Once lockout is solved, big issues await Raiders, 49ers 

An agreement appears close on a new NFL labor deal, which is good news for everybody, but both the Raiders and 49ers will face formidable problems when the lockout ends.

Raiders owner Al Davis had hoped the new agreement would give clubs the right of first refusal on three potential free agents, but it does not, so the Raiders could lose cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha, tight end Zach Miller and running back Michael Bush.

Asomugha is almost certainly gone. Who will sign him? I’d bet on the New England Patriots because they have the smartest front office in the NFL.

If the Raiders also lose Miller, that will be a crushing blow because he has been such a reliable pass receiver. No matter who the Raiders quarterback has been, Miller has always been the go-to guy when they need a first down or a touchdown.

Bush would also be a serious loss, though nowhere near as devastating as Miller. He’s a good counterpart to Darren McFadden because their running styles are so different. Though McFadden has learned how to run up the middle, his strong point is his ability to run in space.

Bush has excellent speed, but he’s a power runner with considerable bulk. He could be the featured back for another team, which is the best reason to think he’ll bolt.

The big loss for the 49ers will be nose tackle Aubrayo Franklin, who has anchored the 49ers’ run defense in their 3-4 scheme. It will be very difficult to replace him, but the indications from the 49ers have been that they won’t pay excessively for free agents, including their own.

An even bigger problem for the 49ers has been that the lack of offseason team workouts has been a setback for learning the offensive and defensive systems of coach Jim Harbaugh and defensive coordinator Vic Fangio.

This will be especially difficult for the offense. Harbaugh made certain that returning players got the playbooks, even quarterback Alex Smith, who is not under contract now, but will certainly sign one once the lockout is ended.

Smith held workouts with receivers, but there is a limited amount that can be done with the new offense, which is a version of the one Bill Walsh brought to the 49ers in 1979. NFL teams always try to disguise their defenses by late substitutions and having defensive players move around.

One of the ways Walsh combated this would be to put the responsibility on receivers and the quarterback, whether Joe Montana or Steve Young, to recognize the defense after the ball was snapped. Receivers would run right at a defensive back to see if he were covering him man-to-man or staying in a zone. They would then adjust their pass patterns to combat the defense. The quarterback would make the same read, and that would determine where he threw the pass.

There is no way to practice that without a live defense, so it will have to be a rapid learning time for receivers when camp opens.

So one problem will be solved by a new deal, but there are still formidable roadblocks ahead for the Raiders and 49ers.

Glenn Dickey has been covering Bay Area sports since 1963 and also writes on www.GlennDickey.com. Email him at glenndickey36@gmail.com.

Key 49ers dates


Aug. 12: Preseason opener, at New Orleans
Aug. 20: Preseason home opener, vs. Raiders
Sept. 11: Season opener, vs. Seattle

Key Raiders dates


Aug. 11: Preseason opener, vs. Arizona
Sept. 12: Season opener, at Denver
Sept. 25: Home opener, vs. N.Y. Jets

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Glenn Dickey

Glenn Dickey

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