One of the most interesting side stories in the NFL between now and the start of free agency next March will be how what will happen with a potentially powerful receiver class.
There are 10 receivers who are poised to be free agents after the year that have to be considered top-flight wideouts. Crabtree is one of them.
ESPN Insider Mike Sando polled general managers and coaches to put together a ranking of the top 10 potential receiver free agents. Crabtree ranked third on the list behind Dallas' Dez Bryant and Denver's Demaryius Thomas. Among the others on the list were Green Bay's Jordy Nelson at No. 4, Denver's Wes Welker at No. 7 and Atlanta's Roddy White at No. 9.
This what Sando wrote about Crabtree:
The 49ers had a hard time signing Crabtree as a rookie in part because Crabtree thought he was worth more than what players in his draft slot generally received. That difficult negotiation remains in my mind as Crabtree approaches free agency. He missed some of last season with a torn Achilles' tendon, placing greater importance on the 2014 season for setting his value. Will this be another tough negotiation? “Crabtree and Bryant are probably the two most talented guys on the list,” one of the GMs said. “Demaryius Thomas would be up there. Some people will worry about Crabtree's personality a little bit.”
This is how I would rank the top three: Thomas, Bryant, Crabtree.
Regardless, Crabtree would be highly sought after in free agency if it gets to that point. The 49ers have enough current salary cap room to potentially get a deal done with Crabtree done this year. Also, if it gets to that point, the 49ers could give Crabtree the franchise tag.
Whether Crabtree is signed this year or not, I'm sure others on this list will be signed. It will both lessen and set the market. Receivers will be in the spotlight in the NFL and Crabtree's future is a big part of the intrigue.