Question: I hate to be a nitpicker, but Justin Smiley was a second-round pick (No. 14 in the second round). Do you think that the 49ers are planning to trade him before the Week 6 trading deadline? I know that Nolan is famous for pulling Billy Beane-esque trade deadline deals. I know that we might take a hit on the offensive line depth, but if we could get more than a third-round pick (which we'd probably get as a comp pick if he winds up signing his huge free-agent deal next year), we would be in a great position to trade up from the heights of Indy's pick next year and still be able to retain our second-rounder next year (hopefully also very high).
Joshua, Fair Oaks
Answer: Stupid, stupid, stupid. I wrote earlier in the week that Smiley was a third-rounder when in fact he was a second-rounder. Mea culpa. As far as trading him during the season, I highly doubt it. Unless a team is so riddled with offensive-line injuries that it can't function, it wouldn't trade a second-rounder for a guy they could get on the free-agent market after the season. And remember, a team that trades for Smiley this season still would have to re-sign him at the end of the year. (The 49ers went through a similar scenario with soon-to-be free agent Nate Clements last season.) No one knows exactly how the NFL calculates compensatory picks. It's sort of like the secret formula of Coke or the inner workings of Dick Cheney's office. I would imagine that if Smiley left before the '08 season and started 16 games for his new team, the 49ers would get an additional fourth-rounder in '09.
- Matt Barrows
Question: Going into training camp, teams are allowed to carry a heavy roster. Which players are on the cusp of being cut here during training camp? The team has a lot offensive and defensive lineman; it creates excellent depth but takes valuable roster spot. It seems they have allow of linebackers as well. How many of each position do you project them keeping?
Scott, Elk Grove
Answer: I've been crunching the numbers lately. I think the 49ers will keep 10 offensive linemen (Estes being No. 10), seven defensive linemen and eight linebackers. Given that Arnaz Battle and Marcus Robinson each played quarterback in college, I also can see the team going with two quarterbacks, Smith and Dilfer, on the active roster, which might allow them one more player at any other position. Injuries -- and maybe even a trade -- obviously will alter these numbers.
- Matt Barrows
Question: With the competition this year, there are going to be some good players cut, but do you see any big surprises this year? I suppose the best comparison from last year would be letting go of Terry Jackson.
Billy, Los Gatos
Answer: Could be, but I'm not anticipating anything drastic. All the longtime 49ers veterans (guys not drafted by Nolan) are here because they've gained Nolan's confidence over the past few years. One player to keep an eye on is Maurice Hicks, who will have a devil of a time holding off rookie Thomas Clayton for the No. 3 running back spot. At this point, however, Hicks is still the best option at kick returner.
- Matt Barrows