic corner and solid starter on the vaunted 49er defense. Brown is also now a free agent heading into the offseason, and it would hurt the 49ers’ secondary if he were to leave the team, as the other corners on the team have been susceptible to injuries the past couple of years.
All in all, this free agency period will dictate whether or not the 49ers will fulfill their dreams of a sixth championship. Key injuries were the main setback for the 49ers this year, as stars like Michael Crabtree, Aldon Smith and Mario Manningham all missed major playing time due to injuries or leaves of absence. The 49ers lost some close games this year to the Saints and the Panthers, and if one of those two games had been won, the 49ers would have claimed the #1 seed in the NFC playoffs, and the NFC championship versus the Seahawks would have been back in The Bay.
The 49ers have a dominant team who love playing with one another. For three straight years, they have almost tasted winning the Lombardi, but have fallen short. This team is hungry, and if they could be one tipped pass away from going back to the Super Bowl after all the adversities they faced this year with injuries and their quarterback going through some inevitable growing pains, imagine what can happen if this same core group continues to wear red and gold entering the 2014 season.