Jerry Rice says the 49ers should vie for Peyton Manning if he becomes a free agent, which could occur this week if the Indianapolis Colts release their iconic quarterback who missed last season because of a neck injury.
"I think you go for it," Rice said Tuesday. "A guy of that talent, you've got everything in place. You've got a defense that smacks you in the mouth. You just need a little more out of the offense. That's not knocking what Alex (Smith) did. (Manning) can take you to a whole different level."
While promoting next month's TPC Stonebrae Championship golf tournament, Rice also discussed the 49ers' glaring need to add a wide receiver in free agency, Michael Crabtree's need to improve his explosiveness by perhaps losing weight and how the New Orleans Saints' bounty scandal is concerning but not surprising.
Rice was most animated when he raised the prospect of adding Manning to a 49ers squad that reached the NFC Championship Game, where it lost to the eventual Super Bowl champion New York Giants.
"If he goes to the Washington Redskins, I guarantee they win 10 games. If he goes to Miami, they win 10 games," Rice said.
Rice conceded that the 49ers and coach Jim Harbaugh might not share his view. But does he think the 49es will pursue Manning? "Business is business. You have to," Rice responded.
Smith thrived in Harbaugh's first season as coach, leading an offense that was slim on turnovers — and touchdowns. Rice is in favor of Smith returning for an eighth season if the 49ers brass is convinced in that, too.
"If they're going to invest that much money in Alex and they feel he can get the job done, then do it," Rice added. "I know he made significant improvement this year and did what was asked of him. If he can get more weapons around him and knowing he has a coach that has confidence in him, that he doesn't have to look over his shoulder, it might bring the best out of him."
Another weapon could come via free agency, which begins March 13. Rice endorsed any potential pursuit of Vincent Jackson (unrestricted free agent, San Diego Chargers), Mike Wallace (restricted free agent, Pittsburgh Steelers) and even DeSean Jackson (franchise tag, Philadelphia Eagles.
"They need someone to strike fear into the opposing team and take the (defensive) coverage off," Rice said. "You've got that in Vernon Davis. Beside that, even with (Michael) Crabtree, I thought he would be a little more productive last year."
Rice said he constantly scrutinized Crabtree's route running last season and noted: "I just did not see separation." One solution, Rice suggested, was that Crabtree drop 10 to 15 pounds to gain explosiveness.
"That'll be up to him to make that decision," Rice said. "You have to sacrifice yourself and put your team's best interest at heart. I don't really know the guy so I can't really comment on his work ethic. They feel there's potential there but it'll be up to him to say, 'I want to be the best receiver I have to be and I'm going to have to sacrifice some things.' "
In the wake of the NFL's revelations about the Saints' bounty system that awarded players for injuring opponents, Rice was asked if he ever felt he had a bounty on him during his record-setting, Hall of Fame career.
"All the time. You could just tell by actions," Rice said. "If the ball was not coming my way, I was still getting hit. That's just part of the game.
" ... But when I heard that put a $10,000 bounty on someone, that's just not part of the game. If you've got a chance to get a good hit, you go for it, but not to purposely injure someone."
Aside from knee injuries, Rice was able to avoid the NFL's current hot-button injury: concussions. He said he only endured one, in a home game against Buffalo. "They told me I was snoring," Rice added. "They kept me out (of the game). I wanted to go back in."
But he did receive his share of cheap shots on the field, such as getting kicked by defensive backs while on the ground after getting tackled.
"But the best way to shut them up," Rice said, "was to drop six (points) on them."
Stay tuned to see if Manning or Alex Smith will be in charge of leading those touchdown drives for the upcoming 49ers seasons.