Question: In your recent blog on the franchise tag, you indicated the 49ers "are prepared to lose Douglas to free agency". Given the retirement of Young and the lack of strong talent on the team at defensive line currently, why don't you think they be aggressive in attempting to re-sign Douglas? They certainly have other holes to fill - why let more develop?
Answer: The 49ers, especially Mike Nolan, like Douglas and believe there’s no one on the team that works harder than him. But there’s also a sense that Douglas, who turns 31 next month, doesn’t have much left in the tank. He’s not a physical specimen like Bryant Young – not even close – and the 49ers worry that his legs, the most important part of a D-linemen’s game, will soon give out. In short, they don’t want to award a long-term contract to someone they don’t think will be a long-term contributor. I think they’ll let Douglas test his worth on the market, and if that market price is reasonable, they’ll re-sign him. But they’ll be very careful not to overpay.
Question: In the recent "not want to play tag" bit, there are only 3 out of 11 positions (in which the franchise-tag number) is less than DT. With Haynesworth likely off the market, someone is sure to overpay to get Sopoaga because of supply and demand. Do you think it might be a better idea to reconsider slapping the tag on this guy?.
Answer: I agree with you about the risk of some DT-desperate team throwing a lot of money Sopoaga’s way and luring him out of San Francisco. And who knows – at the end of the day, $6.4 million could seem like a bargain for keeping a highly-valued player. (Search: Smiley, Justin and “guard salaries”). The conundrum here is the opposite of the one involving Douglas. In Sopoaga, you have a guy who absolutely teems with potential but who never really has displayed it consistently on the field. Do you commit a big chunk of change toward potential that might never be untapped? The 49ers definitely want Sopoaga back and could cut an 11th-hour deal with him following the scouting combine (where execs chit chat and the market rates grow a little clearer). As of now, however, they appear poised to follow the same game plan they’ll use for Douglas. That is, allow the open market to determine Sopoaga’s worth.
Question: Hey Matt, again, great information. Keep it up. I do have to take you to task a little about the Feb. 4th blog about the super bowl. You make it sound like the cabinets are bare. Care to explain? Also, I want to know if there is any progress with any of our own un-restricted guys. Thanks and keep up the good work.
Shannon, Methuen, Mass.
Answer: I’d say the kitchen is half-stocked and that McNolan needs to roll on over to the Price Club for one more big shop. They’re missing some key items: pass rusher, No. 1 receiver, defensive lineman, depth along the offensive line. As for RFAs, look for the 49ers to sign TE Billy Bajema, a seventh-round pick in 2005, to a low tender in coming weeks.
Question: Matt -- Any word on how Alex Smith's recovery/rehab is going? Is no news good news? Is he talking to the media? Is he meeting with Mike Martz? PS: If Antonio Bryant is eligible, I think they should bring him back -saw some footage of him and he was a difference maker and I bet he would be cheap! Did he and A. Smith get along?
Stephen, Portland, Or
Answer: Have not spoken with Smith since the season ended but the grapevine reports that his rehabilitation is going as planned. As of last week, he had not met with Martz (odd considering Martz has a home in San Diego) but had spoken at length over the phone. … I wonder about Antonio Bryant, too. Given his previous strikes, he’d definitely be a risky acquisition. But he’d also be the No. 1 pass threat the 49ers badly need. I think the 49ers need to accept the fact that it’s hard to find a No. 1 receiver who doesn’t have baggage. (See: Owens, Terrell; Moss, Randy; Johnson, Chad; Walker, Javon; Porter, Jerry, etc., etc.)
Question: If Alex Smith and Shaun Hill both have solid training camps, do you think that whoever the back up is, will be trade bait during the season or possibly after it ends?
Chris, El Cerrito
Answer: No. As the 49ers’ 2007 season painfully demonstrated, a team must have multiple quarterbacks to make it through the season. Now, if the team brings in a third quarterback who shows his worth, things could be different next offseason …
Question: Can you recommend a 49er player who will answer fan mail? I care for a 7 year-old boy who is naturally gifted in many sports. His dream is to become a professional football player. Unfortunately his parents do not push him or his older brothers to achieve good grades in school. I need a letter from as many professionals in this industry to emphasize the importance of good grades and a college education.
Jill, San Jose
Answer: The names that come to mind are Alex Smith, Eric Heitmann and Michael Robinson.
Question: Matt, I just saw that Jordan Gross (OT) is a free agent, but I haven't heard anything at all about interest in him from the 49ers. According to what I've read, he's best at the right tackle. Since he's still young, and with Staley hopefully sliding over to left tackle, I think those two would be great bookends for the O-line. Am I way off base here, or wouldn't he be a valuable acquisition? Thanks!
Eric, Springville, UT
Answer: Well, Gross isn’t a free agent yet. The Panthers still have a couple of weeks to re-sign him and the thinking is that they will do just that. If he hits the open market, yes, I agree with you – he’d be a nice fit at right tackle.
Question: Matt, your January 31st blog mentioned a possible change of uniforms for the Niners. In the old NFL (pre- merger), the 49ers colors were officially listed as khaki and red. The reason was simple: The most popular clothes from the actual 49ers in the gold fields were khaki pants and red shirts. So, those colors have a significant historical meaning. Do you think the Niners will return to new uniforms like the originals?
Dennis, Elk Grove
Answer: In the end, I think the 49ers’ “new” uniforms will be very similar (but not identical) to the so-called throwbacks they have worn twice a year the last two seasons.
Question: I'm bothered by many sports reporters response to the so called "spygate." Some are essentially saying, "let it go." But after McGwire (i.e., years of denial about steroids), how can the media turn a blind eye towards this? We now have reason to believe the Pats taping began -- as far as we know NOW -- as early as six years ago. Are we really to believe there was NO taping between the Pats-Rams Super Bowl and the Jets game earlier this year? Question: If this is true, how much do you think this taints the Patriots and Belichick era?
Mike, Montclair, N.J.
Answer: At the very least, the modern-day Pats – if this indeed goes beyond the Jets game – should have a Barry Bonds-esque asterix after their names. If Belichick spied on multiple occasions (and then lied to Goodell about it) he might have to think about coaching at Dixie State in St. George, Utah next season…