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

July 27, 2011
Niners lock in defensive end McDonald for five years

The 49ers agreed to terms today with one of their priority free agents, defensive lineman Ray McDonald, according to a league source. The 49ers had competition from several teams, including those in the NFC West. The deal is for five years, and according to ESPN is worth $20 million over five years.

raymac.jpg

McDonald told The Bee earlier this summer that his top criterion in free agency would be to get a shot at a starting role. That seems likely in San Francisco, especially if another free-agent defensive lineman, nose tackle Aubrayo Franklin, signs elsewhere.

That would create a domino effect on the defensive line whereby Isaac Sopoaga, a starter at left defensive end the last two seasons, moves into the nose tackle position. McDonald would be the top choice to step in at left defensive end in that scenario.

McDonald, 26, started eight games in 2008. But for the last two years, the 49ers have paired him with Justin Smith as a defensive tackle on third downs. McDonald, who stands 6-3 and weighs 290 pounds, has rare quickness for a man his size, and the thinking is that the 49ers' pass rush would improve with him starting at defensive end.

When the free-agency period began, the 49ers circled McDonald, quarterback Alex Smith, center David Baas, safety Dashon Goldson and linebacker Takeo Spikes as players they wanted to re-sign. Both Smith and McDonald have agreed to terms - Smith's deal is one year for $5 million - and likely will sign their contracts on Friday.

Spikes and Baas were snapped up by San Diego and the New York Giants respectively. The 49ers pursued both, especially Baas, but fell out of the running when the Giants were prepared to make him among the highest-paid centers in the league. The team has shown interest today in Bears free-agent center Olin Kreutz.

As for Goldson, he is being pursued by multiple teams, including the 49ers. Earlier in the day, the Chargers re-signed one of their safeties, Eric Weddle, to a contract that will pay him $40 million over five years, including $19 million guaranteed. That's the highest contract ever for a safety and one that should serve as a basis for Goldson's deal.

The 49ers also are interested in re-signing outside linebacker Travis LaBoy, who is weighing his options.

-- Matt Barrows



MATTHEW BARROWS

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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