SANTA CLARA — Not so long ago, the Niners thought they'd spend Monday game-planning for their Super Bowl opponent. Instead, they spent it clearing out their lockers and answering questions about free agency. Welcome to the first day of the offseason.
Still, they believe they're a Super Bowl team.
"The football gods had a different ending in mind," coach Jim Harbaugh said at his Monday news conference. To him, his mighty men should have won the Super Bowl this season because they're just that good.
Following that logic,Ppriority No. 1 now for the 49ers is to lock up their Super Bowl team for the future, meaning they need to re-sign their key free agents, and there are many.
For starters, there's quarterback Alex Smith. He's most likely coming back — Harbaugh has made that clear.
Other free agents the Niners likely will re-sign: Ahmad Brooks, Blake Costanzo, Ted Ginn Jr., Joshua Morgan, C.J. Spillman and Adam Snyder. None of them are Pro Bowl players, so the Niners won't have to overspend to bring them back.
But the Niners will have to spend big to re-sign a couple of key members of their elite defense — Dashon Goldson and Carlos Rogers. Both are going to Sunday's Pro Bowl, and both are going to receive mondocontract offers in free agency.
"If a player could make significantly more money going to another team than we would be willing or able to pay them, then I would be happy for those players," Harbaugh said. "But we're going to compete for the guys that played 16 games, for the guys who were consummate team guys. That's what I've told them and that's what we'll do. The grass isn't always greener. Our players have built up a lot of equity here, with me, with our coaches, with our organization. I know the people are going to make the best decisions for the families and their selves. That will be life happening, but hopefully they enjoyed their season here and being a part of this team. We'll see how it shakes out."
Goldson and Rogers could make significantly more money going to another team. Obviously, the Niners would like to re-sign both, but they may not be able to afford them. They may have to pick between the two.
On Monday, Donte Whitner lobbied for Goldson.
"I think me and him have really good chemistry back there," Whitner said. "Teams know that when they play us, they're gonna get hit, we're gonna be physical and we're gonna get everybody lined up. I don't know what he's gonna do for his family, I don't know what the organization has planned. But me, personally, I would like to see him stay."
On the other side of the locker room, Rogers lobbied on his own behalf.
"Hopefully I don't even reach free agency," said Rogers. "They said they want me back. They definitely want me back. But at the same time will they be able to match the highest bid if I hit free agency and still keep this team together? Probably not, so they just said, &‘Keep your mind on the team first.' They're going to try their best to get the job done."
Rogers could receive a contract comparable to the top-paid cornerbacks in the league. He's 30, which isn't young for a cornerback, but he's one of the best, especially at covering the slot receiver — the most difficult receiver to cover because he can cut right or left. It's not good enough to just react to the slot guy — a cornerback has to anticipate which way he's going to cut, and Rogers is very good at that.