Free Agent Focus with Insider insight: TE Delanie Walker

Ezra Shaw

Next up in our Free Agent Focus series is 49ers tight end, Delanie Walker. And of course, I called upon a 49ers writer to lend some insight.

Brandon Myers' future with the Raiders is uncertain. He was the Raiders' leading receiver last year. If the team lets him leave as a free agent, they will be desperate for a tight end. But even if he re-signs, a tight end is still a high priority.

Delanie Walker has spent his entire 7-year career as a 49er. And in that entire time, he has lived in the shadow of Vernon Davis. His receiving numbers have been respectable over that time while cleaning up the scraps left by his All Pro counterpart. He just does the dirty work and makes a play when called upon.

Now is the perfect time for him to become a free agent. He is still just 28 years of age, just came off his best season (21 catches, 344 yards, 3 TD's). He also added 5 catches for 85 yards, 3 of which for 48 yards came in the Super Bowl.

He is also a California kid, growing up in Pomona, east of Los Angeles, so it would stand to reason he might want to remain in California and in the Bay Area in particular. Especially on a team which can offer him a legitimate shot at being the starter.

Here is what David Fucillo of 49ers blog, Niners Nation, had to say about Delanie Walker:

Role: The 49ers coaching staff loves their tight ends and used two tight end sets regularly as part of their base offensive set. Walker was drafted the same year as Vernon Davis, and has been in his shadow ever since. Walker seemed to get more looks from Colin Kaepernick during the regular season, but Vernon Davis regained his mantle as the go-to guy during the playoffs.

Strengths: Walker's greatest strength comes in his ability to do a variety of things well. His role throughout the Jim Harbaugh era has been a guy who you can place almost anywhere on the field. He has lined up at the traditional tight end spot next to one of the tackles. He has lined up in virtually every wide receiver spot, and the 49ers have even used him in an h-back role in the backfield at times. He is a very solid blocker, and he can make some spectacular catches.

Weaknesses: He struggles at times to make the basic catches. Most teams have had a player who fits that mold where he makes spectacular catches look easy, but then has so many sure things bounce off his hands. That's Delanie Walker and it will drive you crazy. He is a guy who thus far has been a complement to Vernon Davis. He has shown an ability to make some big plays, but he has not shown enough to indicate he could be the big-time tight end to help carry an offense. But maybe getting off on his own can help him.

Likelihood to test market: I don't see him re-signing before free agency starts, as I have to think he wants to test his value. I think the 49ers would be inclined to look at a tight end in the draft if Walker is asking for more than they're willing to pay. The 49ers do need tight ends, but they are not in a position to overpay Walker to keep him in town. I think right now the odds are 50-50 he is gone because I honestly do not know how other teams will value a guy who has spent his career as a backup to Vernon Davis.

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