@RedGoldBleeder Wondering if you think Justin Smith's injury elevates the team's need to [draft or sign] an eventual replacement this offseason.
It definitely will with the defensive line being the one position with multiple free agents. Ricky Jean Francois and Isaac Sopoaga are in their contract years, leaving the team without a true nose tackle on the roster. In the 2013 draft, the 49ers have an extra draft pick in the third, fourth, fifth, sixth and seventh rounds to possibly trade up. While it's unlikely they'll trade up into the top 10, they can still address some needs with five extra draft picks by trading up elsewhere. From watching the 49ers without Justin Smith, it shows they're an injury away from being exposed on the defensive front. The thin depth at this position will be similar to how outside linebacker was last season. They were fortunate to only keep three OLBs and stay healthy the entire year.
Last year, the team addressed their need for OLB depth by drafting Darius Fleming and Cam Johnson in the fifth and seventh rounds, but injuries in the offseason to both players limited in training camp. Fleming suffered a torn ACL and is on the injured reserve while Johnson spent most of the season on the practice squad until being called up to the 53-man roster in Week 16. Of course before the season started, OLB Parys Haralson was placed on the injured reserve and the team responded by signing Clark Haggans to the team as a third outside linebacker. In the long term, this position has better depth and look for something similar in the draft and free agency.
@SF_game Do you see [David] Akers or [Billy] Cundiff winning the starting job as kicker?
It's an open competition at this point, but I feel David Akers will retain the starting job when the playoffs come. This is a good move for the team to sign competition for Akers with his recent struggles. Harbaugh in the past has openly supported him through tough times and still showed faith in him after two misses against the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday. People might forget it, but he partially redeemed himself when he made a 43-yard field goal after missing the first two from 40 and 44.
The biggest impact for the team in this competition is what the 49ers might do if there is a fourth down in field goal range. If there is a scenario where they could kick a 45 yard field goal could they kick it or go for it on fourth down? If the distance is longer than 45 yards, don't be surprised if they choose to go for it on fourth down more often. Both Akers and Cundiff have been unreliable from 50 or more yards this season and history has them both struggling in the postseason.