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Saturday, July 30, 2011
In search of the 49ers' short-term plan

By Mike Sando

Whatever plan the San Francisco 49ers have for free agency remains a mystery.

Coach Jim Harbaugh wants it that way for what he cited as competitive reasons.

I'm not sure what competitive edge would be lost if Harbaugh admitted the obvious, such as the team's need for help at receiver with Michael Crabtree injured, or the need for cornerback help following Nate Clements' release.

It's tough to know how seriously the 49ers were about trade talks for veteran receiver Chad Ochocinco, who wound up in New England. It's tough to say whether the 49ers were serious about Nnamdi Asomugha before the cornerback signed with Philadelphia. And it's tough to know how strong the 49ers' reported interest in Plaxico Burress might be.

It's easier to see why those players would land elsewhere. Given a choice, established veterans often first seek opportunities with teams better positioned for championship success.

The 49ers' long-term plan is apparent: groom Colin Kaepernick at quarterback and continue to build through the draft. It's tougher to know whether the 49ers have a valid short-term plan without the team acknowledging one. While it's premature to harshly criticize a team for inactivity barely 24 hours into the free-agent signing period, it's natural to wonder in the absence of evidence whether the 49ers feel the same urgency their fans feel when watching other teams attempt to upgrade their rosters.