The 49ers want to run the ball a lot next season, which is easier to accomplish, of course, when your team is playing with a lead.
This philosophy, stated by general manager Trent Baalke at Jim Tomsula’s introductory press conference, comes after a season in which Baalke acquired Stevie Johnson, Brandon Lloyd and rookie Bruce Ellington to bolster the 49ers' depth at wide receiver.
In essence, the 49ers strengthened the position to bump their No. 3 receiver of 2013, Quinton Patton, to the team’s sixth option in 2014.
The 49ers are scheduled to pay Anquan Boldin and Stevie Johnson salaries of $6 million apiece for 2015. (It remains to be seen if the team will ask Johnson to accept a pay reduction.)
So where does that leave Michael Crabtree, the team’s No. 2 receiver behind Boldin?
How much is Crabtree worth to the 49ers? And how much is it worth for Crabtree to leave an organization that envisions itself employing a ground-based offensive system?
The folks at Niners Nation recognized Crabtree recently deleted any mention of the 49ers from his Twitter profile. The self-described “official page of NFL player Michael Crabtree,” has removed the description “Now a 49er!”
Crabtree’s stock has taken a sharp downward turn after the 2012 season, during which he and Colin Kaepernick synced up for Crabtree’s only 1,000-yard season.
He tore his Achilles during offseason work in 2013, and came back with better-than-expected results for five regular-season games and three games in the playoffs.
But 2014 did not go as planned for Crabtree, who saw a sharp reduction in his production. Crabtree ranked tied for 36th in the NFL with 68 receptions. But he was 64th in the league with 698 yards receiving. He did a good job of concealing his frustration during sessions with the media, but he obviously believes he is capable of doing so much more in the right situation.
The 49ers will make a play to retain him. That’s not in question. But Crabtree certainly seems destined to hit the open market in March to gauge his options in free agency.
The 49ers do not figure to engage in a bidding war -- they never do. Will they go above what they’ve earmarked for Boldin? That’s doubtful. But will any team view Crabtree as a $6-million-plus wide receiver? That's another question.
Either way, it would not surprise anybody if Crabtree believes he is ready for a fresh start with an organization that makes it known that they want to throw the football.