San Francisco 49ers: Bill Polian

ESPN.com's group of NFL Insiders offer an in-depth free agency grade for all 32 teams. Insider The San Francisco 49ers received a B- grade.

The 49ers concentrated mostly on keeping their own free agents as in-house priorities. However, former Colts' general manager Bill Polian said the team's addition of safety Antoine Bethea was a "home run." Polian drafted Bethea to the Colts.

In other 49ers' notes:

Sports illustrated heaps praise on 49ers' general manager Trent Baalke. It's well deserved. Baalke is usually only in the news when it is about a perceived rift with coach Jim Harbaugh. In reality, Baalke has done a nice job building this roster, and he clearly excels at his job.

The Sacramento Bee offers a nice roundup of the AFC coaches breakfast at the NFL owners meetings, as it relates to the 49ers.
Tarell Brown tweeted Sunday morning about getting a massage and of his plan to barbecue. Brown has reason to be in a festive mood.

Brown
There is reason to believe the cornerback market will be robust in free agency a year after the market struggled. Green Bay re-signed cornerback Sam Shields to a whopping four-year, $39 million deal Saturday. Miami recently signed Brent Grimes, who suffered in free agency last year, to a big extension as well.

If that trend continues, Brown should benefit when free agency starts Tuesday. While the cornerback position is filled with some strong players, ESPN analyst Bill Polian ranks Brown at the top of the available players at the position.

If just one NFL team agrees with Polian, the 49ers will have difficulty keeping him. The 49ers want Brown back, but they will likely not be willing to give him a huge deal with bigger contracts on the horizon for the team. If Brown signs elsewhere, the team will likely have Chris Culliver, who missed all of last season with a knee injury, compete for a starting job. The 49ers would also likely have to add an inexpensive veteran and use an early draft pick on a cornerback.
In an Insider piece, ESPN analyst, and former NFL general manager, Bill Polian gives San Francisco 49ers' cornerback Tarell Brown high praise.

Brown
Polian ranks Brown as the best cornerback in unrestricted free agency Insider. Polian gives Brown the nod over several top-notch free-agent cornerbacks such as Vontae Davis, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Aqib Talib.

If just one NFL team agrees with Polian, the 49ers may be hard pressed to keep Brown. Cornerbacks are often paid at a premium price, so if Brown is coveted, he may be looking at a big contract.

Brown is one of the 49ers' free-agency priorities. CBS Sports reported the team is pushing to get a deal done before free agency starts next Tuesday.

Brown was a starter last year, but lost his job late in the season when he was hurt. However, he did regain it in the playoffs.

Brown would likely be a starter again if he re-signs. If not, the 49ers will get Chris Culliver back from a torn ACL. At the very least, he will be the nickel cornerback. They could also try to replace Brown in free agency with someone like Seattle's Walter Thurmond. In either scenario, the team will likely use an early draft pick at the position.

About Aldon Smith's future

December, 10, 2013
12/10/13
7:20
PM ET
In an Insider piece, ESPN analyst Bill Polian writes that Aldon Smith is one of the premier building blocks in the NFL.

Smith
The question heading into the offseason is, do the San Francisco 49ers feel the same way?

Smith is set to be a free agent in 2015. The 49ers will be able to extend his deal in the offseason. Smith and quarterback Colin Kaepernick (also slated to be a free agent in 2015) are considered major organizational centerpieces moving forward.

However, Smith's future became complicated this season. He voluntarily entered a substance abuse treatment center and missed five games after his second arrest for drunk driving in less than two years. He is also facing felony gun charges stemming from a 2012 party at his house.

The 49ers have stood by Smith and they believe in him. By all accounts, he has done the right things in his personal life since returning to the team in late October.

On the field, as Polian wrote, there are no worries. The No. 7 pick of the 2011 draft is a sublime pass-rushing talent. He has 6.5 sacks in eight games this season and he has 40 sacks in 40 regular-season games.

A contract extension could be tricky because of Smith's off-field issues. Still, I would think the 49ers will continue to show faith in Smith and will still want him to be around for the long term. The only question is whether both sides decide they want to do something more before the final year of Smith's contract.

If the 49ers wait and Smith continues to stay on the right path off the field, his demand and price tag will go up. It will definitely be something to watch in the offseason.

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