This year’s free agency crop in the NFL had a plethora of big names and future Hall of Famers for teams to fight over. While many teams made big splashes in free agency, the 49ers laid low and made only a few, but effective free agency signings. Let’s take a look at the 49ers key pickups and how they will impact the team in 2014:
Antoine Bethea: It was not long after Donte Whitner’s departure to Cleveland that the 49ers put a veteran in the back of the defense next to last year’s superstar rookie, Eric Reid. Bethea has been a true professional in his many seasons playing for the Colts, and some argue that his skill sets are identical to Whitner’s and may possibly even be an upgrade at the position. Bethea has always been a great run defender, which is the perfect fit to this already physical defense.
Blaine Gabbert: My initial reaction (along with the rest of the 49er Empire’s) when this trade was first announced was, “Really? The JAGUARS quarterback?” Then I think we all remembered that our head coach was the same one who made Alex Smith a legitimate QB, so we need not worry. Gabbert is going to fill the role of backup quarterback to already cemented starter Colin Kaepernick. Gabbert was drafted the same year as Kap, but 26 spots above the now superstar of the 49ers, going 10th overall. I’m sure the Jaguars wish they could take that one back.
Jonathan Martin: Unless you were living under a rock the last few months, you know all about the Jonathan Martin and Richie Incognito debacle. If you are unaware of what happened, Martin walked out on the team after reported cases of being bullied by teammate and fellow offensive lineman, Richie Incognito. Many teams were skeptical about signing Martin due to his late season struggles in games and then all of the off-the-field circus hype that came along with him after the bullying fiasco. If there was ever a perfect scenario for Jonathan, it would be going to the 49ers, which luckily for Jonathan, is what happened. Martin played for Harbaugh back in college when they were both at Stanford, and on the 49ers, Martin would not be expected to start, but he would be used in their jumbo packages where they bring in an extra lineman to help in the run game.
Chris Cook: A former cornerback for the Minnesota Vikings, Cook adds depth do a secondary that is getting thinner by the minute. The 49ers cut Carlos Rogers and lost Tarell Brown in free agency to their rival across the bay. Chris Culliver, presumed to be a starter this year for the 49ers, was also recently arrested for a hit-and-run, so this signing proved vital to add much needed personnel to the 49ers’ secondary. It is almost guaranteed that a corner will come out of the draft to help out the 49ers defense.
While some 49er fans are distraught due to the lack of “big splashes” made by the team in this year’s free agency period, they have made the necessary moves that will have guaranteed benefits to their team. They resigned their clutch kicker, Phil Dawson, and their special teams ace, Kassim Osgood, which seem like small moves but were vital all the same, but no signing was bigger than the two year deal they handed to their team MVP of the 2013 season, Anquan Boldin. The 49ers were never expected to go big in free agency, but with their mountain of picks in the NFL draft that will occur this May, expect them to go all out.