It's clear that the 49ers need to bolster their receiving corps, so when Adam Schefter tweeted that the 49ers would go after a wideout in free agency and use their top draft pick on another, it wasn’t much of a shocker. The difference between the 49ers going to the Super Bowl and going home was probably one good wide receiver. They are standing on the precipice of championship hopes. A good wideout can push them over the edge. This will be a top priority for Baalke & Co.
Bay Area Sports Guy pointed out that one of Harbaugh's lone whiffs in his NFL debut was when he passed on Doug Baldwin in the draft.
Because of this, I’m starting to doubt Schefter’s theory on what San Francisco will do in the first round. Will Harbaugh let another standout from Stanford, Coby Fleener, get away this year? Many mock drafts have Fleener going in the late first round – some before the 30th pick – and given Harbaugh's affinity for tight ends, it wouldn't surprise me if he used that slot to pick him up.
That would mean the 49ers pass on a wide receiver in the first round, and that’s where the most talented ones will go. Even so, the 49ers don’t need one. Their true need is DEPTH at that position, so they’ll need to look at free agency, and that means that they should go after Mike Wallace.
If you're a 49ers fan looking for a free agency splash, I have an inkling that this may be the year. This is one of the most talented groups of free agent wide receivers in some time and the 49ers are in the unique position of having the pick of the litter. With Jim Harbaugh coaching the 49ers into contention, I believe San Francisco will soon be a destination for top prospects. Should high profile players want to come, the 49ers have plenty of money to work with.
How much money, you ask? A lot. John Clayton reported that the 49ers have $39.3 million to work with thanks to some thrifty shopping by Trent Baalke in 2011. That makes them one of the top teams in terms of cap space, but don't forget – they still have some business still to take care of in house.
With somewhere between $8-11 million certain to be committed to Alex Smith, and big bucks going towards Goldson and Carlos Rogers (ideally), at least $20M should be wiped off the board right away. The 49ers will also have to pay Adam Snyder well if they want to keep him. Their only other option at guard is Chilo Rachal, who is not only a free agent, but awful as well.
The 49ers will probably offer Joshua Morgan a one year deal at a couple million dollars. OLB Ahmad Brooks would leave a big hole if the 49ers don’t re-sign him. Ted Ginn would leave a need at return specialist if the 49ers have to say goodbye to him. How much Ginn will ask for is yet to be determined, but his services will definitely be a need for the 49ers as well.
Trent Baalke has his work cut out for him. The 49ers need to spend money in several other areas, but I can't imagine that it would put them out of the race for Wallace by any means.
How much will Wallace cost?
In this article, Niners Nation pointed out that if the Steelers slapped the franchise tag on him, Wallace would cost Pittsburgh 9.4M in 2012 alone. On the open market the price will get even steeper.
Wallace caught 72 passes for 1193 yards and 8 touchdowns, numbers unseen by any San Francisco wide receiver in a long time. He averaged 16.6 YPR this year and his longest was 95 yards.
Compare that to Michael Crabtree, the 49ers No. 1 wideout: He caught 72 passes for 874 yards, averaging 12.1 YPR with a long of 52. Granted, Crabtree didn't have a standout complementary wide receiver, but with Wallace on the other side of the field, it could open up some serious room for him.
This is all very tantalizing, but big time numbers mean big time bucks, and with so many suitors out for Wallace's services, there's no telling how ugly his price tag could get. My instincts tell me that no matter how much research, number crunching and prayer I engage in, this just isn't a move that the 49ers will make. In the meantime, we can all enjoy the lofty delusions of the 49ers landing a true game breaking wide receiver for 2012 and beyond.