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Sunday, July 31, 2011
49ers update: Burress news in perspective

By Mike Sando

News that Plaxico Burress has opted to sign with the New York Jets and not the San Francisco 49ers comes as little surprise based on factors outlined here Saturday.

Landing Burress was a long shot for the 49ers. I cannot fault them for trying. They need help at wide receiver while Michael Crabtree recovers from a foot injury. Burress would have given them a big, experienced target. If pursuing Burress gave the team a 5 percent shot at signing him, that was better than the chances if they did not pursue him at all.

There simply weren't compelling reasons for Burress to choose the 49ers over the Jets or Pittsburgh Steelers, who also courted him. The Jets have become perennial playoff contenders. Burress has roots on the East Coast, having played for the New York Giants most recently. Burress had no known ties to the 49ers' coaching staff.

It's easy to say the 49ers have struck out in free agency, failing to land Nnamdi Asomugha and now Burress. But how close was the team to securing those players? How much should we fault the 49ers for making an effort against long odds? How many teams secure championship seasons through free agency? Has it worked for the Washington Redskins?

Some of the best teams in the league, including Green Bay and Pittsburgh, use free agency sparingly. Of course, those teams landed franchise quarterbacks in the draft. Those teams have proven they can identify and develop talent.

Niners general manager Trent Baalke, speaking to reporters recently, said he understands fans' frustration.

"It's tough for the fans to look at it and hear us say we're going to take a patient approach when we've had as many seasons as we've had and not made the playoffs," Baalke said. "That's totally understandable. But we are going to be patient. We have been patient. We do have a plan and we're executing the plan. And I guess the only thing is the test of time. And how successful this plan is will be measured by how successful we'll become on the field."