Free agents can start signing at midnight tonight, and the 49ers are only rumored to be pursuing two players: linebacker Lance Briggs and defensive end Justin Smith.
Since McNolan (Mike Nolan and Scot McCloughan) seems to have a totally defensive point of view when it comes to player acquisitions, it looks like they are uninterested in improving their weakest position last year: wide receiver.
Unless Jason Hill can somehow channel the speed of Mike Martz’s former pet Kevin “Mr.” Curtis, another season of Darrell Jackson and Arnaz Battle is enough to make Niners fans pine for J.J. Stokes and Tai Streets.
Here’s a look at potential 49er targets:
Randy Moss: The receiver Mac and I call Mandy Ross is free to sign with the team of his choosing, and he’d be a moron not to choose the New England Patriots. Hmmm, Tom Brady or Alex Smith? Bill Belichick and Scott Pioli or McNolan?
Can you imagine Mandy on a bad Niners squad next year? If San Francisco was fine with dumping Terrell Owens in his prime due to attitude issues (calling his quarterback gay), there’s no way they open up their wallets just so Nate Clements has someone good to practice against.
Odds of joining the 2008 Niners: 1,000,000 to 1
Donte Stallworth: The forgotten Patriot receiver, Stallworth has been an NFL and fantasy team killer over the years due to a pattern of promise thwarted by injuries. He never got hurt in New England last year, but he also had a Jason Hill-esque role in the Pats offense.
He’d be the fastest 49ers receiver since Renaldo Nehemiah, but San Francisco has been burned by talented but mercurial receivers before (or did you forget Antonio Bryant?). He’s an intriguing possibility, but too much of a gamble for this team.
Odds of joining the 2008 Niners: 1,000 to 1
Bernard Berrian: The other fast guy available besides Stallworth, Berrian is known for his ability to go deep and not much else. Of course, Alex Smith is known for his inability to throw deep with any accuracy, so Berrian would probably be like signing a more polished Ashley Lelie. Maybe they should see if Martz can get anything out of the Lelie they already have before overpaying for a new one.
However, Berrian’s name has been linked with the Niners from time to time, and Berrian may want to play near the area where he went to college (Fresno St.). And after catching balls from Rex Grossman and Kyle Orton his whole NFL career, Alex Smith might seem like Peyton Manning to Berrian. Of course, McNolan will probably call Berrian on accident tonight thinking they are dialing Lance Briggs’ number.
Odds of joining the 2008 Niners: 100 to 1
D.J. Hackett: Now we’re talking! Hackett suffered through an injury-plagued year in 2007, which was less than helpful to my fantasy team. But he has produced when healthy. Also, he’s a former Seahawk, and we all know how those Seahawk receivers perform when they come play in San Francisco!
However, he is right in the McNolan wheelhouse when it comes to receivers. He’s good at everything, but doesn’t really excel in any one category. He has never been linked to any locker room discord or strip club arrests, and his potential has always outpaced his actual usefulness (a quality McNolan especially enjoys).
Odds of joining the 2008 Niners: 10 to 1
Isaac Bruce (just released today): We have our winner! Bruce has been absolutely murdering the Niners for years, even more so than Torry Holt. Bruce is old, but that won’t stop Martzie from trying to strike magic with Ike again (Especially if efforts to procure Mr. Curtis fall on deaf ears).
Odds of joining the 2008 Niners: 3 to 1
Chad Johnson: OK, maybe he isn’t a free agent, but Ocho-Cinco has pretty much written his ticket out of Bengal-land with his Super Bowl performance. He didn’t play, obviously, but he told anybody willing to hand him a headset and/or microphone that he wants to get out of Cincinnati.
The Bengals are bad and getting worse. If the 49ers can get Johnson with a second round pick (like the Chargers with Chris Chambers) or even a fourth round pick (like the Pats with Mandy) wouldn’t McNolan have to pull the trigger? I doubt they’ll have time for another three-year rebuilding project.
Odds of joining the 2008 Niners: 250 to 1