- Mike Sando, NFL Insider
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"How valuable could the 30th pick be?" he asks.
This is the most enticing argument for chasing after a young, talented restricted free agent such as Wallace, who might qualify as the best deep-threat receiver in the NFL. NFC West fans might remember Wallace's 95-yard touchdown reception against Arizona last season, or his 53-yard reception against Seattle, or his 46-yarder against St. Louis.
Wallace would give the 49ers the deep-threat wideout their rotation has been lacking.
A few considerations:
Price: The 49ers would have to pay Wallace enough for two things to happen. One, Wallace would have to sign an offer sheet, forcing the 49ers to outbid any other suitors. Two, the deal would need to be structured so that Pittsburgh would not match it. The 49ers would then have to send their first-round choice, 30th overall, to the Steelers.
Fit: The 49ers have carefully identified which players in their locker room to hold up as leaders. Patrick Willis, Joe Staley and Vernon Davis have gotten lucrative long-term deals. Justin Smith and Frank Gore have also been highly paid. Smith is the perfect example of a free agent from another team who was worth the investment. The 49ers would have to feel good about how Wallace would react to a payday. Signing him affects dynamics at the position, putting Wallace over Michael Crabtree and the other receivers.
The pick: It's easy to discount the value of that 30th choice because so many draft choices fail to pan out. But that is why teams employ personnel departments. The 2009 first round was largely disappointing, but the Green Bay Packers nonetheless landed B.J. Raji and Clay Matthews. Tennessee stood pat at No. 30 and drafted Kenny Britt, who averaged 17.5 yards per reception with 15 touchdowns before suffering a season-ending knee injury early last season. Niner fans will point to the 2004 draft, when San Francisco took receiver Rashaun Woods at No. 31. But a look at receivers drafted from the 28th through 32nd picks since 2001 shows Woods was more exception than rule. Hakeem Nicks, Britt, Craig Davis, Anthony Gonzalez, Michael Jenkins and Reggie Wayne were the other receivers in that group.
The offense: Would the 49ers maximize their investment in a deep-threat receiver? Would Wallace open up their offense, taking them to another level? Or would the nature of the 49ers' approach and potential limitations at quarterback leave us wondering why Wallace's production had failed to carry over?
I'd have a hard time criticizing the 49ers if they made a strong play for Wallace. They need help at the position. Wallace is only 25 years old. Wallace is established and ascending.
It's true that receivers often disappoint, but very few in Wallace's position hit the market. The new labor agreement gives the best restricted free agents more freedom. This would seem to be a relatively low-risk proposition for the 49ers as long as Wallace's personality and work ethic checked out.
3hEric D. Williams