Monday, February 18, 2013
Delanie Walker and the 49ers' to-do list
By Mike Sando
There should be little panic in San Francisco if the 49ers' top challenges in free agency consist of re-signing a safety and tight end.
The franchise tag is available, if needed, to keep free safety Dashon Goldson or tight end Delanie Walker from leaving.
Keeping both players would be ideal. Coach Jim Harbaugh recently called Goldson a player the team wants to reward.
Goldson earned Pro Bowl honors each of the last two seasons.
Walker's value isn't as obvious from afar. He has never caught more than 29 passes during a single regular season. He has eight touchdown receptions in seven seasons. But Walker's playing time is on the rise. He played 57.2 percent of the 49ers' offensive snaps last season, up from 52.4 during Harbaugh's first season. And as the chart shows, Walker's production spiked when the 49ers replaced Alex Smith with Colin Kaepernick at quarterback.
The 49ers, long defined by defense and their running game, are becoming quarterback-driven to a degree unseen in San Francisco over the past decade. Walker's value as a weapon for Kaepernick should be taken into consideration when setting his value. His speed, blocking and overall versatility give the 49ers' offense added dimension. Walker is also one of the 49ers' better special-teams players.
Walker would cost a projected $5.962 million in 2013 if the 49ers named him their franchise player. The price for Goldson would be $7.454 million.
I would expect the 49ers to keep both players. If not, I couldn't fault a St. Louis fan from envisioning Goldson in the Rams' secondary, or a Seattle fan from envisioning Walker paired with Zach Miller.
Earlier: Walker, Vernon Davis and the 49ers' quarterbacks.