49ers Blog and Q&A

News, notes and reader questions about the San Francisco 49ers

March 13, 2007
Making the grade ... or not

Question: How does a team with the most spending money in free agency sign one big name, and the Pats pretty much signed every good name in free agency with much less money to spend? I give the 49ers a D in this year’s free-agent pool. How do you compare the two teams in this years free agency signings?
-- Mike D, Sacramento

Answer: Man, I’m glad I never had you as a teacher. The bottom line is that we really won’t know how any team did in free agency until those players step onto the field. That being said, the 49ers brought in five guys who are either 26 or 27 years old. They are in the primes of their careers, and that in itself makes it a good free-agency haul. If you want me to be critical, I would say this: The team spent big bucks on safety Michael Lewis, a hard-hitting run stuffer who is wobbly in pass coverage. The problem: They already have essentially the same player in Keith Lewis.
-- Matt Barrows

Question: Now that the 49ers have used their under-the-cap money on the players they did, and the "D" seems to be loads better, do you think we will see the real Alex Smith?
-- Al Nelson, Sacramento

Answer: I’ve written this before and I’ll write it again (and again, and again): If Smith makes the same leap between years two and three that he did between one and two, every 49ers fan should be happy. One concern is that he will have his third No. 1 receiver in as many years. First came Brandon Lloyd, then came Antonio Bryant and now he has Ashley Lelie. That won’t help.
-- Matt Barrows

Question: It seems like the 49ers are really focusing on improving their defense in the upcoming draft and free agency, but what about the offensive line? For past few years the offensive line has been unable to really protect its quarterback from mobile defensive linemen and linebacker blitzes. Last year key injuries to the offensive line made the line sub par at times. Will the 49ers seek any big, fast, young, mobile offensive linemen from the draft or free agency this year?
-- Willie Thompson Sr., Rancho Cordova

Answer: Yes, you’re right. The 49ers – and Kwame Harris in particular – seem to have trouble with fast pass rushers. I don’t think they will target an o-lineman in the first two rounds, but Round 3 definitely is a possibility. After all, they found Adam Snyder at the end of Round 3 in 2005 and he’s turned into one of their most valuable linemen.
-- Matt Barrows

Question: If the 49ers are going to switch to a 3-4 defense, why didn't they go after Adalius Thomas or Joey Porter a lot harder? Since that type of defense you need a pass rushing linebacker.
-- Robert, Elk Grove

Answer: Well, they did go after Adalius Thomas. The problem is that Thomas and his wife decided they wanted to remain on the east coast. As far as Porter is concerned, I think the 49ers (as well as the Steelers) believe that Porter has lost a step. The 49ers also are reluctant to invest heavily in older players, and both Thomas and Porter turn 30 this year.
-- Matt Barrows

Question: Is there a chance that the 49ers will get a another receiver in free agency?
-- Chinedu Mbara, Elk Grove

Answer: Sure there is. But it might not be a big-name receiver. It might be someone of the Bryan Gilmore/Johnny Morton/Curtis Conway variety. They also could trade for another wideout, although don’t hold your breath waiting for Randy Moss.
-- Matt Barrows

Question: As far as our need for a pass rusher, I know most experts are pushing Alan Branch as the Niners’ first pick, but I'm wondering if you've heard any mention at all by Niner people of LaMarr Woodley, the 6-2, 274-pound linebacker/pass rusher out of Michigan. To me, he grades out better than this kid, Gaines Adams, that everyone calls "all-world" pass rusher. What d'ya think?
-- Sammy Moore Jr., Sacramento.

Answer: I haven’t heard any of the 49ers’ brass talking about Woodley, but he definitely fits all the criteria the 49ers are seeking – a leader on the field and in the locker-room who happens to be adept at getting to the quarterback. I definitely can see them nabbing Woodley if he is still around in Round 2. Another guy who fits that description is Purdue’s Anthony Spencer. The guy had 10 1/2 sacks last year and is reminiscent of another defensive end-turned-linebacker from Purdue, Shaun Phillips. There are several ‘tweeners the 49ers could grab somewhere between Rounds 2 and 4.
-- Matt Barrows

Question: The D is starting to look promising, but do you see a negative impact on offense from losing Norv Turner? The offense was fun to watch for the first time in years; he had much to do with it.
-- Mike, Sacramento

Answer: Considering that Jim Hostler is a first-time NFL offensive coordinator, sure, there could be some drop off this year. But any drop off likely will be offset from Alex Smith having one more season under his belt. If there’s anything to worry about on offense, it’s depth at receiver. A couple of injuries, and the 49ers are starting Bryan Gilmore and Brandon Williams.
-- Matt Barrows


Matt was born in Blacksburg, Va., and attended the University of Virginia. He graduated in 1995, went to Northwestern for a journalism degree a year later, and got his first job at a South Carolina daily in 1997. He joined The Bee as a Metro reporter in 1999 and started covering the 49ers in 2003. His favorite player of all time is Darrell Green.


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