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49ers free-agency update: 20-day mark

3/18/2009

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando
The 49ers have faced few difficult decisions since free agency opened Feb. 27 because most of their important players remained under contract.

Reworking Alex Smith's contract was probably their top offseason priority, but even that move lacked urgency.

Quite a few 49ers fans have expressed frustration over what they consider the team's undue indifference to the market. They see other teams making bold moves and wonder why the 49ers have decided to largely sit out this signing period.

Their frustration can be summed up in three questions. Brandon Jones? Demetric Evans? Moran Norris? Nothing against those guys, but when fans think about upgrading their team, they think about the Rams adding Jason Brown, the Seahawks adding T.J. Houshmandzadeh and other more significant moves. They think about making plays for Albert Haynesworth, Julius Peppers and Jay Cutler.

In retrospect, the 49ers were more aggressive in past offseasons because they were trying to compensate for the previous regime's draft shortcomings. Last offseason, they were also trying to save Mike Nolan's job. General manager Scot McCloughan has subsequently expressed a desire to build primarily through the draft.

Right or wrong, the feeling now is that the 49ers are going to benefit most from making better use of their existing personnel. We started to see the benefits (offense, defense) of this once Mike Singletary took over as head coach. The situation at quarterback will still factor heavily into whether the 49ers show improvement in the standings.