Jeff Chiu/AP
Jeff Chiu/AP

The Man With A Plan In San Fran

No, not Jim Harbaugh. As the announcement of 2014 compensatory draft picks shows, 49ers GM Trent Baalke is building a lasting winner in Northern California. Plus, more news and rumors from the NFL annual meeting and reader email

ORLANDO, Fla. — Four things I’ve learned while doing a lot of lobby-hanging at the annual NFL meetings:

1. Trent Baalke is a force to be reckoned with in the NFL. The San Francisco general manager, the former protégé of Bill Parcells, slips in and out of meetings quietly and rarely stops to talk to reporters here, because he just doesn’t want the light to shine on him; Baalke’s a scout at heart. When you see him, he’s often deep in conversation with someone he can learn from, as I’m assuming he was at dinner with John Elway on Monday night at the Italian place inside the JW Marriott here. Talking with his peers, I find a deep respect for Baalke, who is all about building his team for the long term, regardless of the temporary bumps in the road.

When the NFL announced its 32 compensatory draft picks for 2014 late Monday, Baalke was a winner again. For letting high-priced free-agent Dashon Goldson and mid-level guys Delanie Walker and Ted Ginn walk a year ago, the Niners were awarded a third-round pick in the 2014 draft—No. 100 overall in what’s expected to be a rich draft. That gives San Francisco six picks in the top 100, one in the first round (30th overall), two in the second (56th and 61st), and three in the third (77th, 94th and 100th). Baalke runs the draft the way Jimmy Johnson used to in Dallas, wheeling and dealing for extra picks to allow the Niners the freedom on draft day to do what they want in moving up or down or into better position for next season. The extra two comes from the Alex Smith trade with Kansas City. I love the genesis of the 77th pick. It comes from Tennessee. Last year, Baalke traded backup quarterback Alex Smith to Kansas City for what turned out to be second-round picks in 2013 and 2014. The 2013 second-rounder was the 34th overall pick. Baalke traded that down to No. 40 with Tennessee, and got a seventh-rounder last year and a third-rounder this year in return. So for Alex Smith, it turns out Baalke got two second-rounders, a third-rounder and a seventh-rounder in return. That’s why he’s admired among his peers: Baalke consistently takes medium value and makes very good value out of it.

The moral of the story is Baalke doesn’t have to throw too much cap money at receivers like Julian Edelman and Emmanuel Sanders, because he knows he can sit there on draft day and move up or down to get the player he wants at the right value. At 30 this year, he might get a good wideout, Marqise Lee of USC or Brandin Cooks of Oregon State, to fall to him in a deep first round. Imagine Lee stretching a defense, or Cooks trolling the middle as a dangerous slot man for Colin Kaepernick. These Niners are going to be good for a long, long time.

2. The Ravens know when to let players walk—and it pays for them. GM Ozzie Newsome knew he shouldn’t overpay to keep Paul Kruger, Ed Reed and Dannell Ellerbe last year, and all left for good money elsewhere (Kruger and Ellerbe got $75 million combined in free agency, way too much as it turns out for their middling production). The results came in Monday: Newsome and the Ravens got a third-rounder, two fourths and a fifth for the players they lost. Look at it this way: In the past six months, Baltimore has paid a fourth-rounder, fifth-rounder and sixth-rounder, total, to acquire its current starting left tackle (Eugene Monroe) and likely starting center (Jeremy Zuttah).

In baseball, we’re now seeing GMs refuse to sign good free agents like Stephen Drew, the shortstop on Boston’s World Series team last year, because it would cost the acquiring team its first-round pick this year. It’s different in football, but the message Newsome sends every year is the same: Let your vets walk if they don’t fit into your salary structure, because part of the value you get in return is compensatory picks. In the 21-year history of the compensatory picks, Baltimore has been awarded a league-high 41.

3. There is no chance the NFL will re-seed the draft positions to penalize lousy division winners. Ever since respected Steelers mogul Dan Rooney spoke out against seeding the playoffs based on record and not by division winners two years ago, there’s been no momentum to change the current system. That means division winners will continue to get the top four seeds, even when the NFL expands the playoffs to seven teams per conference, likely in 2015. I’ve always been in favor of the other way—division winners making the playoffs but not being rewarded with a home playoff game if the Wild Card teams have better records. But I was told Monday the owners value winning the division, regardless of record, more than winning 11 or 12 games and finishing in second place in a division. “I haven’t heard a soul talk about it this year,” one league official said. “I can’t envision any scenario where it happens in the next few years.”

4. Forget a Friday night wild-card game in 2015 or beyond. When the league moves to a 14-team playoff system in 2015 or ’16, there will be six wild-card games instead of the current four. Reports surfaced that the NFL would consider paying those games on a variety of days on a slow weekend on the sports calendar—the first weekend of the New Year usually. Not so.

The league wisely will not consider two teams playing a playoff game on a very short week—playing their Week 17 game on Sunday and their Wild Card game five nights later—simply because of the effect on competitive balance; it would be unfair to ask team to play their biggest game of the year on a short week when the options otherwise are plentiful. More likely, I’m told, would be tripleheaders on Saturday and Sunday, or two games Saturday, three Sunday and one Monday night. That second option is most popular, because it would allow the NFL to have the lead prime-time show on three straight nights in early January.

As for complaints that the Monday night game would be unfair to the winner the following week, four teams already play on the first Saturday after playing the previous Sunday. The NFL could assure Monday night’s wild-card winner of not playing till the following Sunday.

And now onto your email:

DeSean Jackson. (Drew Hallowell/Getty Images)
Unable to make heads or tails of the DeSean Jackson-Chip Kelly dynamic? Join the club. (Drew Hallowell/Getty Images)

DESEAN MYSTERY DEEPENS. An avid Eagles fan, I’m at a loss with rumors that they might cut DeSean Jackson if they can’t find a trading partner. What am I missing here? I know he’s a diva and there is concern about him moping because his contract won’t be restructured. But it still doesn’t add up.

—John, Branchburg, N.J.

Three different club officials on teams other than the Eagles asked me if I knew why the Eagles wanted to trade their ace wideout. It’s one of the big secrets here, but the Eagles have had plenty of chance to knock down the rumors about shopping Jackson and refuse to do so. Today’sPhiladelphia Inquirer reports, “Jackson’s days in Philadelphia are all but done.” Whether it’s worries about Jackson’s off-field life (he said his home was recently robbed of jewels and more than $100,000) or the distractions he’s caused in the Eagles offense, there’s no doubt Eagles GM Howie Roseman would make a deal for the right price. But that’s the problem: So many teams smell blood in the water now and think Jackson will be released that they’re not going to make Roseman a fair offer for him. They’d rather keep their mid-round picks in a strong draft and hope they get lucky and sign Jackson if he’s released. The mystery deepened this morning at 1:25 Eastern time, when Jackson tweeted: “Good to Talk to BIg Chip today !! Say or hear what ya want.” Chip Kelly, he meant. Stay tuned.

HARD TO DEFINE SOMETHING EVOLVING. Would you address what the “Owners’ Meetings” are all about? Who goes, how many meetings are there, what business is handled, do certain owners hob-knob together, etc.? And, is it required that the owners actually attend? It seems to me that several owners stay out of the way and let their front office people handle the business side of football.

—Troy, Hartford, Conn.

Thank you. Traditionally—and I have been going to owners’ meetings since 1985—the meetings have been held to award future Super Bowls, change or amend rules, and allow the commissioner to give a private state-of-the-league address to all owners, coaches, general managers, and top team officials. All owners except for ones in ill health attend the meetings. I say “traditionally” because the meetings have changed in the past few years to become much more of a media event over-promising and under-delivering on hard news. I would bet in the past few years, more news and rules changes have happened at the shorter NFL May meetings, which are attended by owners and club officials, but not coaches, with maybe a fifth of the number of media members on hand. But it’s sort of a tradition to attend the league meetings as a member of the NFL media, and it’s still worthwhile for people in the media because it’s the one of the few places where all the owners and all the coaches and all the GMs are in one setting at one time.

ANDY DALTON HAS AN ARGUMENT. Another question regarding the Andy Dalton dilemma: If you’re Dalton, do you go to the Bengals and try to lock up a long-term deal at, say, $7 million a year? If he shows no improvement this year, it seems likely that he’ll either be playing backup somewhere in 2015 or end up with a cheap, short-term deal with the Bengals. Or both. Why not try to lock up a decent amount of money and a long-term deal?

—Joel, New York

I think you’re on to something, but your figure is way too low. The Bengals would be thrilled to lock up Dalton at $7 million annual average. That figure would make no sense for Dalton, because one really good year could make him worth $18 million a season. There wouldn’t be a problem with getting something done if there was some general agreement in what made sense for an unproven January player, but the problem is Dalton logically would make the point that he’s had the best three-year run of any QB in Bengals’ history, so he’s not interested in taking a lesser deal.

52 comments
Frotoon
Frotoon

If Trent Baalke is so good, why were his last two drafts so poor?

oldmanriver
oldmanriver

Let's eliminate all these divisions and have 2 conferences.  The top 8 teams make the playoffs.  No more crying about divisional records.  The divisions are there only to generate phony races for mediocre teams so the fans stay interested.  Those crying about more wins but not winning their divisions should look at their teams.  They didn't do a good enough job.  This year the 2 best teams played in the same division.  Maybe the playoffs should be seeded like the NCAA basketball tournament, the best 16 teams no matter conference.

MikeCR57
MikeCR57

SI trying to invent trouble again in SF.  Banks writes a bullsh1t article about a fued between Harbaugh and Baalke.  


Now King (or whoever wrote the headline) trys to create a problem by dissing Harbaugh again.     


The Niners are simply a good organization with a good owner, a good GM and a good coach.   Quit trying to invent a controversy SI.

luvfoozball
luvfoozball

49ers should totally use their bazillion draft picks to move up and grab a supposed game changer like Sammy Watkins. Boldin is getting up there in age, Vernon Davis and Crabtree are like possession receivers.

CobyPreimesberger
CobyPreimesberger

again the nba decided to change this where it's record and not whether you win your division, hasn't hurt them and again also complain well if you expand the playoffs then a 7-9 team will make it, uh hello anyone remember 2010 seahawks 7-9, but at the time the nfc west was the worst division, and they got a home playoff game against the reigning super bowl champs saints who were what 11-5, 12-4 

KidHorn
KidHorn

"There is no chance the NFL will re-seed the draft positions to penalize lousy division winners."


I don't get this. The body talks about playoff seeds and the headline talks about draft positions. So which is it?

Buck2185
Buck2185

Peter, you make the statement that Dalton has had the best three year run of any Cin QB. How has he done in the playoffs? Dalton is about as much over rated as your little Tommy Brady has been the past several years...

eddie767
eddie767

Has anyone noticed, Rosenhaus rept.wrs always end up on the street if playing for Eagles. It doesn't matter who coach/GM are, it just happens Owens, Mitchell, and now possibly Jackson. Then it's a steep fall from then on out. Also, they all end up broke. When will any of them learn the history, of being employed by him, Rosenhaus? 

ProfessorGriff
ProfessorGriff

Why did the Raiders sign Schaub when they could have had him for free or signed Mark Sanchez?

RosaNosabe
RosaNosabe

Trent Baalke seems like a smart dude with a plan. But giving a 6th rounder and a conditional pick next year for Gabbert still doesn't make sense. He could've gotten him for free (and not assume his salary which is twice as much as Kap) as the Jags are about to release him anyway.

peterj27
peterj27

not sure how you can praise newsome for his 2013 offseason. he didn't let his top free agents leave, he had no choice after giving flacco the 3rd worst qb contract in the nfl (romo and cutler holding the #1 and #2 spots). he was certainly in a tight spot after joe put up one of the best statistical postseasons for a qb, but $120 mil for a player that's never even sniffed a 30 TD season is not worth it. 

Jim21
Jim21

In my opinion, the Bengals have to lock up Dalton to a deal. He may not be the best or flashiest QB out there but on probably 10 teams, he's be a huge upgrade. If anything, the Bengals should sign him to a 5 year back-heavy deal (to where cutting him after 3 years wouldn't be cap-prohibitive) and take a chance drafting a guy the next couple of years in late rounds and hope one pans out to be better. Personally, I'd rather have a Dalton at QB than hoping a Blaine Gabbert or some other similar high draft pick pans out. 

Mike26
Mike26

Dalton would be an idiot to take a paltry $7M a year deal.  He's more durable than Cutler and other "elite" folks and has won more consistently in Cincy than any QB in their history.  

Realist
Realist

@Frotoon  Define 'poor'. The 49ers didn't need anyone to step in and contribute right away except for Eric Reid, who made the Pro Bowl as a rookie. They drafted for the future, including 2 players who slipped due to injury but will be healthy next season. Yes, they whiffed on Jenkins, but WR's seem to have about a 75% washout rate anyway. The team is stocked now and will be even more so after this year's draft.


Mike26
Mike26

@oldmanriver  I vote NO to each and every one of your ideas.  The world is homogenized enough, and the divisions are set up for scheduling purposes as well as the many natural rivalries too.  

Realist
Realist

@MikeCR57  I didn't like the headline, but the column didn't have any of the unsubstantiated rumors that flew around last month. Most just complimentary of Baalke, and he deserves it.

luvfoozball
luvfoozball

@MikeCR57I don't think the article is dissing Harbaugh. Its definitely saying that Baalke is a good GM. I don't think that means that Harbaugh is a bad coach. The line "The Man With A Plan In San Fran. No, not Jim Harbaugh" is probably alluding to the fact that Harbaugh is the face of the franchise and the first thought that came in everyone's mind with the words "The man with a plan in San Fran".



FranklinMint
FranklinMint

@MikeCR57  Where does he dis Harbaugh? It just says the main headline isn't talking about Harbaugh, which is the first name that would likely come to mind.


And I thought Seattle fans were overly touchy...

Mike26
Mike26

@CobyPreimesberger  I also believe that no team 2 games better in the win column vs. their playoff should ever travel for a first-round game, division winners be dammed.  However, I wouldn't go any further than that.


Coby, bringing up the #3 sport in the US as a model for playoff seeding (you forgot to mention their 3 months of playoffs too) doesn't always make for a strong argument.

rjl8125
rjl8125

@Buck2185  Oh, now it's clear. Your continued reference to Brady as "Little Tommy", your need to bring the Pats into every whiny post you make, even if they are not the subject of the article. 


Reedster it's you isn't it? You changed your name cuz you were taking so much flack from Pat's fans and non fans alike.  


No wonder we haven't seen any posts under you old name.  What a loser you are. 

Mike26
Mike26

@Buck2185  His 3-year regular season run is still better than any Cincy QB in history even without January wins.  

MadDoser
MadDoser

@Buck2185  He states that Dalton is an unproven January player directly above that.  The line you cherry picked was what King was surmising Dalton would say to the Bengals if they tried to low ball him.  Stop trying so hard to HATE and learn to read.

Mike26
Mike26

@eddie767

1.  Rosenhaus is employed by the players, not the other way around.

2.  Look at some of the players he reps - their mouths, actions and personal, off-field issues do them in more than Rosenhaus.  


I dislike Rosenhaus, but I'm not sure how the players he reps with Philly getting cut/traded/suspended is HIS fault.  Ever hear of personal responsibility and character?

FranklinMint
FranklinMint

@ProfessorGriff  There's no guarantee that Schaub would have chosen Oakland on the market. This way Oakland guaranteed they get him.

Wombat
Wombat

@ProfessorGriff  That's the question isn't it? Why did they sign Schaub? Fans are hoping the Raider's front office knows something they don't... but I doubt they do...

Plainview
Plainview

@peterj27 the ravens were hungry for a qb and they got one. They haven't had a starting qb they could depend on since the team was created. Nice to know the position is locked down, even if it is by a sub-par Super Bowl MVP

As for 120 mil, the contract was scaled so some years he is paid a lot more than others.

It is a backloaded contract with guaranteed money, so his cap hit per year for the next few years is very reasonable. In 2013, his cap hit was 6.8 million. The contract will be reworked in a few years so that his cap hit in those later years will not be ridiculous. Base salaries in 2017 and 2018 currently sit at 20 million a piece, and that will not happen.

And the Ravens signed Steve Smith and resigned most of their most important FAs - Jacoby Jones, Daryl Smith, and Eugene Monroe -  with all of that money that they didn't have because of the burdensome Joe Flacco contract.

The Ravens have a history of letting their overvalued FAs go: Gary Baxter, Adalius Thomas, Jarret Johnson, Jim Leonhard, and now Paul Kruger and Dannell Ellerbe. It has served them well.

http://www.nfl.com/news/story/0ap1000000146725/article/joe-flaccos-ravens-contract-includes-52m-guaranteed


Wombat
Wombat

@Jim21  I agree. Dalton would go for considerable $$$ on the open market. Sadly, the Bengals will probably wait to do a deal to see what he does this year under Jackson. If he tanks again in the post season or doesn't make the post season fine... no money, but IF he does well the Bengals shoot themselves in the foot by waiting. A five year $60+ million dollar contract back loaded would be great but I don't see it happening this year. This would be a smart move but Mike does what Mike wants and he's made up his mind about his QB...

AnthonyAveyard
AnthonyAveyard

@Mike26 3 straight years of watching Andrew Dalton become a  "Danny White Impersonator"  (  good in reg. season  / deer-in-headlights once Playoffs start ) does not equal Cincy's most consistent winning Qb ever ...

I'd take Boomer Esiason over the current Bengals signal caller any day.

MarkTerry1
MarkTerry1

bowman, iupati, anthony davis, aldon smith, eric reid , Kap and he turned. average 1+ probowlers a year via the draft and i'll show you a good GM

Frotoon
Frotoon

Come on, the 2012 draft in particular was a disaster for SF. There are only three players left from that class, but two of them were undrafted free agents. None of them are starters.

Two drafts, one starter (Eric Reid).

Buck2185
Buck2185

@rjl8125 @Buck2185 2 questions, 1 comment - Question 1 - Who is Reedster? and 2) why would anyone care about taking flak from a pat's fan anyway? Comment - Thank you for being a good human and deciding, based on extremely little fact, that I am a loser. Fortunately, I don't give a damn what you think.....

usameos6
usameos6

@Wombat @ProfessorGriff  I know - I was expecting a contract renegotiation to happen immediately after the trade was announced.  I don't think Schaub is as terrible as he is portrayed to be, but also don't think that he's worth what he's being paid.  I think best case scenario for the Raiders is that they can somehow shore up the O line, draft Watkins as a WR and get their QB of the future in a later round and let him mature behind Schaub.

AnthonyAveyard
AnthonyAveyard

Ozzie is as good as it gets when it comes to this GMin' thingy but Joe Flacco's contract is not a good example of his prowess cuz there's a serious " fly in the ointment " ...namely Flacco goes from being kinda great to kinda sucky even faster than he chucks curl routes . He's talented for sure  - and I agree he had a good playoff run a few years back ( no opposing player caught an INT ...not that Flacco didnt try ...better to be lucky than good ) but he showed what he really was made of last season.

The fly in the ointment is that the Ravens will not WANT to rework his contract when it really starts to eat up the Cap . .

joel.wright01
joel.wright01

@AnthonyAveyard @Mike26Not to be picky, but Danny White was 5-5 in the playoffs as a starter, and took Dallas to three NFC championship games.  That's five more playoff wins than Dalton currently has, and certainly a far better playoff record than the current Dallas QB.

BY
BY

@AnthonyAveyard @Mike26  I'm a life long Cowboy hater but Danny White's biggest failure was that he wasn't Roger Staubach. Few guys are. I thought White was a hell of a good player.

Mike26
Mike26

@AnthonyAveyard @Mike26  Boomer isn't available.  Who else in the league could do better for Cincinnati RIGHT NOW that you could actually get?  This team is built to contend NOW - not after 2-3 years of developing a new QB.  It's not like the Ravens/Steelers are going to be down TOO long, especially the Ravens.


The QB market is silly, and a QB that's made 3 playoff runs in his first 3 years is almost impossible to find.

Ha_Hanson
Ha_Hanson

@adam welch @Frotoon  Frank Gore, Vernon Davis, Patrick Willis, Joe Staley, Michael Crabtree were all drafted under GM Scot McGloughan (as was departing FA Goldshon), so Harbaugh/Baalke inhereted much of the "most loaded teams", as you call it.  


Baalke was part of the scouting dept. during the McGloughan regime, and he did hit on Navarro Bowman, Mike Iupati, and Anthonly Davis (2010), Aldon Smith, and maybe Colin Kaepernick (2011), but has also busted on some picks (Taylor Mays in the 2nd round comes to mind).


His last 2 drafts (2012, 2013) have yielded little at this time.


He is widely respected as a "personnel man" by his peers, but his draft record as a GM is rather mediocre unless some of the 2012/2013 choices develop, or he knocks it out of the park with the 2014 draft.

adam welch
adam welch

@Frotoon  Yes hes so bad at drafting. He only has the most loaded teams in football (Built through the draft by the way). Yes the 9ers are bad a developing WR's. 

el80ne
el80ne

@AnthonyAveyard  Yes, they'll just cut him instead. Isn't that preferable unless the dead money costs are too high? Presuming this happens in 2018 I don't think it would be.

Mike26
Mike26

@AnthonyAveyard  

1.  Cousins is barely proven as a backup.  Trade a young, proven starter for someone with blips on a resume?

2.  Name the team that would be foolish enough to do that (there may be one, but I doubt it) - to take a risk of starting over/busting at the most important position on the field with a team primed to win now?

3.  Brian Hoyer?  That's even worse than Kirk Cousins because his resume IS more established - and it's mediocre with blips of success.

AnthonyAveyard
AnthonyAveyard

Cincys got QB options :

1) Trade a conditional draft pick to Wash for Cousins

 ( 3rd rounder that becomes a 2nd if he produces ? )

2) Trade Dalton for a 1st rounder 

( some Qb needy team will foolishly do it )

Roll the dice on one of the rookie Qbs 

3) Wait 'til after the Browns draft a Qb and then make a trade for Brian Hoyer ( 4th rounder ? )


Or stand pat and likely make the playoffs again  -

 but then just as likely watch Dalton under perform for 4th straight 1 and done playoff run.

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