SAN FRANCISCO (CBS Sports) — Thanks to one of the NFL’s most talented rosters and sound salary-cap management, the San Francisco 49ers should have an extended window of opportunity as Super Bowl contenders. San Francisco could replace New England as the NFL’s model franchise.

The 49ers have rebounded after falling on hard times during the early 2000s. San Francisco missed the playoffs for eight consecutive years (2003-10) in which they won only 36 percent of their games. Only three teams had a lower winning percentage during that time. The 49ers turned the corner in 2011 with a 13-3 season that ended in the NFC Championship Game after hiring Stanford’s Jim Harbaugh as head coach.

While undergoing the rebuilding process, the 49ers seemingly adopted and improved upon the approach used by the Philadelphia Eagles when they went to five NFC Championship Games and one Super Bowl in an eight-year span during the 2000s. Emphasis was placed on building through the NFL Draft, signing key young players to salary-cap-friendly contract extensions before they approached free agency and using free agency judiciously to fill holes in the roster. The 49ers have added another element to the equation with their development of undrafted free agents.

READ MORE from CBS Sports on the 49ers plans for success.

(Copyright 2013 CBS San Francisco and CBS Interactive. All rights reserved.)


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