May 2 2002
By Bryan Hersh of 49ers Paradise
As I look into my crystal ball, I see the 49ers a whopping $5.3 million dollars under the salary cap. A quick look into the past shows the team hasnít experienced this type of financial freedom in recent history. Clearly Bill Walshís three-year plan, set forth upon his arrival to the team has paid off. And so I look through the ball, and into the near future.
Between now and the start of training camp I see that number decreasing. First I see the team signing its draft picks of 2002, but after that, there will still be a fair bit of money left over. Somewhere around $3 million according to the ball.
I see the team looking to use that $3 million in three different areas, receiver, offensive line and defensive line. The ball has begun to cloud over now, but it looks as if thereís a possibility that the 49ers may only address one of those areas.
The 49ers need to upgrade their receiver position. JJ Stokes simply hasnít been cutting it the past few years. Does that mean he canít upgrade the position? Of course not. I actually expect him to. I do not however expect the 49ers to leave this area alone. I believe that the 49ers will bring someone in to push Stokes, even if it turns out to be UDFA Nate Jackson pushing Tai Streets who in turn pushes Stokes, this is one area that the 49ers will look to improve.
Along the offensive line, particularly if Ron Stone plays right guard - his natural position, the 49ers will be very light on the left side. It is one thing to be light on the line where the quarterback can see the pressure coming from, but the left side is Garciaís blind side, and I donít expect the 49ers to leave this area unattended. I expect the team to bring in someone here probably after June 1st to push the left side of the line and possibly win over a starting spot.
The defensive line too may see another free agent come its way. Sean Moran signed earlier this off-season will push Engelberger and Okeafor for a starting position. But if the 49ers see someone on the market that they particularly like, this area could still see some attention.
Unfortunately the crystal ball only provides a glimpse of the future. It does not tell all, so for the most part we will have to wait and see how the team reacts over the next couple of months.