Looking West: 49ers finally make a move, sign Braylon Edwards

helmet Editor’s Note: This is the first in a recurring series that looks at the moves being made (or not) by our esteemed NFC West opponents this offseason.
Braylon Edwards and his quality beardage
Next to Michael Crabtree, Braylon Edwards seems like a quality guy. Or maybe it’s supposed to be the other way around.

So far in free agency, the 49ers have made all the wrong moves. So they finally decided to fix that, by signing Braylon Edwards.

No, really. I’m being serious.

With every other team in the NFC West hell-bent on using this foreshortened frenzy of free agent activity to better themselves, our golden-domed rivals have sat idly by and watched. The complete indifference to managing their roster extended to their own key free agents, Takeo Spikes and Aubrayo Franklin, who both walked away somewhat befuddled by the lack of interest from their former employers.

Then, San Francisco confused nearly everyone around the league by shopping second-year safety Taylor Mays via mass email, killing whatever might have remained of the market in the process.

Their only signings of note have been moving sideways, replacing Nate Clements with Carlos Rogers, swapping out mildly disappointing centers, and adding former Viking Madieu Williams (who allowed a 114.5 passer rating against last year) to the secondary. Meanwhile, they’ve failed to add anything significant to an offense that averaged a subpar 19 points per game.

It was fair to question whether anyone was at home, and if so, whether they had a plan other than to expect new coach Jim Harbaugh to sprinkle magic dust on Alex Smith and hope for the best. I suppose there may be a transition in the works, but robbing from the only strength the team had — its defense — while failing to supplement the offense just doesn’t sound like a good idea.

Enter Braylon Edwards on a one-year deal to save this team from themselves. Hey, anything’s possible.

Braylon is the classic example of a player who became a bust only because he was once tantalizingly close to breaking out. To some extent, Mike Sims-Walker carries a similar burden of public perception.

Like Sims-Walker, Braylon had a huge third season in the NFL, only his was even bigger: 80 catches for more than 1,200 yards and an eye-popping 16 touchdowns. These were Terrell Owens numbers, and the fact that he was putting them up in Cleveland, with Derek Anderson as his quarterback, made them all the more unbelievable.

Then came a league-leading 19 dropped passes in 2008 and a reputation as a quarterback killer that led to a trade in 2009 that his home town applauded. The cloud over his head has lingered since then, and the press has not been shy about delving into his private life to find more entertainment for itself.

Since arriving on the Jets, though, Edwards has been quietly improving, upping his catch rate from an abysmal 40% in ’08 to 57% in 2010 (all the more impressive when you consider Mark Sanchez completes only 54% of his passes, total). But he has yet to get back to that ability that he once had, to make his quarterback or his offense better. And with either Alex Smith or raw rookie Colin Kaepernick behind center, this isn’t likely to change.

Either the 49ers are betting on his upside with this one-year deal, or they’re just hoping he won’t make their offense worse. Or maybe they just want somebody around to make Michael Crabtree look like a decent guy by comparison.

At this point, given the choice between the two, I’m not sure I wouldn’t rather have Braylon.