By Matt Furtado/KHTK Sports 1140

The new NFL year, which started on Tuesday, means a lot of change for organizations and the fans.

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Some fans say hello to new players who sign free agent contracts on their beloved team, some remain hopeful their team will sign a franchise changing player, and some, like San Francisco 49ers fans, say goodbye to players whom they have come to love over the years.

Patrick Willis, Frank Gore, Justin Smith and Michael Crabtree are all saying goodbye to San Francisco and the 49er faithful.

Willis and Smith are both retiring, while Gore and Crabtree will be finding new destinations in free agency. Gore has been rumored to be close to signing with the Indianapolis Colts.

While some of the big names from the 49ers will still be on the roster, the team will have a different dynamic on the field and in the locker room.

“I think on the field, these guys can be replaced,” said Matt Maiocco, the 49ers insider for Comcast Sportsnet Bay Area, during an interview with Deuce and Jason Ross.

According to Maiocco, San Francisco has the players to replace the ones they are losing. Hyde is a superior running back to Gore at this point in their careers, and Navarro Bowman, Chris Boreland and Michael Wilhoite provide great depth as linebackers for the Niners.

The news of Willis retiring was a shock to 49ers fans, but as the Niners Insider explained, the Pro Bowl Linebacker’s life outside of the game of football is very important to him.

Willis has been posting more spiritual things on his social media, and it’s clear he had “some kind of epiphany.”

The leadership that Willis, Smith and Gore provided to the team is what will be missed the most, according to Maiocco.

San Francisco has already made moves and will continue to do so in an effort to soften the blow of losing players who had such an important role in the team’s success over the past few seasons.

Darnell Dockett, a three-time pro bowl defensive lineman, was signed by San Francisco and will help replace Smith on the defensive line.

According to Maiocco, there is a possibility that the Niners could also use their first round pick, 15th overall, on a defensive lineman.

San Francisco will use more of a rotation on the defensive line than they have over the last few seasons.

It has also been rumored that the Niners are close to signing wide receiver Torrey Smith, who would help to replace Crabtree, and even provide a new aspect, speed, to San Francisco’s offense.

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Torrey Smith is a speed receiver, the polar opposite of Anquan Boldin, which would provide a dynamic one-two punch between the two receivers.

The Niners haven’t had a lot of speed or a deep threat at receiver over the past few seasons. If they can sign him, it would be an instant upgrade for the offense.

As for the rumors around the team putting Colin Kaepernick on the trade block, Maiocco isn’t entirely sure that’s true, mainly because they don’t have anyone else to play quarterback.

All the moves made in the off-season, especially when forming the coaching staff, have been molded around the idea of Kaepernick remaining the 49ers’ quarterback.

“To put him on the trade block doesn’t make sense,” Maiocco said.

It is still early in the off-season. The free-agency period is underway, and the NFL Draft is approaching, but as of right now, the changes in the coaching staff and roster may equate another drop in the standings for San Francisco.

The Niners will have some cap room to continue making moves in free agency, but “on paper, they are a lot closer to the bottom (of the division) than the top,” Maiocco said.

The team is in flux; it doesn’t have an identity, and that’s all going to take some time to figure out.








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