@DCalifornian: Does Baalke's statement that the Niners won't ask much coverage of OLBs hint at Lawson's exit?
A: I think the 49ers like Lawson but perhaps not as much as some other teams. That is, I think they've placed a specific monetary value on him. If during free agency other teams exceed that value, the 49ers will no longer pursue him. Their priorities will be to re-sign Alex Smith, David Baas and Aubrayo Franklin, probably in that order.
Of course, this is a strange year. There could be a very abbreviated free-agency period in which few players switch teams. That might bring Lawson back for another season. Or the 2011 rules could make someone like Lawson - he has five accrued seasons - a restricted free agent. That almost assuredly would make him a 49er in 2011.
My sense is that, in a normal market, Lawson would be very popular. Outside linebackers in a 3-4 system are typically hot commodities. And my personal opinion is that he's better suited as a 4-3 outside linebacker, which might improve his options.
But to get back to your question - is Trent Baalke's statement bad news for Lawson - I would have to say, yes. Baalke said that pressuring the quarterback is paramount when it comes to the 49ers outside linebackers. Lawson simply hasn't been very good - or at least not as good as his draft status suggested - in this area. Ahmad Brooks is a better pass rusher and so is Parys Haralson, who to his credit has been a regular at the player-run workouts. Thaddeus Gibson is a question mark and LaBoy is always an option.
@MBA_SF: Will Nate Elements take a pay cut to stay or will Baalke get his replacement on the FA market?
A: I don't know this Nate Elements fellow of whom you speak. He sounds like an X-man whose special power is to create drizzle. Nate Clements, on the other hand, is an interesting topic. He certainly will need to renegotiate his contract in order to remain with the team. But how much of a pay cut will he accept? I think that Clements came out of the draft with a stronger bargaining position. Although the 49ers drafted two cornerbacks, neither is ready to be a starter in 2011. The question the 49ers need to ask themselves is this: While we're haggling with Clements, will all the other top cornerbacks be swiped off the market?
@ElvinPritchard: Do you think Harbaugh will institute some sort of Wildcat formation with Kaepernick's ability to run?
A: Elvin asked 72 questions, and this one slipped through. The answer - absolutely. The 49ers might not call them 'Wildcat' per se, but you can bet that there will be specific instances in which Kaepernick is inserted into the game. Not only will it give the rookie some seasoning, he is simply an excellent runner who can help the 49ers offense immediately in specific scenarios.
@StraightG408: With all the repeat positions in draft, safe to say Baalke is not happy with 2010 draft class?
A: I think it was more about depth than being unhappy with the 2010 class. Glen Coffee's sudden retirement and Brian Westbrook's reluctance to return meant the 49ers needed another running back, hence Kendall Hunter. Josh Morgan and Ted Ginn are both entering the final year of their contracts, hence Ronald Johnson. The team has no depth - I mean, zero - at center, hence Daniel Kilgore and Mike Person. If anything, the last two drafts signal unhappiness with the 2008 class.
@S49erfan: What happens if Alex Smith has a Pro Bowl Season? Do the Niners sign him long term?
A: This was a peculiarly popular question. Five people wrote different variations of this query. To me it's a no brainer, but I'm not exactly sure about the motivation behind the question, which would help me come up with a better answer. Is it because he'd only be on a one-year deal for 2011? Is it related to Kaepernick? Sometimes (most of the time) Twitter doesn't allow enough room for a full meaning. Can you guys express your concerns below?
A lot of good questions - about Tarell Brown, about Taylor Mays, about Michael Crabtree, etc. - did not get answered. I'll save them for next week. After all, the lockout will require a lot of ssssttttrrrreeeeeeeettttccccchhhhinnnnggg of material over the next few months.
-- Matt Barrows