Free Agency Mess
For whatever reason, just year after a massive rebuild the 49er are again faced with salary cap problems, backloaded contracts, and a number of free agents that the team should be keeping no matter what they may be trying to tell you.
This is symptamatic of a few different issues that quite frankly are growing old and more provactive with each passing off-season.
The first problem is built in the the NFL system. Quite frankly the NFL encourages teams to draft player and turn them into stars. Problem is that the time and money spent working on the young players is not returned to the teams. A systematic problem with the NFL is that once a player had developed on a team, they are often priced beyong the point where the team can retain them. Julian Peterson is the classic example. A first round draft pick, the 49ers took Peterson and groomed him into one of the premier players in the NFL. Now that Peterson has reached free agent status, the 49ers will be hard pressed to keep him on the team. His salary demands are simply excessive in relation to the salary cap that the NFL relies on players.
The system needs to change. Player re-signing with their current tem should simply not count against the salary cap above the league's minimum veteran salary. It is simply ridiculous to focus so strongly on improving a player's ability only to lose out on the player four years later. The change I have proposed will remedy this problem, will allow teams to retain their investments, will build player and fan loyalty, and will quite simply fix one of the biggest problems in the NFL today.
The problems however are not simply relenegated to the NFL though. Many of the 49ers problems are indeed their own. For starters the lying has to stop. Year after year, the ownership and management lie to the fans. They tell the fans how they ar working to avoid backloaded contracts, making necessary cuts of players to free up salary cap room, and signing contracts that will be more salary cap friendly in the future. While all this may be true, year after year there are players with even greater backloaded contracts, the team cuts players that they can only replace with free agents with backloaded contracts, and as such the future contracts are indeed no more salary cap friendly.
This has to stop. There is no reason why Jeff Garcia should be able top hold the 49ers hostage by their salary cap. It's simply ridiculous. The contracts this team offers consistently put them in a dangerous position for the future. Yet year after year we are lead to believe that if we take our medicine now, the future will be brighter. It was one thing when the team was winning and making the playoffs, but now that the team is not only not winning, but still putting its future in jeopardy, its time for the team to shape up.
This off-season there are reports that players like Zack Bronson, Garrison Hearst, Derrick Deese, Scott Gragg and Sean Moran will be released. The team has tried to sugar coat these releases, citing younger better players coming through the system. That may be true in the case of Sean Moran and Zack Bronson. Maybe even for Garrison Hearst, who at the very least should be kept as a backup - but the thought of releasing either of our offensive lineman makes no sense. Even as a veteran backup either of these players will still be cheaper and better than any free agent the team brings in. Simply put, releasing some of these players can not make this team better.
The team of course will not tell you that. They will tell you that these are necessary moves. The truth though is that the poor handling of the contracts and free agents have continued to put this team in trouble, despite the slight improvements in the salary cap position.
Another problem has been the 49ers failure to extend contracts of players who they want to keep and whose contracts are coming due. Had the 49ers signed Julian Peterson last season he would have come cheaper, and there would be no reason to have to worry about the pending free agency period. Had the team re-signed Owens and this season wanted to depart with him, they could have traded him - but only if they had structured his contract properly. The team has been trying to tell us they have a plan to solve the free agency and salary cap problems, but year after year the hands of the team are forced by pending free agents demanding large contracts that not only can the team not afford, but that the team could not structure properly if they could afford them.
These are problems, problems that need to be acknowledged and addressed. I know that I am sick of being lied to. I am sick of taking my medicine, I am sick of being told everything will be better next year. Why can't this team just make it happen already?