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Grant Cohn: Trent Baalke plays it cool

  • 49ers GM Trent Baalke, right, will shape the roster that coach Jim Harbaugh, left, will take into the 2014 season. (Paul Sakuma / Associated Press)

After Day 1 of free agency, I thought the 49ers' moves were weak. Not bad, but weak.

Trent Baalke didn't really do anything. He cut Carlos Rogers, let Donte Whitner leave and replaced him with an older, cheaper safety – Antoine Bethea – traded a sixth-round pick for Blaine Gabbert, and traded a conditional seventh-round pick for Jonathan Martin.

Woo hoo!

Meanwhile, the Broncos signed the top cornerback on the market – Aqib Talib – and the Patriots signed Darrelle Revis to a one-year, $12 million contract.

Now it is Day 4 of free agency, and the 49ers still haven't done much.

I'm beginning to admire that.

Not the Gabbert trade. That was silly. But I admire everything else Baalke has done this week.

I admire Baalke cutting Rogers. Too old and too expensive.

I admire Baalke letting Whitner go. Not worth what the Browns paid him -- $11 million guaranteed. Whitner is a good player, but he struggles when he has to cover tall tight ends. He seemed better than he really was the past few seasons because he played on a great defense and didn't have to cover tight ends very often – Patrick Willis and NaVorro Bowman mostly handled that responsibility.

A bad GM would have re-signed Whitner for sentimental reasons. Whitner is a leader in the locker room. He brings “chemistry” to the defense. Those clichés. But Baalke is not sentimental about his players. “See you, Donte. Enjoy Cleveland.”

Enter Bethea, Whitner's replacement in Santa Clara. One year older than Whitner, and just as fast and just as athletic. Bethea might even be better than Whitner. Bethea certainly is cheaper. The 49ers gave him $6.25 million guaranteed, less than half of what the Browns gave Whitner.

Brilliant move by Baalke.

The Gabbert trade was weak, though. I just can't get past that one.

A sixth-round pick and more than $2 million guaranteed for a quarterback who may or may not be better than Tim Tebow. Don't like the comparison? Consider that Tebow completed 42 percent of his passes that traveled between 10 and 20 yards downfield in the NFL. Gabbert has completed 45 percent of those passes.

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