There's been an trend underlying the San Francisco 49ers free agency period so far: expending minimal resources hoping to maximize gains.
It's might sound rudimentary, but it's worth keeping in mind that the players being brought in with less-than-stellar NFL resumes are costing the team little while they hope to mold them into valuable pieces going forward. Finding the proverbial diamond in the rough only happens when searching in the rough.
Bringing in corner Chris Cook embodies that same line of thinking that's been used during the new league year that kicked off Tuesday.
Cook, a former Minnesota Viking that tied the NFL for most touchdowns allowed in coverage (9) in 2013 according to Pro Football Focus, will join the 49ers as a depth piece at cornerback while the team looks to rebuild the position. San Francisco said goodbye to veterans Carlos Rogers and Tarell Brown, while also letting safety Donte Whitner sign a lucrative free-agent deal with the Cleveland Browns.
Cook has the size (6-2, 212) and the long arms Trent Baalke covets. And Baalke believes Cook could be a valuable press corner in sub packages or a match-up player against certain receivers. Cook's arrival certainly won't prevent the 49ers from taking a corner early in the draft.
By bringing in Jonathan Martin and Blaine Gabbert, the 49ers continue to bet on themselves and their coaching staff to develop talent they believe is there, but has not been put in situations to succeed to start their pro careers. They've done it before with former first-round picks that failed to live up to expectations by teams that drafted them in Rogers, Whitner and most recently Glenn Dorsey. Quarterback Alex Smith can also be thrown into that discussion.
But unlike those players, this new batch won't be asked to make contributions right away. Rogers, Whitner and Dorsey became starters in their first season in San Francisco. Gabbert and Martin will serve as backups. Martin could become a starter down the road if he takes to playing guard as well as the team hopes with Mike Iupati's future up in the air.
The 49ers relied on two rookies to be key contributors last season in Eric Reid and Vance McDonald. They are going into 2014 hoping they won't need a rookie to start in any capacity, unless a rookie supplants a veteran - something every team hopes for.
Instead of leaving a void at strong safety and finding a starter in the coming draft like they did last year with Reid, they signed Antoine Bethea, who comes with a flexible contract that won't prevent the team from drafting his replacement either this season or next.
San Francisco may have learned it's lesson by relying so heavily on those two rookies in 2013. Reid had an outstanding first year, but saved his worst performance for the NFC Championship Game in Seattle. And although McDonald became a valuable blocker as the season wore on, he wasn't the receiving threat the team thought he would be after being such a productive member of Rice's passing game in college.
So while the big-name free agents continue to sign elsewhere, the 49ers will stand pat knowing they have already have their 22 starters in place for the coming season. But they aren't done yet.
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