The first three days of National Football League free agency has seen some high profile players switch teams, including San Francisco 49ers All-Pro safety Donte Whitner. The two-time Pro Bowler returned home, signing with the Cleveland Browns. For the second consecutive offseason the 49ers will have lost an elite safety. Last offseason Dashon Goldson signed with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The 49ers replaced Goldson in the draft with LSU safety Eric Reid, who had an outstanding rookie season. Due to the talented roster the 49ers have assembled losing free agents is a fact of life in the NFL, the key replacing the talent they lose. San Francisco moved quickly to replace Whitner by signing Antoine Bethea from the Indianapolis Colts. In replacing Whitner with Bethea San Francisco essentially saved $5 million over four years. Like Whitner, Bethea is a two-time Pro Bowl selection, after the 2007 and 2009 seasons. Bethea isn’t the physical presence that Whitner was in the secondary, but possesses arguably better range and cover skills than Whitner and should provide a solid combination with the physical Reid. In addition to singing Bethea the 49ers resigned Eric Wright to a one-year contract for additional secondary depth.
The 49ers are hosting visits with a handful of other intriguing players, including Walter Thurmond of the Seattle Seahawks and Chris Cook of the Minnesota Vikings. The talented Thurmond is also visiting Jacksonville and Washington. He’d be an interesting addition to the 49ers roster, adding a capable player while subtracting a talented depth player from their chief division rivals, the Seattle Seahawks. Cook, coming off a couple of disappointing seasons in Minnesota, is a rangy and skilled player who hasn’t lived up to his potential in the NFL. Perhaps a change of scenery and the ability to play for an elite coaching staff can benefit Cook and help him reach his potential.
While the 49ers were hosting Thurmond and Cook, running back Anthony Dixon was visiting the Tennessee Titans and his former college running backs coach Sylvester Croom. Dixon is also set to visit the Buffalo Bills. Dixon is a capable backup but his potential loss could be offset by the presence of Marcus Lattimore. After missing his entire rookie season due to a devastating knee injury he suffered in college the former South Carolina star may be ready to contribute behind Frank Gore. If Lattimore can return to form the 49ers may have found the steal of the 2013 NFL draft.
In addition to the free agent signing of Bethea the 49ers made a couple of interesting, and high profile trades. The first move was sending a 7th round draft pick to the Dolphins for offensive tackle Jonathan Martin. Like Cook a change of scenery may benefit Martin after the well publicized Richie Incognito controversy. Martin didn’t perform well in his limited starts in Miami but the thought is his former college head coach, Harbaugh, can potentially help Martin reach his potential. If Martin can live up to his potential the 49ers may have picked up some good depth and a player who could be a potential starter down the road. In addition to Martin the 49ers also traded a 6th round pick for former Jaguars starter Blaine Gabbert. The former 10th overall pick never lived up to his potential, but could end up being a valuable backup in San Francisco. It’s a classic low risk move that helps boost the talent of the overall roster and gives the 49ers a potential solid backup should Colin Kaepernick ever go down for an extended period of time.
The 49ers open up the 2014 in the new Levi’s Stadium leaving their old home of Candlestick Park. Levis Stadium cost $1.2 Billion and has a capacity of 68,500. 49ers Ticket prices for their opening game of the 2014 – 2015 season have yet to be announced but with the new stadium they are expected to run from $200-$1000 per ticket. By: Chris Cabrera
The Denver Broncos won their 11th game of the season Sunday afternoon, initially falling behind the Tennessee Titans before roaring back for a 51-28 victory. The story was once again Peyton Manning who threw for nearly 400 yards and four touchdowns in the victory, leading a balanced attack. The win sets up a division game with the San Diego Chargers next week in Denver. Beyond the stellar play of Manning, the highlight for the Broncos was Matt Prater’s 64-yard field goal, breaking the NFL record held by Tom Dempsey and former Broncos kicker Jason Elam.
Where the game was won: The Broncos were sloppy early, allowing the Titans to build a 21-7 lead. As in so many games, this season the Broncos offense dominated the second through fourth quarters, scoring over fifty points for the fourth time this season. Manning was as efficient as ever, throwing touchdowns to four different Broncos receivers. Eric Decker, Wes Welker, Demaryius Thomas and Julian Thomas all caught touchdown passes for the Broncos. Decker, coming off a career game last week, caught 8 passes for 117 yards. The former Minnesota Gophers star has caught sixteen passes for nearly 300 yards and five touchdowns the past two weeks. While Manning and his receiving crew were dominating through the air the combination of Knowshon Moreno and Montee Ball was effective on the ground. The duo combined for 155 yards rushing on 29 carries and a touchdown each. With 551 yards the Broncos outgained the Titans by nearly 300 yards. The Broncos offensive line was perfect once again, not giving up a sack while their future Hall of Fame quarterback lit up the Titans through the air.
Up next for Denver: Denver hosts their division rivals the San Diego Chargers next weekend at Invesco Field. The Broncos defeated the Chargers 28-20 in a November matchup in San Diego. The Chargers are still alive in the playoff race after thrashing the New York Giants 37-14 in San Diego on Sunday. At 6-7 the Chargers likely need to upset Denver to have any chance at earning a wild card in the AFC. San Diego has an efficient, ball-control offense, but struggles defensively. Look for the Chargers to put points on the board behind Philip Rivers and the offense but the Chargers defense is unlikely to have much success stopping the Broncos. The win will put the Broncos one game closer to a division title and will keep them on top in the race for home field advantage in the AFC.
Prediction: Manning throws for over 300-yards once again as Denver manages a convincing victory over the Chargers. The Broncos earn their 12th victory of the season with a 41-31 victory over the Chargers. Broncos Vs Chargers Tickets are still available for the Dec 12th game at Invesco Field.
Learn about the Chargers new stadium in Inglewood California.