Posted: 12:03 p.m. Friday, March 15, 2013
By David Fucillo
NFL free agency heads into its first weekend and a mix of deals have been handed out. We've seen some smart deals (Seahawks getting Michael Bennett) and we've seen some not so smart deals (Mike Wallace to the Dolphins). Naturally that has people attempting to grade free agency before it is even complete. Although free agency grades can be proven out a lot sooner than NFL Draft grades, it is still pretty crazy to grade out free agency as it is still happening.
Thus far, the 49ers have made two signings in free agency, adding defensive lineman Glenn Dorsey and linebacker/special teams standout Dan Skuta. For purposes of the offseason, we might as well also include their trade of Alex Smith and trade for Anquan Boldin. It factors into market inefficiencies to a certain extent.
Market inefficiencies have always been in play, but Moneyball really brought them to the forefront of sports. While many misunderstand Moneyball, the basic idea is that a small market team can compete with the big teams by finding inefficiencies in the market, and exploiting them. If a certain type of player is undervalued, a smart team will take advantage of that, and potentially come out ahead of the curve because of it.
Bill Barnwell had an interesting article about how patience has become a market inefficiency in NFL free agency. As he points out, the 49ers have exploited this to a fairly significant gain over the last 2+ years. While other teams are signing players to monster deals in the opening hours of free agency, the 49ers have sat back and let the market come to them. The 2011 free agency market was a perfect example of this as the team signed Donte Whitner and re-upped Dashon Goldson for incredibly low contracts. In 2012, the 49ers signing of Mario Manningham was another example of a patient deal given what Josh Morgan and Pierre Garcon both received from the Redskins.
It is worth keeping this in mind as the 49ers play the long game with their free agents. The Seahawks have done some solid work in free agency thus far, and really have improved their team. However, let's not automatically figure the 49ers are sitting around twiddling their thumbs. There is plenty of work to be done, but for now, the team has their playing and is likely sticking to it.
Of course, if you want an immediate reaction to the 49ers moves thus far, I'd have to say it's some mix of incomplete and A. Free agency is closer to incomplete because we have seen two signings and the team is still working. The offseason as a whole deserves an A for getting two significant picks for Alex Smith and acquiring Anquan Boldin for only a sixth round pick. We won't begin to know the true value of any of this for six or seven months, but for now, things are not as dire as some might think.