49ers Blog and Q&A

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

February 7, 2009
Q&A: Clock ticking on Alex Smith

Question: What is the date that the 49ers will have to have Alex Smith's contract restructured by? Thank you.
Brett, Moscow, Idaho

Answer: I would imagine the 49ers would want Smith to sign a new deal by the start of free agency, which is less than three weeks away. If Smith is not back, I think the 49ers would want to land a free-agent QB who could compete with Shaun Hill for the starting job. That being said, the more you hear from Jimmy Raye, Scot McCloughan and Mike Singletary, the more it seems that Smith is in their 2009 plans. It's also hard to imagine any other team giving Smith a better shot - and thus more money - than San Francisco. His new contract promises to be full of incentives, and the opportunity for playing time will be key. If he's back and is healthy, he will get to compete for the starting job. Still, it's certainly not a foregone conclusion that Smith will return. He and his agent, Tom Condon, could force the 49ers to release Smith, making him a free agent. If that were to occur, the teams that might show interest are Detroit (no quarterback, Scott Linehan connection) and San Diego (Norv Turner connection, hometown). The one place you will not see Smith: Denver.
- Matt

Question: Now that Raye is the 49ers OC, I am thinking about the personnel. Where do you think we need the most help in order to make this offense work, and who may be a good fit already? I think V. Davis will have a break out year. He is one of the better blocking ends and he can burn the defense on a P.A.
Bruce, Yorktown, Va.

Answer: I think the list of priorities goes: big, physical right tackle, square-backed fullback and blazing-fast wideout. Will Raye get everything he wants for Christmas? Probably not, but two out of three ain't bad... As far as good fits, I think the overall quality of the offensive line, and talent at tailback and tight end have to make Raye optimistic.
- Matt

Question: Matt, love the blog. I know you hit upon this a little while ago but I was hoping for a little more detail. How much will the Niners be under the projected salary cap? Who is currently under an expiring contract that will need to be resigned? How much will be allotted to Free Agency? And what targets might be available?
Mark, Sacramento

Answer: The 49ers will be at least $25 million under the cap. The team doesn't seem to be sweating any of its pending free agents. In fact, there's a good chance that none will be re-signed before the start of free agency at 9 p.m. Feb. 26. Does that mean that not one will be back? No, but the only player the 49ers really need is Takeo Spikes, who already has professed his desire to return. Spikes will be in no hurry to sign another deal, but look for him to be back sooner than his mid-training camp appearance last year. Dunno which outside free agents will be targeted but I keep hearing the 49ers will not be as aggressive as they've been in recent years.
- Matt

Question: Hi Matt, First time poster on your blog, but I read your blog entries hand-in-hand with Matt Maiocco's of the Santa Rosa PD in regards to Niner news. I wanted to ask you if it is at all possible to draft Alex Mack or Max Unger who are Centers and convert them to Offensive Tackles. They play with an intelligent 'nastiness' if you will. Definitely have clearcut leadership qualities in the trenches. I would not mind either on the team.

Traj, SF

Answer: Mmm, both of them - especially Unger - took snaps at guard at the Senior Bowl, but I don't think anyone is looking at them at tackle. It's not unprecedented, though. John St. Clair was a standout center at UVA before being converted to tackle in the NFL. That was nine seasons ago.
- Matt

Question: Interesting take on Raye being intriguing because of his work with Gonzalez -- and your assessment of Vernon Davis. The one issue you didn't address about VD that drives many of us crazy is his propensity for dropping the football -- either when it's thrown to him or when he coughs it up. With all due respect to Alex Smith, is it possible VD has (wait for it!)..."small hands?" With the round ball reference, do we know if he can "palm" it? Sorry -- couldn't resist.
Mike, Montclair, N.J.

Answer: No hand-size issues with Vernon, but I wonder about his overall agility. Maybe he should skip the bench press this offseason and try his hand at ballet and baseball ... ballet to attain a level of fluidity and baseball to learn how to track fly balls and catch over his head.
- Matt

Question: Matt, in your latest article two-headed beast at running back, seems to me that Leonard Weaver could be Raye's new Tony Richardson. Not once, but twice we saw what Weaver can do as a receiver out of the backfield. Seattle drafted a fullback in last year's draft, does Weaver have the blocking ability for a power run game?
Webster, Atlantic City

Answer: That is the question. Weaver definitely is talented. But he may not be the sledge hammer-style blocker Raye is looking for. That being said, Weaver is a good runner and a very good receiver out of the backfield. If the 49ers are looking for a big back to compliment Frank Gore, why not Weaver in that role?
- Matt

Question: Can you give me your take on de/olb Everette Brown? Is he really a viable option as a first round pick after taking Balmer in the first last year?
Carlos, Hayward

Answer: I really have no clue other than his statistics and the fact that, even as a junior, he seems to have a full array of pass-rush moves. I don't think the Balmer pick would have any bearing on whether the team selects Brown. Balmer's a left defensive end; Brown likely would be the weakside outside linebacker.
- Matt

Question: Are the 49ers getting any compensatory picks in this year's draft? And what appears to be Mike Singletary's and Scott McCloughan's priorities going into the draft. I'm thinking DL, OL are the top two needs (not necessarily in that order), but it looks like they might be going DE/OLB, ILB, FS. Keeping in mind that Matthew Stafford is gone by the time the 49ers pick at #10 and Mark Sanchez is too inexperienced to warrant such a high pick, nobody else outside of Nate Davis later in the draft excites me. What do you hear?
David Antelope

Answer: Ha, Nate Davis is a favorite in the media trailer as well. ... The 49ers will have two compensatories.
- Matt

Question: Now that both Larry Johnson and Tony Gonzalez are looking to sway away from Kansas City, what is the possibility they find themselves in San Fran? I'm sure Raye would love to his old TE back and Larry would fit in with the new running scheme.
Cody, Chesterfield, Va.

Answer: It's a nice thought, but I don't see it happening. The 49ers already have a tight end in whom they've invested heavily. They also want to get younger at the running back position. Larry Johnson turn 30 this season.
- Matt

Question: Hey Matt, so it has been posted in other forums that Jimmy Raye used to fall asleep during Jets team meetings and Favre would use a horn to wake him up. Is it possible for you to verify this with anyone with the Jets?
Justin, Sacramento

Answer: I did confirm it. Turns out Raye had a bug in his eye and he was trying to suffocate it.
- Matt

Question: Do you see any correlation between the Detroit Lions firing Mike Martz in order to switch to a more conventional offense that resulted in disaster, and the 49ers similar decision?
Jon, Freemont

Answer: Ask me again at the end of the season. ... Cue the ominous music ...
- Matt


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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