Sports Out West

NFL Free Agency 2014: What do the 49ers’ new acquisitions mean to the team?

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The first day of free agency brought about a lot of movement and surprises across the NFL, and the San Francisco 49ers were a major player in the day’s events. Some of the moves were unexpected and others filled a need, but what do they mean to the team itself?

The deal: Safety Antoine Bethea signs a 4-year, $23 million contract

What it means: Bethea comes to the 49ers after eight seasons with the Indianapolis Colts. The durable veteran has started all 16 games in six consecutive seasons and had 100 or more tackles in five of those campaigns. Bethea has been described as a coach on the field and should be a seamless fit in the 49ers’ already stacked unit. Bethea never played on a dominant Colts’ defense, so having a front seven to support him like the Niners employ should only enhance his ability. A free safety with Indianapolis, Bethea will most likely switch over to strong safety as he pairs with Eric Reid.

Did you know? Bethea did not register a single penalty in 2013. The person he is replacing, Donte Whitner, led San Francisco with five personal fouls.

The deal: Blaine Gabbert is acquired from the Jacksonville Jaguars for a sixth round draft pick

What it means: The 49ers were looking to solidify their backup quarterback position and they hope they have done so by acquiring Gabbert. The former 10th overall pick in the 2011 draft, Gabbert has struggled in the NFL. In 27 starts, he has a 5-22 record and has thrown 24 interceptions. The 49ers were said to have liked Gabbert when he was coming out of college, and feel if anyone can help revive his career it will be Jim Harbaugh. San Francisco won’t know what they have until they see him hit the field, but there is a possibility of this being another Colt McCoy situation were the team is not completely comfortable with their backup to Colin Kaepernick.

Did you know? Gabbert’s five regular season wins is only one more than Kaepernick has in the playoffs alone.

The deal: Jonathan Martin is acquired from the Miami Dolphins for a conditional draft pick

What it means: The 49ers were in need of a backup tackle to Joe Staley and Anthony Davis so the trade, on paper, is a good one. Last season, if Staley or Davis were to miss time, Alex Boone was the primary backup. Since Boone is also the starting right guard, moving him meant the team had to shuffle their offensive line around. Now, should Martin make the team, they have a legitimate replacement to plug in without disrupting the rest of the line.

The elephant in the room here is the circus that Martin will bring with him. Martin was at the center of the Miami Dolphins’ bullying scandal and left the team due the alleged abuse he was taking. The hope is that reuniting Martin with his old college coach (Harbaugh) will help get him back on the right track. While there will certainly be media scrutiny, the 49ers have a strong enough coaching staff and veteran core to weather the storm.

Did you know? The 49ers give up a seventh-round pick for Martin only if he makes the 53-man roster. If he does not, it costs the team nothing so the acquisition is basically a free tryout.

The 49ers also re-signed kicker Phil Dawson and cornerback Eric Wright. Dawson, who signed a two-year deal, set a 49ers’ record by making 27 consecutive field goals last year. For the regular season and playoffs, he was 39-of-43 in field goal attempts. If healthy, he will continue to give the team a consistent presence in the kicking game.

Wright, who signed a one-year deal, appeared in seven games and recorded one interception. He is a candidate to be the team’s nickel cornerback and gives San Francisco some needed depth at the position.

Photo: Getty Images

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Al Sacco

Al Sacco is sports expert who knows football, baseball, basketball and hockey. He has spent his time as a sports journalist covering the San Francisco 49ers as a staff writer for 49erswebzone.com and 49ersgab.com. He is also a contributor to Yahoo! Voices and has had his work used on ESPN NFL Insiders.