SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) – The NFL free agency signing period is just under a week away, with Saturday marking the start of the negotiating window for unsigned players. By Tuesday, your favorite teams can start adding pieces to the puzzle for a run at Super Bowl 50. In San Francisco that means we’ll likely see the remaking of the 49ers accelerate as players follow coach Jim Harbaugh out of town.
Here’s a look at the top players from the three Harbaugh-era NFC title game runs that may very well be moving on:
Frank Gore – Running Back
At 31, Gore is considered over the hill for an NFL rusher. Still, he’s put up at least 1,100 yards each of the last four seasons. He’s only twice failed to hit the 1,000 yard mark twice in his 10 year tenure in San Francisco. Those numbers will draw suitors. The most persistent rumor is that the Colts – who had essentially no run game last year – will go after Gore. The fan favorite is reportedly asking for $4 million a year. The 49ers say they want him back, but it’s not clear what they are willing to pay. Gore has been either the face or one of the faces of the franchise since 2005, proving to be their most reliable offensive option in good times and bad. Gore has built up such good will with locals that some writers are even suggesting he deserves better than a return to the rebuilding 49ers.
Mike Iupati – Guard
Eyebrows were raised when the 49ers used the 17th overall pick to draft an interior lineman in 2010, but Iupati has proven to be a punishing blocker who earned three trips to the Pro-Bowl in Hawaii. At just 27, the 6’5″ 329 lb, 3-time pro-bowler is sure to draw a ton of interest, particularly from running teams. However, ESPN points out that Iupati allowed seven sacks last year and suffered a couple of injuries in recent seasons. Early published rumors link him to big money deals in Tampa Bay or Washington.
Michael Crabtree – Wide Receiver
Of the players on this list Crabtree will likely be the easiest for 49ers fans to let go of. “Crab” has shown all of the talent that led him to be the 10th overall pick in the 2009 draft (including 1,105 yards receiving in 2012) and a Super Bowl Touchdown. But he also held out longer than anyone else in the league following the draft, and has griped to the media about how often he gets the ball. The general perception among fans is that he’d like to play elsewhere. Pro Football Focus also points out he dropped almost 10 percent of the passes thrown his way last season and his numbers declined even as the team shifted to a pass-focused offense.
Chris Culliver – Cornerback
Like Crabtree, Culliver has flashed some serious talent, and earned a reputation for creating distractions. A look at the Culliver’s coverage on our own website shows just how much is off the field issues have been talked about. Most notably, his anti-gay comments created a media swarm leading up to the 2013 Super Bowl. Still, Culliver converted five turnovers last season and some are saying many teams have Culliver graded among the best available, and the market for him could be strong.
Dan Skuta – Linebacker
Skuta doesn’t have the resume of the other names on this list, but he and Aaron Lynch broke out last year as dependable tacklers with stars Patrick Willis and Navorro Bowman out. Skuta recorded five sacks and three forced fumbles in 2014. He’s a valuable player but he’s likely ticketed to return to a reserve/special teams role if he stays in SF. If someone offers him starter money (or playing time) he may be gone.