Chris Culliver

10 free agents who seem like they could be Baalke guys

Trent Baalke 49ers GM

Trent Baalke has tendencies. Guys with long arms, big hands and great pedigrees (translation: former first round picks) are favorites of Baalke. So are guys who tore their ACLs within a few months of an NFL Draft.

But that doesn’t mean he’s predictable. No one thought he’d take Aldon Smith. Or A.J. Jenkins. Or Jimmie Ward. It’s difficult to remember anyone projecting Antoine Bethea to the 49ers before he signed a year ago.

So I’m trying to do the impossible here in figuring out 10 guys who — considering what we know about Baalke’s ideas of free agent value — could find their way to Santa Clara. It’ll take some salary cap manipulation to get some of these players, but this list is devoid of consensus top-10 free agents. Plus, current 49ers can always get cut or have their contracts restructured.

1. Perrish Cox

Position: Cornerback
2014 team: 49ers
Why he’s a Baalke guy: Kind of obvious — Baalke has signed him multiple times
Why he isn’t a Baalke guy: His value has never been higher, 2014 production waned after he started getting Pro Bowl hype

Chris Culliver Super Bowl media2. Chris Culliver

Position: Cornerback
2014 team: 49ers
Why he’s a Baalke guy: Big, physical and angry; Baalke drafted him
Why he isn’t a Baalke guy: His value is much higher than Cox’s

3. Patrick Robinson

Position: Cornerback
2014 team: Saints
Why he’s a Baalke guy: Former first round pick (32nd overall in 2010)
Why he isn’t a Baalke guy: Average arm length and hand size; never played all that well for New Orleans

4. Jeremy Maclin

Position: Wide Receiver
2014 team: Eagles
Why he’s a Baalke guy: Former first round pick (19th overall in 2009); tore his ACL two years ago
Why he isn’t a Baalke guy: kind of young (26) for a receiver; probably too rich for Baalke’s liking

Michael Crabtree5. Michael Crabtree

Position: Wide Receiver
2014 team: 49ers
Why he’s a Baalke guy: High draft pick (10th overall in 2010 2009); might not find market he’s expecting after a mediocre contract year; other reasons I mentioned here
Why he isn’t a Baalke guy: It wasn’t all that fun to watch Crabtree in 2014, and Baalke doesn’t take losses well

6. Eddie Royal

Position: Wide Receiver
2014 team: Chargers
Why he’s a Baalke guy: Seemed like an obvious choice for the 49ers heading into 2012; can contribute as a returner
Why he isn’t a Baalke guy: Royal is kind of like an older, more accomplished Bruce Ellington

7. Jabaal Sheard

Position: Outside Linebacker
2014 team: Browns
Why he’s a Baalke guy: Run-stopping OLB; 33.5″ arms; taken 37th overall in 2011; underutilized in Cleveland; possible younger replacement for Ahmad Brooks; arrested for assault after being accused of throwing a guy through a glass door while at Pitt
Why he isn’t a Baalke guy: Sack totals have decreased every season, from 8.5 in his rookie season to 2.0 in 2014

8. Brandon Graham

Postion: DE/OLB
2014 team: Eagles
Why he’s a Baalke guy: 13th overall pick in 2010; disappointing production (17 career sacks) could drive price down
Why he isn’t a Baalke guy: Pro Football Focus graded him out as the third-best 3-4 OLB in 2014, so he might not come all that cheap

9. Jake Locker

Position: Quarterback
2014 team: Titans
Why he’s a Baalke guy: Chosen eighth overall in 2011 (two spots ahead of Blaine Gabbert!); 49ers need a backup to Colin Kaepernick; Locker is a tough player who can run; pretty awful draft for QBs
Why he isn’t a Baalke guy: It’s hard to imagine much money is earmarked for this position, with Kaepernick making eight figures in 2015

10. C.J. Spiller

Position: Running Back
2014 team: Bills
Why he’s a Baalke guy: High draft pick (No. 9 overall in 2010); good change-of-pace guy to use with Carlos Hyde; 49ers need a skill position guy with speed
Why he isn’t a Baalke guy: Spiller probably wants to go somewhere where he’ll be the undisputed No. 1 back; reportedly turned down $4.5 million per year from the Bills

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Bonus

Two guys who the 49ers might target, in part because they were cut. As Matt Maiocco recently pointed out, that means singing either one wouldn’t force the 49ers to surrender compensatory picks:

You can probably throw Ted Ginn into this group as well, although that would be a strange reacquisition.

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And now that I’ve written about all these players, don’t be surprised when Baalke re-signs Frank Gore and Mike Iupati.

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