I distinctly remember being peppered with e-mails and Tweets last August when 49ers center Eric Heitmann went down with a broken leg in training camp: Matt, any chance the 49ers sign Kevin Mawae? Seven months later, I can answer without hesitation: Yes. According to a report by FOX Sports Alex Marvez, the 49ers were the lone team that contacted Mawae, a free agent who was 39 at the time and coming off a Pro Bowl season.
"It was a four-hour flight (each way) for a six-month season," Mawae told Marvez. "I was going to be the starter, a team leader and coach on the field. All this -- and it was for a one-year minimum (salary). Now, minimum for my age ($860,000) was really, really good. But at the end of the day, it wasn't worth leaving my family."
The subtext of the item is that Mawae, who became the president of the players union in 2008, wasn't blacklisted by NFL teams because of his position. (And you might conclude that Texas A&M's Von Miller, who is part of a current lawsuit against the league, won't be blacklisted, either).
It also shows how desperate the 49ers were at the time. They had just committed to starting two rookies, Anthony Davis and Mike Iupati, on the offensive line and Heitmann, the only long-time veteran o-line starter, was expected to miss 6-8 weeks. The other options were backup Tony Wragge and David Baas, whose initial snaps at the position saw him airmailing the ball over the quarterback's head when in shotgun formation. Mawae would have been valuable as far as stabilizing the line and in mentoring the two rookies.
Baas, of course, settled down and became the team's best and most consistent offensive lineman last season. But as I noted last week, the 49ers have not solved the position. Heitmann has since been bothered by a neck/upper back injury that has clouded his 2011 availability while both Baas and Wragge are impending unrestricted free agents. My guess is that Baas is the 49ers' top priority when it comes to re-signing their own free agents.
-- Matt Barrows