Question: I'm a transplant from Auburn, Ca, now in Spokane, WA, and a 25-year Niners fan. While the team is obviously moving in the right direction, I'm curious about the reported $10 million they're under the salary cap. With this kind of money available, why on earth didn't they go out and fortify their linebacking corps after the departure of Julian Peterson (who was probably overpaid by Seattle) and Andre Carter? It seems to me $10 mil would go a long way to help a defense that could use the re-enforcements.
Thanks in advance for your answer,
Answer: Hi Rick, thanks for the question. The 49ers are indeed more than $10 million below the salary cap, but the team is quick to point out that some of that room was cleared recently when Kevan Barlow and Mike Rumph were sent east.
That is, they didn't know they would have $10 million to spend during the March free agency period. Still, they had enough room at the time to sign another linebacker and to possibly re-sign either Peterson or Carter. Peterson, of course, is the better of the two, and he and rookie Manny Lawson would have made a formidable pair.
The problem this past spring was that he was coming off a subpar season (and hadn't fully recovered from his Achilles tear) and that his agents, the notorious Poston Bros., were asking for the moon. A team like Seattle, which is hoping to make another Super Bowl run, was willing to take the risk and pay that price. The 49ers, who are still in rebuilding mode, were not. It's a shame because Peterson appears to have regained his pre-injury zip this season as shown by his seven-tackle, one-sack performance in Week 1.
Another reason is that the free-agent market, at least in the 49ers' eyes, wasn't very deep at linebacker whereas the draft was. For example, most fans would rate LaVar Arrington as one of the league's top linebackers. Nolan et. al. wouldn't touch him with a 10-foot pole. They also thought Corey Smith, at the very least, would be a capable back-up rushing from the edge. However, he was a disappointment in training camp and didn't make the team ...
-- Matt Barrows
Question: Is Northwestern an accredited school?
Just kidding. I am impressed.
So why didn't David Bass enter the game following the injury to Allen?
-- Neal Sloper, Eureka, Calif.
Answer: Northwestern is indeed an accredited university, but its football program might be downgraded to 1-AA after the recent loss to New Hampshire. At least UVA won. Against Wyoming. At home. In overtime. Gonna be a long year ... I'll answer the David Baas conundrum with the next question ...
-- Matt Barrows
Question: It's a little troubling that Baas (high 2nd) and Williams (high 3rd) are on the bench, and inactive for the game. Allen goes down, and Baas isn't summoned in for the game? Williams is drafted specifically for the return game, and is inactive? Those are very high, valuable draft picks to essentially waste, especially for a team that is convinced it can draft 95% of its roster and somehow be a Super Bowl contender. I can think of numerous DBs, LBs and DLs that we could have taken in the draft at those picks, and gotten valuable use out of.
Los Angeles, Calif.
Answer: We were scratching our heads in the press box over the same things. The 49ers drafted Williams this year primarily for his punt-return skills. At the time, Nolan said the luxury of not worrying about dropped punts was well worth the third-round price. And to be honest, I can't remember Williams mishandling a punt throughout spring and summer practices.
After the game, Nolan explained that he wanted to activate eight defensive linemen so that the defense would be fresh against the Cardinals' potent offense and, as a result, had to deactivate one of the five receivers. But why not deactivate newcomer Taylor Jacobs, who is still picking up the offense? Don't know the answer to that one, but it's worth monitoring Sunday against the Rams.
Baas is a bigger mystery. As you noted, he was picked 33rd overall, practically making him a first rounder. Baas was Larry Allen's primary back-up through spring and most of summer practices. But when center Jeremy Newberry was placed on injured reserve, Baas began concentrating on center. He wasn't inactive for the game (he does a lot of special teams), but it's clear that he was the third choice behind Tony Wragge and Adam Snyder when Allen went down in the first quarter.
The 49ers say Baas didn't go in because he's needed at center should anything happen to Eric Heitmann. But there are plenty of back-up centers in the league who are also their team's first replacement at guard. It's too early to declare Baas a bust, but he's clearly behind Snyder (a late third rounder) in the eyes of the coaching staff, and if Wragge (undrafted) continues to play well, he could surge ahead of Baas as well.
-- Matt Barrows