Trent Baalke covets compensatory draft picks like Spanish kings once lusted for gold. The 49ers general manager has two in the upcoming draft -- fourth- and seventh-round selections -- and is looking at more extra picks for 2016.
As of now, the 49ers could get two extra picks next year with the possibility of a third should free agent Michael Crabtree sign elsewhere. Compensatory picks are based on a ratio of the number and quality of free agents a team loses versus the number it signs the year prior.
Compensatory picks also could explain why the 49ers may wait to sign any more free agents until after May 12. This year the NFL moved its traditional June 1 free-agency deadline date back to May 12. That means that any free-agent signed after that date won't count against a team in the formula that determines compensatory picks.
For example: According to a league source, the 49ers continue to have discussions with free-agent linebacker Lance Briggs after signing linebacker Desmond Bishop to a one-year deal on Tuesday. If the team signed Briggs this week, he likely would cost them an extra draft pick next year. Wait a month and a half and the 34 year old from Elk Grove will not cost them a pick (And would deny their NFC rival Bears a compensatory pick).
The same would go for free-agent receiver Hakeem Nicks, who like Briggs and Bishop, worked out for the 49ers on Tuesday.
Baalke is looking at a number of inside linebackers, including Briggs, Erin Henderson and Philip Wheeler after losing two highly regarded players at the position -- Patrick Willis and Chris Borland -- to retirement. Henderson and Wheeler would not count against the 49ers in the compensatory-pick formula because they were released by their previous teams. Bishop doesn’t count because he was with the 49ers at the end of last season.
And Baalke does not need to rush to fill the position. First, the team has two starter-caliber inside linebackers in NaVorro Bowman and Michael Wilhoite as well as reserves like Bishop, Nick Moody and Shayne Skov. The 49ers also are looking at inside linebackers in the upcoming draft.
Read Matt Barrows’ blogs and archives at www.sacbee.com/sf49ers.