San Francisco 49ers Poised to be an Elite Team for a Long Time
With a young nucleus, extra draft choices, a decent salary cap situation, and outstanding leadership, the 49ers are primed to be an elite NFL franchise for the foreseeable future. While losing the Super Bowl to Baltimore hurt, would you rather be San Francisco with eager players entering their prime locked in to rookie contracts, or the aging Ravens who were just forced to grossly overpay their average quarterback?
San Francisco's offense will revolve around Colin Kaepernick for years to come. In his first chance at leading a team, Kaepernick helped the Niners to the Super Bowl by rushing for 181 yards and two touchdowns against Green Bay in his first playoff game, and then posting a 127.7 QB Rating to beat Atlanta on the road in the NFC Championship game. Michael Crabtree emerged when Kaepernick replaced Alex Smith as the starting quarterback as an elite wide receiver. Vernon Davis is among the best tight ends in the league. Frank Gore has rushed for 1,000 yards in six of the last seven years, and when he slows down LaMichael James is poised to be another explosive offensive option.
Six 49er defensive starters earned Pro Bowl honors last year. Linebackers Aldon Smith, Patrick Willis, and NaVorro Bowman were joined on the team by tackle Justin Smith and safeties Donte Whitner and Dashon Goldson. San Francisco's defense allowed the third fewest yards, and second fewest points during the regular season.
Of the six elite defenders, four play-making offensive stars, and throw in Pro Bowl offensive linemen Mike Iupati, and Joe Staley, only Goldson is a free agent. Thanks to fleecing Kansas City in the Alex Smith trade, the 49ers now have the cash to pay Goldson if they want.
While Smith took San Francisco to the NFC Title Game two years ago, he was replaced by the less expensive and more explosive Kaepernick. Smith's average at best career numbers somehow were dealt to the Chiefs for two premium draft picks including the number 34 overall pick this season. Furthermore, it clears nine million dollars off of the 49ers payroll.
Armed with young talent, some cap room, and extra draft choices, San Francisco general manager Trent Baalke, and coach Jim Harbaugh are in a position to do what they do best. Baalke was named GM in 2011 and Harbaugh came from Stanford the same year. In two seasons the Niners have gone 24-7-1 in the regular season with two trips to the NFC Championship game, and one conference title. In the seven years prior to Baalke and Harbaugh taking over, the 49ers went 39-73 without a single playoff appearance.
The pieces are in place for San Francisco to be a dynasty. Obviously health and continuing to make shrewd moves on the field and in player personnel are key to achieving a sustained run of success. While there are no guarantees, the 49ers are very well situated moving forward.