Question: Matt, what are the long-term plans for the OL? Are Baas and Snyder going to be riding the bench next year as well? Who is playing out their contract, ala Parrish and A Adams? I know there is the possibility of an extension or tag, but who are some marquee defensive UFA next March? Justin Smith, Leonard Little, etc.? "Yeah, well, you know, that's just, like, your opinion, man."
-- Lebowski, Los Angeles
Answer: Hey there, Lebowski. The wild card on the offensive line is right guard Justin Smiley. He is signed through the 2007 season, but the 49ers have yet to sign him to a contract extension. Smiley was drafted by the previous regime and is more of a zone blocker -- a smaller, quicker guy that can get out ahead of a running play. He's the type of lineman a team like the Denver Broncos covets. Nolan prefers massive, power blocking players a la Larry Allen. Still, Smiley has played well in my opinion and seems to be especially valuable on screen plays, something the 49ers are leaning on more and more. Who knows what will happen to him.
As for Snyder, look for him to take over the right tackle poition by the end of the season (barring injury, of course). He is currently platooning with Kwame, and if the situation at strong safety (Mark Roman sharing time with Tony Parrish) is any model, Snyder will soon be the starter. Baas has been playing well in practice of late. Allen turns 35 this month and he certainly won't last forever. The long-term plan for the line is fluid, but Baas played behind Allen this summer and he seems to be the heir apparent.
As for big-name UFAs, the one that makes the most sense is Adalius Thomas. He's big, productive, versatile and -- best of all to Mike Nolan -- he's a Baltimore Raven. Having Thomas at one outside linebacker spot and Manny Lawson at the other would strike some fear into defenses. At any rate, look for the 49ers to be active on the free-agent market this season. They could be as much as $41 million under the salary cap when free agency begins.
-- Matt Barrows
Question: With the defense doing so bad, why didn't Mike Nolan try to get some help before the trade deadline? There were some good players out there that teams were willing to trade. What do you think the plans are for this years draft?
-- Josh Banks, Arbuckle
Answer: Hi, Josh. The 49ers tried hard to bring in safety Troy Vincent, but he signed with the free-spending Redskins instead. Vincent is heavily involved with the players' union, which is located in D.C. His family also lives in Southern Jersey, about a 2-1/2 hour drive from Redskins Park. And you're right, the team did have a chance to bring in some help. The problem is that they would have had to give up some of their precious draft picks -- a second rounder in one case -- and Nolan et al. are very reluctant to do that. This year's draft will be rich with defensive players and I can only assume that pass rushers and safeties are at the very top of the 49ers' wish list.
-- Matt Barrows