49ers Blog and Q&A

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

March 30, 2012
49ers part ways with receiver Bogan

The 49ers on Friday released wide receiver Dontavia Bogan, an undrafted rookie in 2011 who tore his ACL in the first week of training camp. Bogan reported via Twitter Thursday that he had been medically cleared to return to playing. "Im officially cleared to play now. #DamnYouAcL haha," Bogan wrote.

Bogan, who played at South Florida, was one of the 49ers' highest priority free agents when the lockout ended in July. However, unlike tight end Nate Byham and cornerback Curtis Holcomb, who also suffered season-ending injuries before the season began and were placed on injured reserve, Bogan did most of his rehabilitation away from team headquarters.

The team currently has seven receivers under contract: Michael Crabtree, Ted Ginn, Joe Hastings, Mario Manningham, John Matthews, Randy Moss and Kyle Williams. They likely will head into the season with five or six on the active roster.

-- Matt Barrows

March 29, 2012
Rogers on Moss: Just his name's a threat out there


One of the biggest differences between how the 49ers' 2011 season ended and how 2012 promises to begin: There's more speed on offense.

Cornerback Carlos Rogers made note of that today on a conference call when he talked about two of the team's big-ticket additions in free agency, wide receivers Randy Moss and Mario Manningham. Rogers often was matched up on Manningham on first and second downs in the two games against the Giants. In fact, an interception in the regular-season meeting came on a pass intended for Manningham.

"I faced him somewhat in Washington every year since he came (into) the league," Rogers said. "I know what type of receiver he is, and No. 1 he's got speed, and you can't coach that. That's just a threat in itself. ... If it wasn't for that huge catch he made in the Super Bowl, you're basically looking at New England holding up that trophy again."

On Moss: "I just hope we get just half of his ability," Rogers said. "Just his name's a threat out there, somebody you're not going to single cover. You've got to put a double out there for him, and it's going to open up space for a lot of those guys."

March 29, 2012
49ers head into the draft with a packed roster


So this is how successful teams operate. Over the next month we'll debate whether the 49ers should use their first-round pick on a wide receiver, a guard, a running back, etc. But for the first time in many seasons the team truly is in a position to take the mythical Best Player Available. Teams picking at the end of the first round often are in that position. After all, that's what allowed them to get to the end of the first round.

The other ramification of a talented and complete roster is that the team's incoming draft picks - seven at the moment - are not shoe-ins to make the squad, which is not something you could have said in recent seasons. Since 2003, what I consider "The Fall of the 49ers Empire," only five of the team's 77 draft picks have failed to make the 49ers' roster in some way, shape or form the season they were drafted.

Those five: wide receiver Ronald Johnson ('11), tight end Bear Pascoe ('09), linebacker Larry Grant ('08), cornerback Daven Holly ('05) and defensive tackle Christian Ferrara ('04). And of that group, Grant was re-signed last year after spending three years with the Rams.

March 28, 2012
Nawrocki: WR Hill a third rounder; Wright could slip to 49ers

Here's what Pro Football Weekly draft analyst Nolan Nawrocki had to say about the 49ers and taking a wide receiver in the first round of next month's draft. "You can find them anywhere throughout this draft, so I don't know if they should reach for one that early." In his most recent mock draft, Nawrocki has the 49ers selecting Wisconsin guard Kevin Zeitler.

I asked Nawrocki about two receivers in particular, Georgia Tech's Stephen Hill, whose size-speed combination has caused a buzz over the last month, and Baylor's Kendall Wright, who in mock drafts typically goes much earlier than pick No. 30.

Nawrocki said he thought Hill, who played in a triple option at Georgia Tech, was more like a third-round pick. Nawrocki noted that Hill had an excellent workout at the combine where he was the fastest wide receiver in the 40-yard dash, and that his measurables could cause him to be taken in the first round.

He doesn't think Hill warrants a first-round grade. "I think he's graded out more like a third rounder on tape," Nawrocki said. "His production has been very minimal. You look at how he's been used in an offense. He's not a sophisticated route runner." In his latest mock, Nawrocki has Hill going to New England at pick No. 31, one selection after the 49ers.

March 28, 2012
49ers strike deal with RB Brandon Jacobs


Looking for a short-yardage running back as well as someone who could start if Frank Gore got injured, the 49ers on Wednesday agreed to terms with former Giants running back Brandon Jacobs on a one-year deal. The Bee had reported on the 49ers' interest in Jacobs; ESPN first reported the deal.

At 6-4, 264 pounds, Jacobs is the biggest tailback in the NFL, and he ran for more than 1,000 yards in 2007 and in 2008. Last year, however, Jacobs' per-carry average dropped to 3.8 yards, his lowest in six seasons, and he started six games. Jacobs turns 30 in July.

However, his size always has made him a difficult runner to tackle, and in that way he meshes with the 49ers' power-based approach. Jacobs scored seven touchdowns last season, although he struggled in short-yardage carries at times for the Giants. The team has been in contact with Jacobs' agent since he was released earlier this month.

General manager Trent Baalke is on record as saying the trend in the NFL is to have three running backs with complementary skills. With Gore, 28, Jacobs and Kendall Hunter, the team now has a versatile starting running back, a running back with size who can grind down on defenses and a smaller runner who can break big runs. Jacobs was the "Earth" in the Giants' so-called "Earth, Wind and Fire" running back committee that featured Ahmad Bradshaw and Derrick Ward. Now the 49ers have a similar arrangement.

Jacobs' addition puts him in competition with third-year runner Anthony Dixon, who also has size but who has vexed coaches with his habit of "dancing" at the line of scrimmage and breaking inside runs to the outside. Dixon, however, also has value on the 49ers' coverage units the other running backs don't have. The team also added running back Rock Cartwright in free agency, although he is seen primarily as a special teams ace.

-- Matt Barrows

March 27, 2012
What the Deuce? 49ers work out ex-Cardinal Lutui


The 49ers lost their starting right guard from 2011, Adam Snyder, to the Cardinals in free agency. Now they are considering replacing him with a former Cardinal, Deuce Lutui. The team worked out Lutui, 28, this week, according to his agent.

Right guard is the one piece of the free-agency puzzle the team has not filled. The intent is to have second-year player Daniel Kilgore compete with a veteran for the starting job. So far the 49ers have looked at Leonard Davis and Geoff Schwartz. Davis is recovering from offseason foot surgery while Schwartz signed last week with the Vikings.

Lutui, meanwhile, was a second-round choice (41st overall) out of USC for Arizona in 2006, and he started all but one game for the Cardinals from 2007-10. Last year the Bengals signed him to a two-year deal. But Lutui, listed at 338 pounds, failed his physical because he was overweight, and the Cardinals ended up taking him back on a one-year contract. He appeared in 15 games last season but did not start any of them.

-- Matt Barrows

March 27, 2012
The 49ers' post-free agency draft needs


The 49ers may have a few more items to cross off their free-agent shopping list, but for the most part they are finished. They addressed their two biggest goals, which were 1.) bringing back the 2011 starting defense intact and 2.) adding bodies to a thin wide receiver corps by signing Randy Moss and Mario Manningham and re-signing Ted Ginn.

The question now is how free agency impacts the team's draft needs. Here's how I would rank them and why.

1. Wide receiver. The 49ers now have seven wideouts signed for 2012, but there is no long-term depth at the position. One potential starter, Moss, is 35 and signed a one-year deal that the 49ers easily could get out of if the Moss experiment doesn't work out just as Braylon Edwards didn't work out last year. Ginn is on a one-year deal while Manningham signed a two-year deal.

That is, the team must continue to build for the future at the position. I still think the 30th pick in the draft is most likely to be a wide receiver, although it's not as imperative as it was before free agency. Last year the 49ers went into the season with five receivers on the active roster, which proved to be too few. Look for them to go into 2012 with six.

2. Running back. Jim Harbaugh last month said the notion that Frank Gore slowed down toward the end of the season is incorrect. But don't listen to what the team says - this is the lying season, after all - watch what it does. The 49ers have been interested in running backs both in free agency and in the run up to the draft. It would not be a surprise if the team used its 30th pick on this position considering how critical it is to the team's offense.

March 26, 2012
49ers' official draft order ... for now


As expected the 49ers received no compensatory picks today for next month's draft. As it stands now, the team's draft is very straightforward - it has one pick in rounds 1-7, beginning with the 30th overall selection. The 49ers jumped up one slot in the second because the Saints were docked their second-round pick because of their bounty issues. The 49ers got an extra seventh-round pick from the Bengals for Taylor Mays, but that's in the 2013 draft.

Of course, the 49ers' order can and probably will change. Since he began running the draft two years ago, general manager Trent Baalke hasn't stayed in one place. He traded up in the first round in 2010 to get right tackle Anthony Davis and down in the third round where he found NaVorro Bowman. Last year, he traded up in the second round to get Colin Kaepernick, then traded up again in the fifth round to get guard Daniel Kilgore, who at this point is the frontrunner for the right guard position in 2012.

Here's where the 49ers are picking in the three-day draft, which begins April 26.

March 25, 2012
Harbaugh pleased with weight-room attendance


Emptying my recorder from last week, I came across this quote from Jim Harbaugh, who did a walk-and-talk interview to his car Tuesday. "It's been great watching them come into the facility and seeing those guys work," Harbaugh said. "I can't imagine that there's many other facilities around the NFL with this many guys pumping iron and out there running and doing what our guys are doing. And I think they feel the same as well."

One of results of last year's lockout, and the new collective bargaining agreement that came out of it, is that there won't be as much organized offseason activity as there's been in the past. In previous years, a team's offseason training program would begin in March. This year it begins April 16. That is, every 49er at the facility these days is there on a voluntary basis.

It also means there can be no formal instruction until next month. When Randy Moss visited earlier in the month, for instance, Harbaugh threw him passes, not Colin Kaepernick, who was on site that day. That's also why midweek rumors that Kaepernick was throwing passes to free agent Mike Wallace were absurd.

After staking out the facility most of last week, here are the faces I saw:

March 24, 2012
49ers to host highly regarded Virginia Tech running back

One of the draft-eligible players dropping by 49ers headquarters in the next few weeks will be Virginia Tech's David Wilson, who is one of three running backs vying to be the second runner - after Alabama's Trent Richardson - taken in the draft. Wilson will visit on April 11 and 12, according to a league source.

Teams are allowed to host 30 players before the draft, and the 49ers also will hold a local pro day that will feature players from Cal, Stanford, San Jose State and any other player who grew up in the Bay Area. Which is to say, they will have taken a close look at hundreds of players by the time the first round begins April 26.

Still, running back promises to be a focus during the three-day draft. The 49ers sent director of player personnel Tom Gamble to recent pro days at Oregon and Washington presumably to look at running backs LaMichael James and Chris Polk respectively.

March 23, 2012
Johnson wants to continue his development under Harbaugh


Josh Johnson said today he wasn't given any promises about playing time or where he falls in the 49ers' quarterback hierarchy. Instead, he said he was assured he'd get enough practice repetitions to develop as a quarterback. And with Jim Harbaugh as a mentor, he knows that development will take place.

Johnson said his most profound growth came under Harbaugh and his staff at the University of San Diego. When Harbaugh recruited him at Oakland Tech High, Johnson was a 5-11, 145-pound kid who wasn't getting any offers anywhere else. He said he and Harbaugh - "I knew who he was. I've always been a football junkie," he said - hit it off immediately when Harbaugh visited one day at the high school.

"I think it was just our love for the game," Johnson said during a conference call. "It was a mutual thing that brought two different people from two different places together. ... From the moment I met him, I could tell he was about football, he always wanted to talk football, and that's the kind of guy I was."

Johnson would go on to set all sorts of records at San Diego, and he parlayed that success into becoming a fifth-round pick by the Buccaneers in 2008. Now Johnson, who also had interest from the Redskins on the free-agent market, wants to continue his growth under Harbaugh, who left to coach at Stanford in 2007.

March 23, 2012
QB Johnson's deal: two years for essentially $2 million

The 49ers signed quarterback Josh Johnson to a two-year deal that essentially is worth just under $2 million, according to a league source familiar with the contract. That includes a $350,000 signing bonus.

Johnson could earn as much as $1.5 million more in incentives. To reach that number, however, he would have to be the 49ers' starting quarterback and would have to play very, very well. The second year of the contract includes a per-game roster bonus that would pay Johnson $135,000 if he is on the active roster for every 49ers game.

The bottom line is that Johnson's is a modest deal that is similar to what a lot of NFL backups earn. David Carr, for instance, recently signed a one-year deal with the Giants for about $1 million. The Cowboys just signed Kyle Orton on a three-year deal reportedly worth $10.5 million.

-- Matt Barrows

March 23, 2012
QB racquetball outing is vintage Harbaugh


The 49ers suddenly have a full house at quarterback after signing two veterans, Alex Smith and Josh Johnson, to multi-year deals on Wednesday and Thursday. But if there's any tension or hurt feelings at the position, the passers certainly are doing a good job of hiding it. In fact, Jim Harbaugh and three of the quarterbacks - Johnson, Smith and Colin Kaepernick - played racquetball together after Johnson's visit on Thursday. Another 49ers quarterback, Scott Tolzien, is out of town.

Racquetball is Harbaugh's sport of choice these days. He wants to have a court built at the team facility. And while Thursday's outing with the fellas undoubtedly was a bonding experience (and is vintage Harbaugh), it also undoubtedly was extremely competitive (and is vintage Harbaugh). I'm surprised there are no reports of someone losing an eye or dislocating a shoulder.

Upon Johnson's signing, there was speculation (including from me; guilty) that his addition was alternately bad news for Smith, for Kaepernick and for Tolzien. Does this mean that Smith is gone after one year? Is the team thinking about trading Kaepernick so it can move up in the draft? If Tolzien goes on the practice squad, will he be snatched up?

My sense is that there's no master strategy at play here, at least at this time. Harbaugh simply wants as much competition as possible. It's like throwing four cats in a bag and seeing which come out intact. Or rather throwing a bunch of guys on a racquetball court and seeing who really likes to compete.

Smith is the likely starter for 2012. But as Matt Maiocco has pointed out very well, the structure of his three-year contract leaves the door open for the 49ers to make a change at this time next year. Smith only would get $7.5 million of the "guaranteed" portion of his contract if he is on the roster at April 1, 2013. That puts pressure on Smith to excel in 2012.

The addition of Johnson also creates pressure at the No. 2 and No. 3 quarterback positions. Is his presence specifically a bad omen for Kaepernick? After all, the two possess many of the same qualities - strong arm, fast feet - and Johnson already is familiar with the offense. No, Harbaugh and the 49ers knew that Johnson was going to be a free agent this year when they traded up to get Kaepernick last year. That is, there always must have been a thought of having the two quarterbacks on the roster at the same time. But the bottom line is that they are going to push each other.

Of the group of four, Tolzien, who went undrafted last year, is the only quarterback with practice squad eligibility. He was on the 53-man roster all of last season, but he was inactive for every game. Like the other four quarterbacks -- I'm including Harbaugh in this category -- Tolzien is hyper competitive.

-- Matt Barrows

March 22, 2012
49ers sign QB Josh Johnson to a two-year deal


One day after signing presumed starter Alex Smith to a three-year contract, the 49ers have added another passer, Josh Johnson, to their quarterback stable. Johnson, 25, visited the 49ers today, met with coach Jim Harbaugh and then signed a two-year deal, a league source said.

The deal reunites Johnson with Harbaugh, his coach at the University of San Diego. Johnson had been the understudy to Josh Freeman in Tampa Bay the last two seasons. The Oakland native became a free agent this year, and he visited the Washington Redskins earlier in the week.

Johnson (6-3, 205 pounds) became an ultra efficient passer at San Diego under Harbaugh. During his senior season in 2007 -- Harbaugh had left for Stanford by then -- he threw for 2,988 yards and 43 touchdowns against a single interception. He holds the record for the highest career passer efficiency (176.68) in NCAA Division-I football history. Harbaugh used the same offense at San Diego that the 49ers use now, and Johnson presumably will pick up the system quickly.

March 22, 2012
49ers re-sign return man Ted Ginn


A critical missing element in the NFC Championship game is back with the 49ers. The team announced it had re-signed Ted Ginn, who provided a big boost to the 49ers' return game last year but who was injured in the playoff game against the Giants, which featured two fumbles by backup returner Kyle Williams. Ginn signed a one-year deal.

The 49ers, who were low on wideouts in the playoffs, now have eight players on the roster and are likely to draft at least one more next month. The eight: Dontavia Bogan, Michael Crabtree, Joe Hastings, Ginn, Mario Manningham, John Matthews, Randy Moss and Williams.

Ginn became the first player in franchise history to return both a punt and a kickoff in one game when he did it against the Seahawks in the season opener on Sept. 11. He finished the season ranked second in the NFC, and third in the NFL with a 27.6-yard kickoff return average. He also ranked third in the NFC and fourth in the NFL with a 12.3-yard average on punt returns.

Ginn had visited the Lions, Ravens and Vikings, and he said during the Detroit visit that he wanted to be known as a receiver and not just a returner. Ginn was in on roughly a third of the 49ers' offensive snaps in 2011. This year the team already has added starter-candidates Moss and Manningham to the position.

Ginn said he wasn't concerned about a logjam at the position, and he said he looked forward to learning from an "icon" like Moss. "It's just a matter of going out there and seeing what happens," he said. ... "I was happy with my role. When you're playing a game like this, you've got to be a team player. So that's what I am first. Everyone wishes they could get a ball or two more. That's just being a human being."

In two seasons with the 49ers, Ginn hasn't lost a fumble on either a kickoff or punt return. How does he account for the security? "I'm a coach's son, man, so I have to give that praise to my father. The thing about him was he always preached ball security. ... It's kind of like second nature."

Ginn's deep speed also was missed in the game against the Giants. Although his receiving numbers were modest last year -- 19 catches for 220 yards -- defenses had to respect Ginn's ability to get down field quickly. Without him in the lineup, the Giants boxed in receivers Crabtree and Williams, who combined for a single catch in the game.

-- Matt Barrows

March 22, 2012
Stanford pro day: Luck draws them, Fleener wows them


Stanford tight end Coby Fleener was running a pass route Thursday when he looked back to the quarterback and saw a wall of NFL evaluators as the backdrop.

It was a fitting image. More than 100 coaches and personnel men showed up at Stanford's pro day to watch the quarterback, Andrew Luck, make 50 scripted throws. The group included team owners like Washington's Daniel Snyder, head coaches like Arizona's Ken Whisenhunt, general managers such as Oakland's Reggie McKenzie and one former Secretary of State, Condaleezza Rice.

Neither former Stanford head coach Jim Harbaugh, nor 49ers general manager Trent Baalke were on hand, although the team sent scouts and at least one assistant, quarterbacks coach Geep Chryst.

Luck performed as well as expected when there's no one in pads and no one playing defense. He attempted an array of throws, from short rollouts to pretty fades in the end zone to crossing patterns he zipped across the middle of the field. The only adverse conditions were a moderate wind out of the northwest and Luck's passing coach, George Whitfield, charging at him with a broom - yes, a broom - on some of his drop backs.

"It was another way of trying to realistically create a pass rusher," Luck explained. "Because not everybody is a 6-7, 300-pound, freakish defensive end."

Luck likely is locked in as the No. 1 pick in next month's draft to the Colts. Because of that Thursday's throwing session was anticlimactic despite the large media presence - ESPN had reporters on hand from three of its channels - and the gaggle of NFL officials. Instead, the winners were the other 11 Stanford players who went through the drills and who benefitted from scrutiny on Luck.

March 21, 2012
The 49ers inquired about Mike Wallace but ...


Good news for all the 49ers fans clamoring for wide receiver Mike Wallace. The 49ers did indeed make an inquiry about the Steelers restricted free agent during the opening week of free agency. But they and the other teams that asked about Wallace were told the receiver was looking for a lot of money.

How much? A league source said that Wallace, 25, wants a contract that surpasses the eight-year, $120 million deal that Larry Fitzgerald signed last year with the Cardinals. Combine that with the first-round pick any team that signs Wallace to an offer sheet would lose if the Steelers didn't match the offer, and you start to understand why we've heard so little about Wallace in the last week and a half.

That, of course, could change. Teams have another month to sign restricted free agents. But at that price, the 49ers aren't interested, and it's hard to imagine the Patriots, Bengals and Ravens paying that either.

Wallace ranked 11th in receiving yards last season with 1,193 yards, and he scored eight touchdowns. Fitzgerald ranked fourth with 1,411 yards and eight touchdowns. The Steelers placed a first-round tender worth $2.74 million on Wallace. If Wallace signs it, he'll become an unrestricted free agent next season and all 32 teams will be able to bid on him without the fear of losing a draft pick.

Maybe that's his strategy. Calls to Wallace's agent last week and this week have not been returned.

-- Matt Barrows

March 21, 2012
G Geoff Schwartz signs with Vikings


Free-agent offensive lineman Geoff Schwartz, who visited the 49ers on Tuesday, has agreed to a one-year deal with the Vikings instead, according to Schwartz's agent. Schwartz, 25, had visited the Vikings before the 49ers. Schwartz also was being pursued by the Lions.

The 49ers were eying Schwartz for the right guard spot that was left vacant when Adam Snyder signed with the Cardinals last week. The 49ers likely would have wanted Schwartz, who played both right guard and right tackle for Carolina, to compete with second-year player Daniel Kilgore for the spot.

In Minnesota, Schwartz likely will fill the vacancy at left guard, the position Steve Hutchinson has played in the past. Hutchinson is now with the Titans. The 49ers and Vikings will play this year, and Schwartz will find himself matched against Justin Smith at times.

The 49ers also have met with veteran guard Leonard Davis, 33, during free agency.

-- Matt Barrows

March 21, 2012
Alex Smith: I'm not offended at all

Smith celebrates.jpg

No harm. No foul. Alex Smith said his relationship with the 49ers and coach Jim Harbaugh is as strong as it's always been and that general manager Trent Baalke and especially Harbaugh kept him informed of the team's pursuit of Peyton Manning in recent weeks.

"As good as they've always been and getting better," Smith said today of his rapport with Harbaugh and the team. "The thing from Day 1 when I first met coach Harbaugh is that he's always been up front, he's always been honest with me. And he continued to do that through this entire process and that's one of the reasons I love playing for him." Smith on Wednesday signed a three-year contract worth as much as $33 million.

Smith said he knew about the team's pursuit of Manning. Harbaugh and offensive coordinator Greg Roman flew to North Carolina to meet Manning on March 13 but the visit wasn't made public until Friday. Smith was fuzzy about when Baalke and Harbaugh went to his house and informed him of the interest. But while he said he the pursuit of Manning was "a little unexpected," he said he didn't have a problem with it.

"Not offended at all," Smith said. "In fact, I would have relished the opportunity to compete for the starting job with Peyton Manning." Asked if the 49ers really would have signed both Smith and Manning to deals, Smith said, "Well, the contract (offer) was out there the whole time. That's my impression. I guess that's a better question to Jim and Trent. But that's my understanding."

March 21, 2012
It's official: Smith signs three-year deal

The drama is over. Alex Smith has signed his three-year contract and he is set to hop on a conference call - what, no Peyton Manning-like press conference? - at 11:15 a.m.

In a press release, general manager Trent Baalke spoke on the matter for the first time. "We are pleased that Alex has chosen to continue his career as a 49er," Baalke said. "His contributions were instrumental to our success in 2011, and we look forward to the continued growth of our offense under his leadership"

Team CEO Jed York was a bit more personal, Tweeting this to Smith: "Thanks for choosing the #49ers Alex. Sorry it was a tough week..."

We'll have Smith's reaction shortly ...

-- Matt Barrows

March 21, 2012
Chat live with Matt: Alex Smith returns to SF 49ers

March 21, 2012
49ers sweetened their offer to Alex Smith

Alex upset.jpg

Alex Smith gave in and decided to re-sign with the 49ers. But the team gave in, too. The Associated Press reports that Smith's new, three-year deal will pay him $8 million a season but as much as $33 million overall and $16.5 million guaranteed.

That's a step up from the three-year, $24 million deal with $10 million guaranteed that had been on the table for more than two weeks. The key is the guaranteed money, which signals the level of commitment to the player.

The initial contract offer would have allowed the 49ers to part ways with Smith and hand the offense to understudy Colin Kaepernick midway through the deal. The revised contract shows more of a commitment to Smith. It's also a show of good faith in what was a sobering negotiating process for Smith.

The revised contract offer also is significant in that the 49ers deviated from their usual, very business-like strategy of placing a value on a player and not going a cent higher than that number.

In other 49ers news ... new receiver Randy Moss will wear No. 84, the number he wore when he entered the league with the Vikings. It had been worn by Josh Morgan in previous seasons. Morgan is now with the Redskins. Running back Rock Cartwright will wear No. 28, according to the team.

-- Matt Barrows

March 20, 2012
Harbaugh & Smith: "It's a strong relationship as always"


"It's a strong relationship as always," Jim Harbaugh said Tuesday when asked where things stand with quarterback Alex Smith, who is closing in on a three-year deal with the team.

Harbaugh and Smith met yesterday for about an hour and they spoke again today. Harbaugh would not comment when asked whether Smith's contract was indeed complete, as has been reported by NFL Network. "Based on experience, it's never wise, it never benefits anybody concerned to discuss negotiations, contracts in the media," Harbaugh said as he was leaving team headquarters.

A league source cautioned that while the deal with Smith was very close to completion, it was not yet finalized and may not be until Wednesday. Smith's agent, Tom Condon, was in Denver today for Peyton Manning's press conference.

Smith obviously was not pleased with the team's contract offer, which has been on the table for more than two weeks. And it's hard to imagine he was happy when the 49ers began pursuing Peyton Manning. Still, Harbaugh, who lavished praise on Smith all of last season, said that Smith was still "his guy" going forward.

"Nothing's changed," Harbaugh said.

-- Matt Barrows

March 20, 2012
Update: Smith contract completed, QB to ink three-year deal

The NFL Network, following up on a report that Alex Smith and the 49ers were close to a new, three-year contract, reports that the deal is in fact complete. The 49ers do not comment on contracts until the signatures are on the document and the paperwork is filed, and have not acknowledged a deal is final.

It had long been assumed that the two sides would consummate a deal, but no one could have predicted the long and winding route this one has taken.

The 49ers offered Smith a three-year, $24 million deal more than two weeks ago. The offer, low for a starter, was not signed before Smith officially became a free agent on March 13. Soon after that, another free agent quarterback, Peyton Manning, entered the mix when he told the 49ers that he was interested in playing for him.

That sent Jim Harbaugh -- Smith's most ardent backer -- to North Carolina last week to watch Manning throw. Smith followed with his own cross country trip -- to Miami on Sunday to meet with the Dolphins.

But Miami agreed to a deal with another quarterback, David Garrard, and Smith's options shrank. Harbaugh on Monday began bridging the gap that had been formed between the organization and Smith, and today that impasse was closed in negotiations between Smith's agent, Tom Condon, and the team's negotiator, Paraag Marathe.

Smith likely will be the starter for 2012, although Colin Kaepernick is bound to get more practice repetitions this offseason than he did last year as a rookie.

-- Matt Barrows

March 20, 2012
Report: 49ers, Alex Smith closing in on deal

The 49ers and quarterback Alex Smith are closing in on a deal, according to Chris Mortensen of ESPN. Mortensen reports that the two sides are in the "process of finalizing" what is believed to be a three-year deal worth roughly $24 million overall. The missing pieces, the report said, are the guaranteed money and the "contract language."

SFgate. com reported over the weekend that Smith, 27, was contemplating parting ways with agent Tom Condon. However, Condon has been handling negotiations with the 49ers throughout. The team's chief negotiator, Paraag Marathe, remains at the team's facility.

The language described by Mortensen appears to indicate that the length and overall worth of the contract have not changed since it was first presented more than two weeks ago. It will be interesting to see whether negotiations have produced more guaranteed money for the disgruntled quarterback. The original offer had about $10 million in guaranteed money.

Smith visited the Dolphins Sunday and had planned to visit Seattle. Both of those teams have found other starting-candidate quarterbacks in recent days, and it appears as if Smith's options outside of San Francisco are limited.

The 49ers, meanwhile, finished second to the Broncos in pursuing free agent Peyton Manning, a process that began after the 49ers offered the contract to Smith. Jim Harbaugh began trying to smooth things over with Smith, whom he showered with praise in 2011, on Monday. Harbaugh spent an hour or so with Smith at an undisclosed location.

-- Matt Barrows

March 20, 2012
49ers updates: Tebow rumor taken back

It's all quiet at the 49ers facility .... aside from the constant beep beep beep of trucks backing up. Several team officials, including general manager Trent Baalke and COO Jed York, have come out of the building but declined comment. 

There has been no sign of Alex Smith after the quarterback had a one-hour meeting with Jim Harbaugh on Monday. The 49ers don't appear to be budging from their three-year offer for $24 million (approximately $10 million guaranteed). That offer has been on the table for more than two weeks now.

Remember those Tim Tebow rumors from this morning? Adam Schefter has pulled them back and now says the 49ers are not contemplating a trade for Tebow. It made no sense from an on-field standpoint but perfect sense if the 49ers were trying to pressure Smith into signing.

"Tebow is not coming here," said 49ers owner Jed York as he was returning from lunch on Tuesday.

Free agent Geoff Schwartz arrived at noon for his visit. The big guard also has met with the Lions and Vikings. Schwartz, who is from Southern California, grew up a 49ers fan. if signed, he'd likely compete for the starting job at right guard with Daniel Kilgore. The 49ers also are considering veteran Leonard Davis for the position.

Many of you have asked why Mario Manningham has not signed his contract and whether there is something that scuttled the deal. It's just taken a while to have the paperwork completed and sent back to team headquarters. The two-year deal could become official as early as today.

-- Matt Barrows

March 20, 2012
49ers QB option: From Manning watch to Tebow watch?


Update: It looks like the 49ers can be scratched from the list of possible teams trying to land quarterback Tim Tebow in a trade with the Denver Broncos. ESPN's Adam Schefter is now reporting that Miami has joined Green Bay and Jacksonville in pursuit of a deal for Tebow.

Just when you thought the quarterback circus wasn't coming to an end, here comes this nugget from ESPN's Adam Schefter: The 49ers are one of three teams - along with Green Bay and Jacksonville - to watch when it comes to a trade for Tim Tebow.

And if your antenna's not raised by that, it should be. It sounds as if the 49ers are tightening the screws even more on Alex Smith, the Urban Meyer-coached quarterback they want to re-sign. Jim Harbaugh spent an hour or so with Smith on Monday in an effort to get him to sign the three-year, $24 million deal (with $10 million guaranteed) that is on the table.

Tebow to the 49ers doesn't make sense strategically. The 49ers brought in downfield receiving threats Randy Moss and Mario Manningham last week, but Tebow is not a downfield quarterback. He'd make a great short-yardage or Wildcat option in their offense. But the 49ers might have an even better one in Colin Kaepernick, whom they are grooming to take over at some point.

Tebow and Smith also are represented by the same agency, CAA. So as was the case in the Peyton Manning saga, you have a situation where a scenario that's good for one client is bad for the other one. Schefter obviously has ties to CAA, as shown by his and Chris Mortensen's reporting on the Manning story. Manning also is represented by CAA.

The 49ers' obvious contention in all this is that they've made a nice offer to Smith and he has nowhere else to go. And on the latter point, they're right. But what has bothered Smith throughout the ordeal is their lack of loyalty to him. After all, he organized and led the players through lockout workouts and practices last year when he didn't even have a contract. Then he started all 18 games on a team that went to overtime in the NFC Championship game. Smith likely feels the commitment he's shown the team is not being reciprocated.

-- Matt Barrows

March 19, 2012
49ers meet for an hour with Alex Smith Monday


The 49ers spent an hour or so with quarterback Alex Smith on Monday in an effort to patch things up with the quarterback and to convince him that re-signing with the team is in his best interest.

Smith, meanwhile, is running out of options.

A day after one of the teams he hoped to visit, the Seattle Seahawks, signed Matt Flynn to a three-year deal, the team that Smith did visit on Sunday, the Miami Dolphins, agreed to a deal with free agent David Garrard. Garrard certainly won't be handed the Dolphins starting job after sitting out the 2011 season, but the team now has Garrard, Matt Moore and Pat Devlin at quarterback, and therefore less of a need for Smith.

The deal currently on the table for Smith is for $24 million over three years and has a little more than $10 million in guarantees. It also has some guaranteed money in the second year.

Jim Harbaugh was seen leaving the team facility around 2 p.m. today, and it is believed that he's the one who extended the olive branch to Smith, who is upset over what he presumably felt was a lower-than-expected offer.

Harbaugh likely will try to convince Smith that the 49ers are the best -- and perhaps only -- spot for him to start this season and that as long as he and the 49ers play well, he will remain the starter and earn the entire contract.

Smith and agent Tom Condon -- he's still representing Smith -- are likely to point to the deal Flynn just received, which is similar to the one that Smith has been offered. Flynn started two games in his career; Smith has started 68, and he was the quarterback of a team that went to the NFC Championship game.

-- Matt Barrows

March 19, 2012
Manning to Broncos; Smith back to 49ers?


The 49ers' pursuit of Peyton Manning is over. According to reports by ESPN, Manning has contacted the 49ers and Titans and informed them that he wants to play for the Broncos, the team that spent the most time with Manning since the saga began and the team that had the most salary-cap space.

The Associated Press also is reporting that a person with knowledge of the discussions said the NFL's only four-time MVP, and the year's most sought-after free agent, called Broncos executive John Elway today and told him he had decided to come to Denver.

The 49ers now are likely to return their attention to re-signing Alex Smith, to whom they offered a three-year contract 10 days ago that he did not sign. That deal is reportedly for $24 million, and The Merc's Tim Kawakami reports today that it included $10 million guaranteed. Kawakami writes that the offer -- surprisingly -- has remained on the table throughout the Manning ordeal.

In some ways, the 49ers are not as hurt by Manning's decision as the Titans, whose free-agent to-do list has been held in abeyance while the team pursued Manning. The 49ers have gone about their business, adding two wide receivers - Randy Moss and Mario Manningham, re-signing cornerback Carlos Rogers and scheduling visits with guards Leonard Davis and Geoff Schwartz.

The next big bit of business, however, is reeling in Smith.

The 49ers jumped into the hunt for Manning six days ago when Jim Harbaugh and offensive coordinator Greg Roman worked out with the quarterback in North Carolina. The 49ers followed that by giving Manning a physical, which he passed.

The rest of the football world didn't find out about the visit until Friday. That includes, perhaps, Alex Smith, who reportedly is considering firing his agent, Tom Condon, and who arranged a visit with the Dolphins Sunday. The Dolphins and Smith reportedly began negotiating on Sunday night and Condon remains a part of those negotiations.

It will be interesting to see how negotiations with Smith proceed. Smith obviously wasn't happy with the originally offer -- for reasons that are unknown -- while the 49ers' approach is to determine a value for a player and never waver from it. There was no headway in the week or so leading up to free agency. What happens next?

-- Matt Barrows

March 19, 2012
49ers free-agent news NOT involving Peyton Manning

As the world waits for Peyton Manning to come down from the (Smokies) Mountain and announce his decision, here's what's happening with the mere mortal free agents as it pertains to the 49ers.

• Guard Geoff Schwartz, who is being eyed as a replacement for Adam Snyder at right guard, plans to visit the 49ers on Tuesday after a stop in Minnesota today. Schwartz, 25, also has visited the Lions. The 49ers' search for a guard also has included former Cowboy and Lion Leonard Davis, 33.


• Running back James Davis, 26, writes on Twitter that he'll work out with the 49ers today after doing the same with the Raiders Sunday. The 5-11, 218-pound running back has had a bit role with the Browns, Redskins and Lions over the previous four years. The 49ers are eying running backs, but they may wait until after the draft to make any moves. Former Giants running back Brandon Jacobs also has been discussed.

• Tight end Matthew Mulligan will visit today. Mulligan, 27, played all 16 games as a blocking tight end for the Jets last year. He also was on special teams and was the squad's backup longsnapper. (If signed the 49ers would have four players who can long snap). Mulligan (6-4, 265) also has a visit with the Rams and the Jets are interested in having him back. With Nate Byham's return from an ACL tear, the 49ers don't appear to have a need here. However, Jim Harbaugh never can have enough tight ends.

• 49ers free agent safety Reggie Smith has drawn interest from the Buccaneers and Dolphins. Shawntae Spencer has visited the Raiders and has another set up today.

One more item: Manning has not given the three teams pursuing him an indication of when he will make a decision. At this point, there's only a sense that it will be made early this week. But it certainly could drag on ... and on ... and on ... just like all big NFL storylines seem to do. (See: Favre, Brett; lockout, NFL).

-- Matt Barrows

March 18, 2012
Report: Dolphins negotiating with Alex Smith


This just in. Mike Klis of the Denver Post, who was ahead of everyone else when he linked the 49ers and Peyton Manning a week ago, is reporting that Alex Smith is now in negotiations with the Miami Dolphins, with whom he visited for 5 1/2 hours today. Here's a link to his story.

Citing an NFL source, Klis is reporting that the Dolphins are working on a deal that would give Smith $8 million a year, approximately what the 49ers offered Smith in a three-year deal. Smith had intended to visit the Seattle Seahawks later this week, but that trip was scuttled when the Seahawks agreed to a three-year deal with Matt Flynn. The Dolphins also were interested in Flynn, but have now set their sights on Smith.

The 49ers' approach to free agency is to set a value on their own free agents and not waver from that value. That appears to be what they did with Smith with their offer, reportedly for $24 million over three years. What's not known at this point is how much guaranteed money was in the contract offer, which would show the level of commitment to Smith.

March 18, 2012
Seahawks sign QB Flynn; Smith running out of options


Cancel Alex Smith's trip to the great Northwest. The Seahawks on Sunday announced they had agreed to a deal with another free-agent quarterback, Matt Flynn. ESPN's Adam Schefter reports the contract is three years for $26 million, including $10 million guaranteed.

Smith, meanwhile, was in Miami today and had planned to travel to Seattle later in the week to meet with the Seahawks.

Flynn was a seventh-round draft pick by the Packers in 2008, and he has started just two games behind Aaron Rodgers since. Two seasons ago, he completed 24 of 37 passes for 251 yards and three touchdowns in a loss in New England. In the 2011 finale, he was 31 for 44 for 480 yards and threw six touchdowns in a 45-41 win over the Detroit Lions.

The signing reduces the number of landing spots for Smith to Miami, and if Peyton Manning decides on Tennessee or Denver, San Francisco. Cleveland also is need of a quarterback, but to this point at least, there has have been no reports of Smith visiting the Browns.

What options do the 49ers have if they don't land Manning and Smith goes elsewhere? The team traded up in the second round to draft Colin Kaepernick last year, and while the plan until now was not to start him in 2012, that is likely the top option.

There also are free agents available, such as former Jim Harbaugh protégé Josh Johnson and ex Jaguars quarterback David Garrard. And Manning's choice could free up another quarterback. If he landed in Tennessee, Hasselbeck, whom the 49ers tried to woo last year, would be a logical choice to start in 2012.

-- Matt Barrows

March 18, 2012
Source: Alex Smith to visit Seahawks


Miami isn't the only team Alex Smith is visiting. According to a source familiar with Smith's itinerary, the free-agent quarterback also plans to visit the Seattle Seahawks this week. It is not known exactly when the visit will take place. That, of course, raises the possibility that the long-time 49ers quarterback could face his former team twice a season. The Seahawks approached Smith last season before he signed a one-year deal with the 49ers.

Smith almost assuredly would leave the 49ers if they were to sign another free-agent, Peyton Manning, who is expected to announce his decision later this week. But there is a growing sense that Smith may not be back even if Manning goes elsewhere.

Smith, according to sources, is upset at the 49ers, perhaps not because the monetary offer they made him - reportedly $24 million over three years - but because of the job security it provides. Smith felt the 49ers made a commitment to him as their future starter that was not reflected in the contract offer.

Smith is extremely level headed, he is close to many 49ers players and he has said repeatedly that he wants to remain in San Francisco. He ultimately may conclude that the 49ers offer the best opportunity to start should Manning go elsewhere. The Seahawks have last year's starter, Tarvaris Jackson, on the roster and Smith likely would have to compete with him for a starting job if he signed there. The Dolphins have Matt Moore, and they also are interested in free agents Matt Flynn and David Garrard. The Seahawks also are interested in Flynn.

Then again, Smith's seven-year career in San Francisco has been as rocky as any quarterback's has been. It seemed Smith had weathered one storm after another and finally found a supportive and knowledgeable head coach in Jim Harbaugh. But it now appears if that relationship, too, is strained.

The 49ers, meanwhile, went through the 2011 season with two rookies, Colin Kaepernick and Scott Tolzien, behind Smith. The 49ers traded up in the second round last year to grab Kaepernick.

-- Matt Barrows

March 18, 2012
Alex Smith to the Dolphins? QB visits Miami


Alex Smith made the first free-agent visit of his career Sunday when he arrived in Ft. Lauderdale to meet with the Dolphins. Miami had been one of the teams hoping to land free agent Peyton Manning, but Manning informed them last week they are out of the running. The Dolphins also have hosted free-agent Matt Flynn.

"This is the NFL. I guess nothing surprises me anymore," Smith told the Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel. "I never thought a year ago (Peyton) Manning would be a free agent either, I'm never surprised by anything."

News of Smith's visit was broken by Seattle Seahawks blogger David Hsu, who was on the overnight flight to South Florida with Smith. It's worth reading his overnight timeline. The pic above was taken by Sun-Sentinel reporter Izzy Gould.

Smith started all 18 games with the 49ers in 2001, his breakout season with the team. He completed 61.3 percent of his passes last season, throwing for 3,144 yards and 17 touchdowns with a league low five interceptions.

All indications were that the 49ers wanted him back and that he wanted to be back. In late February that outcome seemed inevitable. But Smith and his handlers considered the three-year, $24 million offer from the 49ers too low, free agency began and then the team became involved in the Manning hunt.

That has sent Smith, who has lived in the Bay Area since 2005, in search of new options, and he reportedly is considering changing agents. Tom Condon, who represents Smith, also represents Manning.

What does this mean as far as the 49ers' pursuit of Peyton Manning? Smith might have gotten an indication (from Condon) that Manning intends to pick San Francisco, which is prompting Smith to look at his other options. Or Smith simply may be trying to increase his leverage with the 49ers should Manning head to Denver or Tennessee. Manning is expected to decide early this week. The other two quarterbacks on the 49ers' roster, Colin Kaepernick and Scott Tolzien, are coming off their rookie seasons.

If Smith landed with the Dolphins, it would reunite him with former high school teammate Reggie Bush, a running back for the Dolphins. Miami also will install a West Coast offense this year, which Smith ran in 2005 and 2011 in San Francisco.

-- Matt Barrows

March 17, 2012
49ers agree to terms with Manningham on two-year deal


The enemy is now the teammate.

Free-agent wide receiver Mario Manningham, who caught a key touchdown for the Giants in the NFC Championship game against the 49ers, agreed Saturday to a two-year contract with San Francisco, according to a league source. Manningham, 25, visited the 49ers on Thursday and was in St. Louis on Saturday. The Giants also were interested in bringing him back.

When he signs his contract, the former Michigan standout will join Randy Moss, Michael Crabtree, Kyle Williams and Joe Hastings as wide receivers signed for the 2012 season. How the top three - Moss, Crabtree and Manningham - will rotate is unknown, but the 49ers have been interested in seeing how Crabtree, their top wide receiver in 2011, would work as a slot receiver.

The team also is likely to draft a receiver - perhaps one with punt-return skills - in next month's draft. Last season's return man, Ted Ginn, visited the Ravens today and, with Manningham's imminent signing, is not expected back. Ginn also has visited the Lions.

Manningham's best season came in 2010 when he started eight games, caught 60 passes for 944 yards and scored nine touchdowns. He took a step back with the emergence of Giants receiver Victor Cruz last year, catching 39 passes for 523 yards and four touchdowns.

But he came up with critical catches in the playoffs against the 49ers - a 17-yard go-ahead touchdown in the fourth quarter - and in the Super Bowl against New England. He had a memorable 38-yard reception along the sideline on New York's game-winning drive, and he finished with five receptions for 73 yards in the game.

Now the question is whether Manningham will be catching passes from another quarterback named Manning. Giants quarterback Eli's brother, Peyton, is expected to decide on his new home -- San Francisco, Denver or Tennessee -- on Monday or Tuesday.

San Francisco fans also must ask themselves whether the new group of receivers - Moss, Crabtree, Manningham, Williams, Hastings and likely a rookie - is better than the group that opened the 2011 season: Braylon Edwards, Crabtree, Joshua Morgan, Ginn and Williams,

-- Matt Barrows

March 17, 2012
Report: Smith considering dropping agent Condon


There was a nice scoop today by The Chron's Kevin Lynch, who writes that Alex Smith is considering changing agents. Smith is represented by Tom Condon, who also is Peyton Manning's agent. Condon works for CAA, which represents half of the presumed starting quarterbacks in the league right now. Smith wants to return to the 49ers while the 49ers are pursuing Manning, which should be a conflict of interest for Condon, something I wrote about earlier today.

Lynch also put a figure on the three-year deal the 49ers have reached. It's for $24 million, which is far below what Kevin Kolb received from Arizona last year (five-year $63 million) and far below the three-year, $40.5 million Mark Sanchez just received from the Jets. It's also vastly lower than what Manning will receive, which is believed to be in the neighborhood of five years and $90 million.

And yet last week, Smith said he was happy with the 49ers' offer and just working out the details.

As expected a contingent of Tennessee Titans officials worked out Manning today. That means all three teams in the running - the Broncos, 49ers and Titans - have seen Manning throw and they've all given him physicals. Manning is expected to decide on a team by Monday or Tuesday.

-- Matt Barrows

March 17, 2012
Questions: How long has Smith known of Manning and SF?


Who approached whom, the 49ers or Manning?

This one is key to the 49ers chances of landing Manning. If it was the Mannings who came to the 49ers, it's a good sign as far as the team's chances of landing Manning. That is, it means he was pursuing them and not the other way around. It also explains (somewhat) the timeline. Until Monday, all indications were that the 49ers were pursuing Alex Smith, not Manning. Then on Monday or Tuesday morning, perhaps, the team got a call from the Manning camp. "We hear you're having trouble signing Alex Smith. Would Peyton Manning interest you?" Jim Harbaugh and Greg Roman flew to Durham, N.C. Tuesday night, watched Manning throw presumably on Wednesday, which leads us to today.

Then again, the rumors that the 49ers were a "mystery team" have been consistent since Manning and the Colts parted ways March 7. On March 11, the Denver Post's Mike Klis wrote that the 49ers soon would be jumping into the fray, which came true. That information certainly began with Manning's representatives, who also represent Smith. That is Smith could have - should have - known about a 49ers-Manning interest for some time now, which might explain why no deal was signed.

Alex upset.jpg

How does Tom Condon fit into all this?

Great question. Condon is the agent for both Manning and Smith, which you might say creates a conflict. If, for example, the 49ers never would have gotten into the Peyton Manning hunt if Smith had signed the three-year deal the 49ers had offered, you have to wonder if Condon was advising Smith not to sign, a move that would favor his more high-profile client, Manning.

The other scenario has Smith not signing because he and Condon knew of the 49ers' interest in Manning. Perhaps Condon knew that Smith had no better options elsewhere and has advised him to sit tight while Manning makes a decision. If Manning chooses, say, the Broncos, then Smith is the de facto starter in San Francisco with only a bruised ego as injury. If Manning chooses the 49ers, then Smith hits the open market and competes for a job in yet another new offense in say, Seattle. That is, Smith's best chance to start is in San Francisco, so it's in his best interest to wait out Manning's decision, as painful as that may be.

Is the fact that Manning did not visit 49ers headquarters a factor?

Many readers have asked this. Manning had well-publicized visits to the Broncos, Cardinals, Titans and also met with Dolphins ownership. He has not - that we know about - been to Santa Clara. Again, the answer to this question depends on who pursued whom? If it was Manning doing the pursuing, then it doesn't appear to be a big deal. The Mannings are smart and thorough. They've done their homework on all of the possible destinations. They are familiar with the 49ers, who have been on an organizational hot streak for the last 14 months.

-- Matt Barrows

March 16, 2012
Can the 49ers actually land Peyton Manning? (Ans: Yes)


Can the 49ers actually land Peyton Manning?

The answer is yes, and it's worth going back 14 months to understand why. Back in January 2011, Jim Harbaugh, not Manning, was the white whale of the NFL world, the hot commodity multiple teams were clamoring for, including the Dolphins and the Broncos.

What allowed the 49ers to land Harbaugh was their business-like approach. While Dolphins owner Stephen Ross came onto Harbaugh like a drunken prom date - flying his private jet to the Bay Area and offering Harbaugh untold riches - the 49ers played it cool. They invited Harbaugh to sit down with general manager Trent Baalke and team President Jed York in the private home of a mutual friend, and the three talked football until the sun went down. Harbaugh was sold.

This appears to be the team's approach to Manning as well. And Manning, who like Harbaugh is from a football family, respects a football-first mentality. After all, he's already crossed Ross and the Dolphins, who aspire to create a Hollywood-like atmosphere at their games, off of his list. He prefers discreet over flamboyant, and the 49ers courtship has been so discreet, no one knew about it until today.

March 16, 2012
No matter how it ends, Alex Smith comes out of this weakened


That love affair between Jim Harbaugh and Alex Smith that's been so hot and heavy for the last 14 months? There's trouble in paradise.

Any way you cut it, Smith's stature in the 49ers organization is diminished by today's news that the 49ers are one of the teams courting Peyton Manning. And no matter how it turns out, it will be very hard to believe any of the sweet nothings that leave Harbaugh's lips from this point forth.

Sure, the 49ers will try to salvage the story should Manning ultimately choose the Titans or the Broncos. They'll say that it would have been irresponsible not to kick the tires on Manning, especially if it was Manning who approached the 49ers, as has been speculated by some. They might even say that this was communicated to Smith and that Smith understood.

But I don't see how Smith, who still could become the team's starter in 2012, emerges from this unscathed.

March 16, 2012
Report: Harbaugh had secret meeting with Manning this week


The reason why the 49ers have yet to sign quarterback Alex Smith yet became very clear Friday when reports surfaced that the team not only has shown interest in free-agent quarterback Peyton Manning but were the first to watch him throw. ESPN reported today that 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh and offensive coordinator Greg Roman flew to North Carolina on Tuesday to watch the 11-time Pro Bowl quarterback, who is recovering from multiple neck surgeries, throw and to give him a physical.

Until this point, the 49ers have been adamant that they only were interested in re-signing Smith, who is represented by the same agent, Tom Condon, that represents Manning. Condon would not have Smith, who guided the team to the NFC Championship game in January, sign with the 49ers if they were then going to sign Manning.

Asked Monday if he was disappointed that the 49ers were not in the hunt for Manning, team President Jed York said, "That's not my choice. It's up to the coaches." York said there was ongoing dialogue between Smith and his representatives.

The 49ers have publicly backed Smith as their future quarterback since the end of of the season. Smith actually caddied for Harbaugh during a golf event at Pebble Beach and the two commuted to and from the event from the South Bay Area. "We're all in lockstep as an organization that Alex Smith is our guy," Harbaugh said at the time.

Later that month, general manager Trent Baalke was asked about the team's quarterback composition. "We're very comfortable with the younger guys. And it remains to be seen what we're going to be able to get done with Alex (Smith), but feel very comfortable there as well. It's not something that Jim or I or anyone else in the organization are real stressed out about."

The Broncos, Titans and Cardinals also are in the running for Manning. The Denver Post, which to its credit identified the 49ers as a "mystery team" in the Manning hunt last week, reported today that the parameters of the Broncos' offer to Manning were five years and $60 90 million.

Meanwhile, Smith last week said he was confident a deal with the 49ers would be completed and that the two sides merely were working on the details. It's unknown whether Smith knew of the 49ers' interest in Manning at the time those comments were made, but that is likely considering the quarterbacks share the same agent. If Manning were to sign with the 49ers, Smith could end up in Seattle, which was interested in him a year ago, or on another club in search of a quarterback: Arizona, Cleveland or Miami.

-- Matt Barrows

March 15, 2012
Manningham to visit St. Louis as 49ers continue to play it slow


The 49ers continue to slow-play the wide receiver market. Giants free agent Mario Manningham came and went today, according to a league source, and he has more visits planned. One of them, writes Yahoo Sports' Jason Cole, is with the St. Louis Rams.

Meanwhile, the 49ers also met with receivers Brandon Lloyd and Chaz Schilens on Wednesday, and both are visiting with other teams. This simply is the 49ers' free-agency modus operandi in action - they wait for the first wave of hyper frenetic free agency to pass, then they take their time with the players who are still standing. Signing Randy Moss before free agency began allowed them to be even more methodical when it came to wide receivers.

The counter argument, of course, is that while this approach worked last year for most positions, it did not work at wide receiver. The team slow-played the market, signed Braylon Edwards, and when Edwards fizzled the 49ers were caught with too few receivers.

In the end, the team likely will sign one other wide receiver and there's a possibility they could get Ted Ginn back. He visited with the Lions today but told the Detroit Free Press that he didn't have any other visits planned. That is, the market has cooled off a bit. The 49ers can afford to play it slow.

-- Matt Barrows

March 15, 2012
Ginn: 49ers were Super Bowl-bound if I had played


Ted Ginn said today what a lot of 49ers fans suspect: If he had been on the field during the NFC Championship game, it would have been the 49ers, not the Giants, heading to Indianapolis the following week. Ginn missed the game after suffering a knee injury against the Saints the week prior.

"We'd have been in the Super Bowl," Ginn told the Detroit Free Press. "I don't know if we'd have won, but we would have fought to win."

Ginn was in Detroit on a free-agent visit. He made it clear to reporter Dave Birkett that his goal is to see plenty of action as a receiver and not be limited to kick and punt returns. Ginn accepted a $1.2 million pay cut last year in order to void the final year of his contract with the 49ers and become a free agent.

The irony is that he had opportunities to be a receiver last season with the 49ers. Injuries to Michael Crabtree (early), Josh Morgan (middle) and Braylon Edward's release (late) meant that Ginn was the de facto No. 2 receiver for much of the season. He played 351 offensive snaps in 2011, 34.2 percent of the total snaps.

Last year Ginn caught 19 passes and the year before he caught 12. In three seasons in Miami he averaged 43 catches a season.

March 15, 2012
49ers release eight-year veteran Shawntae Spencer


The 49ers on Thursday released veteran cornerback Shawntae Spencer, who fell to No. 5 on their depth chart in 2011 and who was due to earn $3.3 million in 2012. Spencer, 30, now becomes a free agent.

"The 49ers would like to thank Shawntae for his eight years of service to the organization and the Bay Area community," general manager Trent Baalke said in a statement. "He has always represented himself, his family and this organization with the utmost class. We wish him, and his family, the very best."

Spencer was a second-round draft choice out of Pittsburgh in 2004. He started 72 games for the 49ers, most of them at right cornerback, including 32 straight games in 2009 and 2010. Spencer was one of the longest-tenured 49ers, and he was one of three players on the roster -- punter Andy Lee and nose tackle Isaac Sopoaga are the others -- drafted by the Dennis Erickson regime.

In 2011, however, he suffered a series of injuries beginning in training camp, slid down the depth chart as a new coaching regime took over, and never was able to climb back up. He played only 84 defensive snaps and 38 on special teams and was inactive for both of the 49ers' playoff games.

March 15, 2012
49ers looking at Carolina OL Schwartz


The 49ers are one of three teams interested in Geoff Schwartz, a 25-year-old offensive lineman who became an unrestricted free agent when Carolina didn't give him a restricted free agent tender earlier this month. Schwartz, who is visiting the Lions today, also has drawn interest from the Chiefs. He could visit the Bay Area early next week, his agent said.

Schwartz was a seventh-round pick out of Oregon in 2008. He made 19 starts -- some at right guard, some at right tackle -- for the Panthers between 2009 and 2010, but he is yet another free agent the 49ers are considering that didn't play in 2011. Schwartz suffered a hip injury that caused him to miss the season and is now, according to his agent, 100 percent healthy. Recent signees Randy Moss and cornerback Perrish Cox, as wells as guard Leonard Davis, who visited Wednesday, did not play a snap in the 2011 regular season.

The 49ers are in need of a guard after losing 2011 starter Adam Snyder to free agency. Another free-agent guard, Chilo Rachal, is not expected back, either. Schwartz was penciled in as the Panthers starting right guard before his injury. Schwartz grew up in Southern California and was a 49ers fan.

-- Matt Barrows

March 14, 2012
Source: 49ers one of the teams interested in Eddie Royal


The 49ers are one of the teams showing interest in Denver free-agent wide receiver Eddie Royal, who had dinner Tuesday with Redskins owner Daniel Snyder and team officials but who stopped short of joining Josh Morgan and Pierre Garcon in Washington. Royal will fly to San Diego this week to meet with the Chargers and, absent any deals at that point, could head to the Bay Area after that.

Royal, 25, is interesting for San Francisco because he could fill a special teams void should Ted Ginn - a free agent who visited the Lions today - depart. Royal has extensive experience as a kick returner and, more important, as a punt returner. He's handled 81 punts in the last four seasons, and he has a 11.9-yard average and two touchdowns.

Royal is not the big-bodied receiver the 49ers normally prefer (5-10, 185), but he's strong and quick, and he perhaps is best suited as a slot receiver. His best year as a receiver came when he was a rookie in 2008. He started 15 games, caught 91 passes for 980 yards and had five touchdowns. Last year in a Tim Tebow-led offense, he started eight games, had 19 catches for 155 yards and scored one touchdown.

Royal was a teammate of Morgan's at Virginia Tech. He was drafted in the second round in 2008; Morgan went in the sixth. Both also are from the Washington, D.C. area. Morgan was born in the district while Royal was born just south of the city in Alexandria, Va.

-- Matt Barrows

March 14, 2012
Cardinals sign guard Snyder to a five-year deal


It's a case of déjà vu for the 49ers' offensive line. The team lost free-agent guard Adam Snyder to the Cardinals, who today announced they had signed Snyder to a five-year deal. Snyder visited Arizona today, and it is believed to have been his only visit.

A similar scenario played out last year when center Davis Baas, whom everyone assumed would return to the team, signed with the Giants instead. In both cases the 49ers had a lower value on their own player than did the outside team. Both Snyder and Baas were part of the 2005 draft class that included Alex Smith and Frank Gore.

Snyder is very close to Smith and to left tackle Joe Staley. Along with those two, he led the 49ers offensive players through workouts and practices at San Jose State during last year's lockout. Snyder has lined up at every position along the offensive line and last year was the top backup at center.

The difference is that Snyder will face his old team twice a year in the regular season .. although he also might be blocking for someone named Manning. The 49ers, meanwhile, are currently contemplating signing 11-year veteran guard Leonard Davis.

-- Matt Barrows

March 14, 2012
Going deep: 49ers thorough in their WR search


The 49ers are slow-playing the wide receiver market.

After a flurry of signings yesterday - Pierre Garcon, Vincent Jackson, Josh Morgan, Robert Meachem - we are officially at tier two of the unrestricted free-agent market for receivers. And the 49ers, as is their habit, seem to be taking their time looking at everyone available.

Here's a list of the players the 49ers have at least contacted. ESPN's Adam Schefter reported that the 49ers were one of three teams eying New York Giants free agent Mario Manningham and Pro Football Talk reports he'll visit Thursday. Also, I'm not including Denver's Eddie Royal on this list, although there's a good chance the 49ers are one of the teams interested in him.

1. Chaz Schilens, Raiders.
6-4, 225 pounds. Age: 26. Visit: Wednesday
Pros: Big, physical receiver who likely would cost less than the other receivers the 49ers are examining. He could be a very good red-zone threat.
Cons: He's been snake-bitten when it comes to injuries, and because of that he doesn't have much experience.

2. Brandon Lloyd, Rams
6-0, 188 pounds. Age: 30. Visit: Wednesday
Pros: He's a very smart and crafty route runner who knows how to get open and who has excellent hands and body control. Lloyd had 1,448 receiving yards in 2010 and seems to be getting better with age.
Cons: He was despised by veterans during his first stint in San Francisco and was detested even more in his second stop, Washington. Lloyd also does not fit the mold of the big, powerful receiver-who-can-block the 49ers prefer.

3. Laurent Robinson, Cowboys *Robinson agreed to terms on a five-year deal with Jacksonville Wednesday
6-2, 196 pounds. Age: 26
Pros: Robinson was Dallas' most effective receiver by the end of the season, and he finished with a team-high 11 touchdown catches. He appears to have a nice combination of speed, length and youth.
Cons: Is he a one-hit wonder? Robinson didn't do much his first four years in the league. He is being pursued by four teams, which will pump up his asking price.

4. Mario Manningham, Giants
6-0, 185 pounds. Age: 25. Visit: Scheduled for Thursday.
Pros: Manningham has a lot of experience and he came up with the biggest catches of the game in the NFC Championship and the Super Bowl. He's young, has good hands and is a very good route runner.
Cons: He's not very big and was the third-best receiver on the Giants last year. Does he want to join a 49ers team that already has Michael Crabtree and Randy Moss?

-- Matt Barrows

March 14, 2012
Mt. Davis: 49ers hosting big right guard today


If all goes well, there could be a mountain of Davis on the right side of the 49ers offensive line by the end of the day. As 2011 starting right guard Adam Snyder visits the Cardinals today, the 49ers are hosting 11-year veteran Leonard Davis, according to a league source. Davis has interest from other teams but no other visits set up. The vibe is that a deal with the 6-6 Davis, who was on the Lions roster last year but did not play, could be completed today.

Should Davis sign and Snyder depart, Davis likely would compete with second-year player Daniel Kilgore - and perhaps second-year player Mike Person - for the starting job at right guard. However, Snyder's absence also would create a need for a backup center behind Jonathan Goodwin. Kilgore is the most logical player to do that.

Davis certainly would add an element of beef to the offensive line. While Snyder dropped weight - to around 300 pounds - before the 2011 season, Davis is listed at 355 pounds. If he started, he would line up next to 323-pound right tackle Anthony Davis. Add 250-pound Vernon Davis to the end of the line and, well, that's a lot of Davis.

-- Matt Barrows

March 14, 2012
UPDATED: G Adam Snyder visiting the Cardinals today


The Cardinals this afternoon announced they had signed Adam Snyder to a five-year deal. Snyder's departure is reminiscent of the one David Baas made last year to the Giants -- the 49ers' value on their player was lower than the other team's value. The difference is that Snyder will face his old team twice a year in the regular season (though he also might be blocking for someone named Manning).

Guard Adam Snyder, whom the 49ers allowed to reach free agency, is one of several offensive linemen visiting the Cardinals today, according to Darren Urban of AZCardinals.com. Snyder's addition to the 49ers starting offensive line in Week 4 last season - he played right guard - coincided with the team's improved play along the line. Snyder replaced Chilo Rachal, who also is a free agent.

Snyder, a third-round pick in 2005, has played all five positions on the offensive line and was the top backup at center last year. The 49ers expect 2011 rookies Daniel Kilgore and Mike Person to compete for starting jobs this year with Kilgore earmarked for the right guard competition.

The Cardinals, who are hoping to lure quarterback Peyton Manning, must refurbish their offensive line. Urban reports that titans guard Jake Scott and Bills tackle Demetrius Bell also are visiting today. The Cardinals on Tuesday met with wide receiver Chaz Schilens, who later that day visited the 49ers.

-- Matt Barrows

March 14, 2012
Source: 49ers showing interest in WR Laurent Robinson


The list of free-agent wide receivers is rapidly shrinking, and the 49ers are looking the ones that are left. One of the names: Dallas free agent Laurent Robinson (6-2, 194), who had a breakout season in 2011, which included 11 touchdowns. According to a league source, the 49ers called last night to say they were interested.

Robinson, 26, bounced around from the Falcons to the Rams before landing in Dallas last year. He ended up starting four games and finishing with 54 catches for 858 yards and a 15.9 yards-per-catch average.

It's unknown at this point whether Jim Harbaugh and the 49ers will get a chance to meet with Robinson. His first trip was to Jacksonville. He's still there, and Robinson may decide that the receiver-needy Jaguars are his best bet. The Cowboys also would like to re-sign him. Two other teams are interested, one of which is the 49ers.

Raiders free agent receiver Chaz Schilens has visited the 49ers and Rams free agent Brandon Lloyd reportedly is on the way.

Meanwhile, receiver/kick returner Ted Ginn will visit the Lions, according to a report by Anwar Richardson from MLive.com. Ginn took over as the team's No. 2 wide receiver after Joshua Morgan was hurt and Braylon Edwards released.

His biggest impact, however, was as a sure-handed return man. If the 49ers lose Ginn to another team, they will have to find a punt returner, either through free agency, or through the draft.

-- Matt Barrows

March 13, 2012
Reports: 49ers planning to visit with WR Lloyd


Former Raider Chaz Schilens isn't the only wide receiver due to visit the 49ers. Both ESPN and NFL.com report that Brandon Lloyd, a fourth-round pick by the team in 2003, was expected to visit. Lloyd showed flashes of ability on very bad 49ers teams of the previous decade but mostly was known for rubbing some of the veterans the wrong way with his brash personality. The 49ers traded Lloyd to Washington in 2006 for a third-round draft choice.

Lloyd, 30, has had a renaissance later in his career. He led the league in receiving yards (1,448 with 11 touchdowns) in 2010 while with the Broncos. He finished with 966 yards total yards during a 2011 season that involved a trade from the Broncos to the Rams. Lloyd played against the 49ers twice, catching only one pass for 34 yards in the game at Candlestick Park but finishing with six catches for 100 yards and a touchdown in the second meeting in St. Louis.

Lloyd has the distinction of catching Alex Smith's first touchdown pass, which came in the finale of the 2005 season, a 20-17 win over Houston. Here's what Lloyd had to say in November about his time with the 49ers. Click here.

-- Matt Barrows

March 13, 2012
Rogers returns with four-year deal; 49ers lose Costanzo to Bears


The 49ers, who watched locker-room standout Joshua Morgan depart earlier in the day, will hang onto another favorite, cornerback Carlos Rogers. News of Rogers' return first was reported by Yahoo Sports' Jason Cole. NFL Network later followed that up with a report that Rogers had agreed to a four-year deal worth a maximum of $31.3 million. That's a hefty raise for a cornerback who last year find little interest in free agency and who played on a one-year deal worth $4.25 million.

Meanwhile, special teams ace Blake Costanzo, who badly wanted to return to the 49ers, instead agreed to a two-year deal with the Bears, according to his agent, David Canter. The 49ers signed two of Costanzo's teammates from their coverage units, C.J. Spillman and Tavares Gooden, but had no interest in a deal with Costanzo.

Rogers was rumored to have drawn interest from St. Louis where his defensive coordinator from his days with the Redskins, Gregg Williams, has been hired. The Rams, however, ended up signing another cornerback, Cortland Finnegan, to a long-term contract.

Last year Rogers tied for the team lead with six interceptions and made his first pro bowl. He also added a bit of veteran savvy to a cornerback corps that mostly was composed of young players, including rookie Chris Culliver. The 49ers' offseason mantra has been 'keep the gang together,' and that has been particularly the case with the defense. All 11 defensive starters from 2011 will return in 2012.

Earlier in the day, the 49ers made overtures to two starting-caliber free-agent cornerbacks, Kansas City's Brandon Carr and Detroit's Eric Wright. The team seemed particularly intent on signing Wright, 26, who is from San Francisco and who ostensibly would have replaced Rogers in the starting lineup. The Rogers' deal appears to end the team's interest in Wright and Carr. The 49ers began the day by signing another cornerback, 25-year-old Perrish Cox.

-- Matt Barrows

March 13, 2012
49ers looking at free-agent WR Schilens


The 49ers' fascination with big-bodied receivers continues. The team plans to take a look at Raiders free agent Chaz Schilens, a 6-4, 225-pound receiver who has been one of the team's most talented pass catchers but also one of their most injured.

Schilens was a seventh-round pick in 2008. He had injury-plague campaigns in 2009 and 2010 - he broke the fifth metatarsal bone in his left foot in 2009 and suffered leg and knee injuries the following year. In 2011, he played in 15 games with five starts and finished with 23 catches for 271 yards and two touchdowns.

Schilens was in Arizona Tuesday visiting with the Cardinals and also has plans to visit the Jets. Last year, the 49ers were interested in two tall receivers, Plaxico Burress and Braylon Edwards. This year, they've already signed 6-4 Randy Moss.

-- Matt Barrows

March 13, 2012
49ers eyeing cornerbacks, zeroing in on Wright


The 49ers appear to be moving on from cornerback Carlos Rogers. After signing Perrish Cox to a two-year deal this morning, the team is in the mix for two of the marquee names at the position, Brandon Carr and Eric Wright.

Carr, 25, is perhaps the top name at the position. He's 6-0, 207 pounds and had four interceptions last year for the Chiefs. He is visiting the Dallas Cowboys tonight, according to ESPN, and owner Jerry Jones will look to make a big splash by signing the cornerback.

Wright, meanwhile, is a San Francisco native. CSN Bay Area reports that the 49ers are making a strong push for the former Brown and Lion and that a deal could be completed in the next 12 hours. The 5-10, 190-pound cornerback had four interceptions and a forced fumble last year for Detroit. Wright, 26, played at UNLV before being drafted by the Browns in 2007.

Both players are physical and tough and are younger than Rogers, who turns 31 before the season. It's not yet known which teams have shown interest in Rogers (six interceptions in 2012) but the Rams are rumored to be pursuing him.

-- Matt Barrows

March 13, 2012
Report: WR Morgan to sign with Redskins (Updated)

Wide receiver Josh Morgan, one of the free agents the 49ers most wanted to retain, has agreed to a five-year deal instead with the Washington Redskins, according to various reports.

Morgan, who was born and raised in Washington, D.C. and who played at Virginia Tech, never has had eye-popping statistics since being drafted in the sixth round by the 49ers in 2008. But he has excellent size strength and, at age 26, potential. As many as seven teams inquired about Morgan at the start of free agency, according to a league source.

Morgan broke his leg in the fourth quarter of a blowout win over the Buccaneers Oct. 5 but he said on Monday that he had fully recovered. Morgan has been a regular at the 49ers' training facility since the season ended and was one of the players on hand Monday when Randy Moss went through his workout in front of Jim Harbaugh, offensive coordinator Greg Roman and receivers coach John Morton among others.

Shortly after Morgan's injury, Harbaugh said the 49ers would make it a "priority" to re-sign the receiver. Morgan had said he'd like to return to the 49ers. Instead he's heading home. According to Pro Football Talk, Morgan's deal is worth as much as $12 million with $7.5 million guaranteed.

-- Matt Barrows

March 13, 2012
49ers free agency tracker

The Oklahoma land rush, otherwise known as NFL free agency, officially has begun. What are the 49ers up to? I'll do my best to keep you up to date with the tracker below.

3:17 p.m. Blake Costanzo's agent says the special teams ace has two contract offers on the table and a visit scheduled for Wednesday. Costanzo wants to return to the 49ers but San Francisco apparently is not interested.

3:05 p.m. The 49ers have shown interest in Raiders free-agent receiver Chaz Schillens. Schillens, however, is in Arizona today visiting with the Cardinals.

3 p.m. The 49ers are in the running for two cornerbacks, Detroit's Eric Wright and Kansas City's Brandon Carr. Wright, a San Francisco native, seems to be the primary target. Carr will play the field.

1:08 p.m. The 49ers signed free-agent ace Tavares Gooden to a one-year contract. Along with C.J. Spillman and Blake Costanzo (also a free agent), Gooden led the so-called Tony Montana crew of coverage specialists. Gooden said he had a "salty taste" in his mouth after missing out in NFC Championship game. He'd also like a bigger role on defense in 2012. According to a source, Gooden's deal is for the league minimum and he got $50,000 to sign.

1 p.m. Free agency officially begins

Tuesday: Signed free-agent CB Perrish Cox to a two-year deal.

Monday: Signed free-agent WR Randy Moss to a one-year deal.

-- Matt Barrows

March 13, 2012
49ers sign troubled CB Cox to a two-year deal


A NFL player with well-publicized run-ins with the law who sat out the 2011 season? The 49ers now have two players that fit that description after signing Perrish Cox, a young cornerback cut by the Broncos before last season, to a two-year deal.

Like Randy Moss on Monday, Cox thanked and credited the 49ers with doing their research and, in his words, "actually finding out the kind of guy I am."

Cox, 25, was arrested in December 2010 for felonious sexual assault. He was found not guilty of those charges earlier this month. Still, Cox said he took responsibility for what occurred and several times during a brief conference call said he never would put himself in that situation again. "That's not me," Cox said. "I'm not that type of guy. ... It was a nervous, scary situation. But I don't blame anybody but myself. I take responsibility for my actions. I'll never put myself in that situation again."

The 49ers believe that as well. "As an organization, from ownership on down, we have done our due diligence and are confident that Perrish will be a positive contributor to the 49ers, as well as our community," general manager Trent Baalke said in a statement.

Cox (6-0, 198) was originally a fifth round draft pick by the Broncos (137th overall) out of Oklahoma State in 2010. He's played in 15 games (9 starts), tallying 54 tackles, two forced fumbles, one interception and ranked third among NFL rookies with a team-high 14 passes defensed in 2010.

Cox said he thought he could be a starter in the league but that he would do anything asked of him, including playing the slot or coming in as a nickel defensive back. He also has value on special teams. Cox made four tackles on special teams and has returned nine kickoffs for 172 yards. Cox also is the Big 12's all-time leader in kickoff return yardage. He averaged 20.9 yards per kickoff return as a senior and 10.4 yards per punt return. He also had a 67-yard punt return for a touchdown. The 49ers, meanwhile, could lose their 2011 returner, Ted Ginn, in free agency.

The team also could be without cornerback Carlos Rogers, who also is a free agent, as well as Shawntae Spencer, whose $3.3 million salary this year may be too unwieldy for the 49ers. That is, Cox gives the team insurance at both cornerback and on special teams.

-- Matt Barrows

March 13, 2012
How will Moss signing affect 49ers free agency?

Chris Hernandez ‏ @Clypse12. If the Niners were to sign Morgan, where do we go from there in FA? Wallace-Vjax? or Garcon-Manningham Type?

As soon as the 49ers signed Randy Moss last night, the questions started pouring in. How does this affect the team's pursuit of Joshua Morgan? Will the team still go after outside wide receivers on the free agents? Will they still draft a wide receiver?

Moss certainly adds to the team's thin stable of wide receivers. But the 49ers still have more shopping to do. For one, the numbers at the position remain low. Wide receivers under contract for 2012 at this point are Moss, Michael Crabtree, Kyle Williams and Joe Hastings, who is probably more of a practice-squad player. The team had five receivers on the active roster last year, and they may boost that to six this year given how depleted they became in 2011.


The Braylon Edwards experience also is fresh in their minds. The team signed Edwards last year to a low-risk, one-year contract in the hope that he could be both a down-field and red-zone threat in the passing game. After a promising start, Edwards got hurt, then fizzled, then was cut, leaving the 49ers with too few experienced wideouts for the playoffs.

March 12, 2012
Moss says he's misunderstood, still burns for the game


How will Randy Moss, who has a reputation for disruptive and selfish behavior, function in a locker room praised - cherished, even -- by coaches and teammates alike last year for its cohesion and selflessness? It's a question a lot of 49ers have right now and one that was posed to Moss tonight. His answer: Everything will be just fine.

"When it comes to world wide sports media, you know, I've gotten a bad rap," Moss said on a conference call just minutes after he signed a one-year deal. "They've done their homework on me or they wouldn't have brought me in here. ... One thing I would like the sports world to understand is the love and passion I have for football."

Moss said he got a good vibe from the 49ers as soon as they picked him up from the airport Sunday night. He had a physical this morning, then ran pass patterns for Jim Harbaugh and coaches - Harbaugh was the quarterback - then spent the afternoon meeting with team officials.

Associated Press reporter Janie McCauley asked Moss whether Harbaugh, who last played in the NFL in 2001, could still fire the football. "That's funny you should ask that, sweetheart," Moss said. "Because he can still bring it at his old age. I don't know if he's sitting there with an ice pack on his shoulder right now. But he can still wing it."

March 12, 2012
Here comes Moss: 49ers sign veteran wideout


Randy Moss will attempt to make his comeback as a 49er. The wide receiver, who came out of retirement last month, has signed a one-year deal with the 49ers after a Monday workout with coach Jim Harbaugh, who served as the quarterback during the session. News of the deal was first reported by ESPN's Adam Schefter.

Earlier in the day, team President Jed York said the 49ers needed a receiver who could go deep - a forte of Moss' in his heydey - and that he trusted Harbaugh and general manager Trent Baalke to make the right decision. "Jim and Trent want to see if (Moss) can play," York said. "We need someone to stretch the field."

Moss, 35, apparently proved he still can get down field. Running back Anthony Dixon said he watched the veteran run an array of routes on the 49ers practice field following a morning physical. "He's Randy," said Dixon, an admitted admirer. "You have to account for him whenever he's on the field. Everybody knows that."

Moss made the pro bowl seven times over his 13-year career, and he's had more than 1,000 receiving yards 10 times, most recently in 2009 as a member of the Patriots. The 49ers haven't had a 1,000-yard receiver since Terrell Owens did it in 2003. Moss also has had 10 or more touchdown passes nine times in his career. The 49ers' leader in touchdown receptions last year was a tight end, Vernon Davis, who had six. The leading wide receiver was Michael Crabtree, who had four.

Still, Moss comes with risk. He has attracted criticism at various times during his career, including for a run-in with the law in Minneapolis in 2002 and for not giving full effort when he was with the Raiders in 2005-06.

He played for three different teams in 2010 and finished that season with some of the most lackluster statistics of his career. In August he announced he would retire and spent 2011 out of football. But in February, the 6-4 receiver said he planned to come back. He worked out for the Saints last week before flying to the Bay Area on Sunday.

Terms of the deal likely are similar to the one the 49ers struck last season with another high profile free-agent receiver, Braylon Edwards. Edwards was a disappointment, and the 49ers cut him in December.

-- Matt Barrows

March 12, 2012
At least one observer impressed by Randy Moss' workout


The prospect of Randy Moss joining the 49ers has been met with decidedly mixed emotions by 49ers fans. At least one of the team's offensive players, however, was in full support of such a move.

"He's Randy," said running back Anthony Dixon. "You have to account for him whenever he's on the field. Everybody knows that."

Dixon said he and his brothers grew up watching Moss make acrobatic catches and score 80-yard touchdowns with regularity. In fact, Dixon said he planned to call his brothers today and tell them (read: rub it in) that he had a conversation with Randy Moss.

Dixon was one of perhaps a half dozen 49ers who were at the team facility when Moss conducted his workout in front of Jim Harbaugh, his fellow offensive coaches and front office personnel. Dixon said Moss ran out routes, slants, curls and comebacks for Harbaugh, who served both as quarterback and observer.

"He was getting the old cannon warmed up," Dixon said of Harbaugh. "He still thinks he's got it, you know what I'm saying? So if Alex doesn't sign, I think we've definitely got a quarterback/coach that's ready."

Can Harbaugh still chuck it deep? That's unknown. Dixon said he and the others went inside before Moss started running "nine" routes.

Dixon only had a small role as a running back in 2011, and he said he's dedicated himself toward working out and better learning the offense this season. However, he had a large role on special teams. Two of his teammates on those units, Blake Costanzo and Tavares Gooden, appear to be heading toward free agency.

Dixon said he hoped to have them back. "That whole things was cool," he said. "You know, the whole Tony Montana squad. That was cool. I think that will be something that will be remembered for some time. I'll watch it like everybody else."

-- Matt Barrows

March 12, 2012
York on Moss: 'We need someone to stretch the field'

His quarterback is a day away from becoming an unrestricted free agent, but 49ers President Jed York isn't panicking. "The conversations are going back and forth," York said outside of team headquarters Monday. "We want Alex (Smith) to be here. We'll see how it ends up."

Asked if he was surprised a deal hasn't been reached by now, especially since there's a long-stated mutual attraction between Smith and the team, York said there's no rush. "Free agency hasn't started yet, and I think we feel pretty good about where we are," he said. "We'll see how it ends up."

York also was asked about Randy Moss, who flew into town on Sunday. The 35-year-old veteran receiver arrived at team headquarters this morning, had a physical at Stanford and is currently working out (11:30 a.m.) with coaches, including Jim Harbaugh, who is the de facto quarterback.

York said he fully supported Harbaugh and GM Trent Baalke in navigating the team through free agency. "Jim and Trent want to see if (Moss) can play," York said. "We need someone to stretch the field. And it's up to those guys o figure out if he can fit."

York also was asked about the team's apparent lack of interest in free-agent quarterback Peyton Manning. "That's not my choice. It's up to the coaches," he said. Would have liked to have seen Manning in a 49ers uniform? "I'd like to support Trent and coach, and do whatever they need to get done," York said.

After York spoke, another receiver, soon-to-be free agent Josh Morgan, arrived for a workout. Morgan begged off reporters but did say his leg, which he broke Oct. 5, was good enough to dunk over a 5-5 reporter. That is, it's fully healed. Morgan is expected to have many suitors, including the 49ers, when free agency begins tomorrow at 1 p.m.

York said the team's approach will be the same as it was last year. "Always build through the draft, supplement through free agency."

-- Matt Barrows

March 12, 2012
49ers lock in CB Brock to one-year deal


The 49ers today tendered cornerback Tramaine Brock with a $540,000 exclusive rights contract, according to Brock's agent Ron Slavin. Brock began the 2011 season as the 49ers' No. 3 cornerback, and he came up with interceptions in the first two games of the season. But he broke his hand in the Week 2 game against Dallas and missed three weeks. That time off allowed rookie Chris Culliver to slide into the No. 3 job, which he held for the rest of the season.

Brock is interesting. He was undrafted out of Belhaven University in 2010 but made the 53-man roster that year instead of fullback Michael Robinson, a controversial move at the time. Now he could have a big role in a defense that will face the likes of Aaron Rodgers and the Packers, Drew Brees and the Saints, Eli Manning and the Giants and Matthew Stafford and the Lions (and Peyton Manning and the Cardinals??) in 2012.

As of now, it appears as if cornerback Carlos Rogers will hit the open market on Tuesday. He could be back if he doesn't get the offer he wants, but the 49ers are prepared to move on without him if he does find the right suitor. Under that scenario, they likely will look for an inexpensive veteran and/or draft a cornerback in April. Without Rogers, Culliver would be penciled in as the starter opposite Tarell Brown while Brock would be penciled in, initially at least, as the No. 3 corner.

Last year, Culliver played 41 percent of the 49ers' defensive snaps. The No. 3 cornerback promises to play at least that amount in 2012.

-- Matt Barrows

March 12, 2012
Report: Smith happy with three-year deal 49ers have offered


In an interview with CBS5 reporter Kim Coyle Sunday night, 49ers quarterback Alex Smith said he's happy with the three-year deal offered by the 49ers, that he isn't seeking a longer-term deal and that his representatives and the 49ers are working on the details of the contract. Smith also said on Saturday he was confident a deal would get done with the 49ers. The free agency period begins at 1 p.m. Tuesday.

Here's the television version of the interview. Smith does not talk about the length of the contract in it, implying that Coyle also spoke to him off camera.

Also on Sunday The Denver Post speculated that the 49ers, along with the Titans, were two "mystery teams" interested in Peyton Manning and that the 49ers would try to land Manning if their negotiations with Smith continued to drag on. A league source, however, said that the 49ers have been unwavering in their pursuit of Smith, not Manning, and reiterated that a contract offer to Smith is "on the table."

Meanwhile, the quarterback who will be throwing to free-agent receiver Randy Moss today isn't Smith or Colin Kaepernick, who is out of town. Instead, coach Jim Harbaugh will get a good read on Moss's speed and conditioning by throwing to the receiver himself. Team president Jed York had a bit of fun with his followers last night by making a Manning allusion ....

Wrote York in a Tweet: "Former Colt Pro Bowl QB throwing for 49ers tomorrow. Just to clarify, Coach Harbaugh is turning into Capt Comeback to throw to Randy Moss."

-- Matt Barrows

March 11, 2012
Moss to visit, but the 49ers have their eye on Morgan


The 49ers' strict value chart for their own free agents promises to be put to the test this week. According to two sources, the 49ers will make a strong push to re-sign receiver Joshua Morgan, who could be the hottest of the team's own free agents when the market opens Tuesday.

Morgan never has had a prolific season in San Francisco. His best year came in 2010 when he finished with 698 receiving yards and had a 15.9 yards-per-catch average. But around the league and inside the 49ers' headquarters, those numbers are viewed more as an indication of the 49ers' lackluster passing attacks than they are Morgan's ability.

The 49ers like him because he's a steady, powerfully built pass catcher who blocks and is among the hardest workers on the team. Before he got hurt at the end of Week 5 last season, Morgan was the most productive of the team's wideouts, and he logged the most minutes. Those attributes, and the fact that he's only 26 - he turns 27 in June - make him attractive to other teams in the league.

March 11, 2012
Report: Randy Moss to work out for 49ers


Veteran free-agent receiver Randy Moss, who worked out for the New Orleans Saints last week, will do the same for the 49ers on Monday, reports ESPN's Adam Schefter.

Moss spent the 2011 season out of football, but at 35 he is determined to return. His workout in New Orleans reportedly was good, and he is rumored to have at least one more workout scheduled with a team. The 49ers, meanwhile, have only three wide receivers signed for the upcoming season and one of them, Joe Hastings, did not catch a pass after being activated late last season. Furthermore, they do not have a receiver who can stretch the field, something that Moss conceivably can still do.

Two of their own receivers, Joshua Morgan and Ted Ginn, are scheduled for free agency. Morgan, who is nearly recovered from a broken leg, is expected to get plenty of interest. Morgan is represented by the same agent, Joel Segal, that represents Moss.


Moss played for three teams in 2010 -- New England, Minnesota and Tennessee -- and finished the season with a ho hum 28 catches for 393 yards and five touchdowns. The 49ers will be interested to see whether a year off has diminished Moss or allowed him to regain his earlier form. The 6-4 veteran seems to fit a profile the 49ers are seeking. Last year in free agency, they went after big-bodied veterans Plaxico Burress and Braylon Edwards before signing Edwards to a one-year deal.

Moss was a first-round pick by the Vikings in 1998. He has 954 career receptions, 14,858 yards and 153 touchdowns and has been to the Pro Bowl six times. Moss is a free agent now, meaning the 49ers could sign him before the market officially opens at 1 p.m. Tuesday.

-- Matt Barrows

March 10, 2012
Alex Smith not worried, says deal with 49ers will get done


"It will get done," Alex Smith said today regarding a contract extension with the 49ers. Smith, who hasn't spoken to a Bay Area reporter since his golf outing with Jim Harbaugh at Pebble Beach in early February, had a quick chat with Kent Somers of The Arizona Republic today.

Smith is in Arizona for former Cardinal quarterback Kurt Warner's annual charity flag-football game. In fact, Smith quarterbacked one of the teams and squared off against a team led by former 49ers quarterback Steve Young.

As far as a new contract with the 49ers, most observers felt it would be a quick process given Smith's desire to return to the 49ers and the team's long-stated desire to have him back. Instead, the two sides have hit an impasse. The team is offering a shorter-term deal than what Smith and his representatives are seeking. There's now a real chance that Smith makes it to free agency where he will be able to find his true value on the open market.

Somers passed along the following quotes:

Q. Are you disappointed about your contract situation?

AS: "You know, it's going. I'm not disappointed about anything. It kind of is what it is right now. I'm not worried about anything. I'll just leave it at that."

Q. Are you confident that it gets done soon?

AS: "I think so. It's just a process. It takes some time. It will get done."

In return for these quotes, I promised Kent I would boost his Twitter following by 5,000. (If I don't, he gets my 1998 stick shift Ford Ranger.) Follow him at @KentSomers. He's got some good pics of today's events.

-- Matt Barrows

March 9, 2012
NFL blockbuster deals have big bearing on 49ers, Alex Smith

In Denver, Miami and Arizona, they're rolling out the red carpet and genuflecting for Peyton Manning. Washington, meanwhile, gave up a big chunk of its next three - THREE! - draft classes to move up three spots for a chance to draft Robert Griffin III. And in New York, the Jets just extended middling quarterback Mark Sanchez with a contract fit for the finest pro bowler. The bottom line: NFL quarterbacks are very, very valuable.

The RG III trade-up is sure to grab all the headlines, and it has a huge impact on the 49ers. In exchange for the No. 2 overall pick, the division-rival Rams get the Redskins' first rounders in 2012, '13 and '14 as well as a second rounder in '12. It's the kind of trade that replenishes and props up a franchise, and it's reminiscent of the Herschel Walker trade that fueled Dallas' 1990s dynasty. I wrote about the Rams' opportunity for a franchise-altering move two weeks ago.

The 49ers took the eventual Super Bowl champions to overtime in the NFC Championship game. The Seahawks and Cardinals are ascendant. And now the Rams are loaded with draft picks. The NFC West just went from 97-pound weakling to school-yard bully.

But don't overlook the other news from tonight, Sanchez's three-year extension for a reported $40.5 million. The 49ers want to give Alex Smith a similar extension in terms of length. Smith's camp wants a longer deal with the type of guaranteed money that ensures the 49ers don't cut bait quickly and hand the offense to Colin Kaepernick. The Sanchez contract signals that if Smith is going to accept three years, he'll want the team to go higher - perhaps a lot higher - in dollars.

The 49ers' trump card is that no other team will be willing to pay Smith, who has stated he wants to remain in San Francisco, more than what the 49ers are offering. At least one team, the Seahawks, was interested in Smith last season when he was, briefly at least, a free agent.

The Seahawks again are interested in a quarterback and are one of the teams hoping to land Manning. If they can't, then they likely will make a play for Matt Flynn. If Flynn goes elsewhere, perhaps Seattle settles for rookie Ryan Tannehill. Or maybe they dial Smith's number ...

Here's my guess in how the quarterback musical chair ends:

Colts: Andrew Luck
Redskins: Robert Griffin III
Dolphins: Peyton Manning
Seahawks: Matt Flynn
Browns: Ryan Tannehill

-- Matt Barrows

March 9, 2012
Compensation for RFA Larry Grant? A 7th round pick


The 49ers have placed an original-round tender on restricted free agent Larry Grant, according to Grant's agent. The team's only other restricted free agents this year were receiver Brett Swain and safety C.J. Spillman. Spillman was given a three-year extension last month. Swain has not yet received a tender offer.

If another team offers Grant a contract when free agency begins Tuesday, the 49ers could match it and retain the linebacker. If they decide not to match the offer, the team that signs Grant would have to compensate the 49ers with a seventh-round pick, the round in which Grant was drafted by the 49ers in 2008.

Teams in need of an inside linebacker include Pittsburgh, which recently parted ways with veteran James Farrior, Baltimore, New Orleans, Philadelphia and Seattle. The Seahawks are particularly interesting considering that Grant's biggest play last season - a forced fumble at the end of the game against Tarvaris Jackson - occurred in Seattle as well as the fact that the man who drafted Grant, former 49ers general manager Scot McCloughan, now works for the Seahawks.

March 9, 2012
Tick tock: Where things stand for pending 49ers free agents


There are only 3 ½ more days until the start of free agency (1 p.m. Tuesday.) Here's where things stand with the list of 49ers who were pending free agents when the season ended:

CB Tramaine Brock (Exclusive Rights Free Agent): Plans to sign his exclusive-rights tender of $540,000 in coming days. He could be earmarked as the No. 3 cornerback depending on what happens to Carlos Rogers.

LB Ahmad Brooks: Signed a six-year deal last month. He'll likely start at outside linebacker opposite Aldon Smith in 2012.

LB Blake Costanzo: The 49ers and Costanzo's agent have had little discussion. The special teams ace seems likely to reach free agency barring a last-minute deal.


WR Ted Ginn: Ginn agreed to lop $1.2 million from his contract in order to become an unrestricted free agent this year. He seems eager to test the market.

March 8, 2012
Wideout watch: Streeter, Toon work out

A couple of interesting wideouts had their pro days today. One of them was Miami's Tommy Streeter, who is ascendant as we head toward the draft, especially after he ran a 4.4-second 40-yard dash at the scouting combine at 6-5, 218 pounds.

Streeter rested on most of his combine numbers today, electing to catch passes and run the L drill. He did that in 6.97 seconds, which was better than any other Miami prospect Thursday with the exception of running back Lamar Miller, who ran it in 6.94 seconds. Miller (5-11, 211) is competing with Virginia Tech's David Wilson and Boise State's Doug Martin to be the second receiver running back taken in the draft.

Streeter, meanwhile, is intriguing because of his length-speed combination. He caught 46 passes for 811 yards (17.6-yard average) last season and had eight touchdowns. Scouts are leery of his experience - he only started one year at Miami - and his hands. Streeter has raw potential, and he could be someone the 49ers will consider if they can't find a receiver with the No. 30 selection.

March 8, 2012
49ers extend DE Tukuafu for two seasons


The 49ers today signed defensive end Will Tukuafu to a two-year contract extension. Tukuafu was scheduled to be an exclusive-rights free agent, which would have meant a one-year salary worth $465,000. Instead the team locked him up for two more years.

"Will is a fine example of how hard work and perseverance can pay off," said GM Trent Baalke in a statement. "His strong work ethic has allowed him to make significant strides since signing as an undrafted rookie. We look forward to Will's future development."

Tukuafu is a favorite of defensive line coach Jim Tomsula, and he was part of the defensive line rotation when the 2011 season began. In fact, he recovered a fumble on his first NFL snap in Week 1. Tukuafu, however, suffered a wrist injury while on special teams in Week 4 and was placed on injured reserve.

The upcoming draft will be interesting for the 49ers. The draft is rich with defensive tackles, which the 49ers often convert to ends in their 3-4 scheme. At the same time, however, the team has a healthy stable of young players behind starters Justin Smith, Ray McDonald and Isaac Sopoaga. That group includes Tukuafu, Ricky Jean Francois, Demarcus Dobbs and Ian Williams.

The team's other exclusive rights free agent, cornerback Tramaine Brock, is expected to sign his $540,000 tender on Monday.

-- Matt Barrows

March 7, 2012
Alex Smith contract: What's the snag?


The 49ers don't just have an offer on the table for Alex Smith, as reported by NFL Network and CSN Bay Area, it's been on the table for some time. So what's the hold up? Smith has been exceedingly open about wanting to return to the 49ers while the 49ers - namely, Jim Harbaugh -- have been even more effusive in their desire to have him back. It should have been done by now, right?

According to a source with knowledge of the negotiations, the snag is the length of the deal, and with it the amount of guaranteed money. The 49ers are offering a shorter-term deal, believed to be three years. Smith's agent, Tom Condon, is pushing for a longer deal, believed to be five years.

The 49ers' trump card is the same one they use with all of their pending free agents: If you think you can get a better deal on the open market, by all means try to do so.

March 6, 2012
Baalke: 49ers aren't discussing Peyton Manning


Peyton Manning will be released by the Colts this week, and the organization that drafted him and won a Super Bowl with him and adorned the front of their stadium with a giant Manning poster is expected to announce the decision tomorrow. Which, of course, raises the question: Where will Manning play next?

One of the answers: Probably not San Francisco. General manager Trent Baalke, who was a guest on KNBR this morning, made it seem as if Manning was not a hot topic or even a lukewarm topic in the 49ers' front office. Co-host Larry Krueger asked Baalke if he thought Manning, who has had multiple neck surgeries and who missed the 2011 season, would play again. Baalke's response:

"We haven't had Peyton in here nor are we even talking about those things internally right now. ... Is he going to play? I don't know. That's for the doctors to make the decision on and for him himself."

Some other thoughts from Baalke, who was as careful as always not to reveal any of the team's strategy as it heads into free agency and then the draft.

March 6, 2012
49ers conspicuous in their absence at Ga. Tech pro day


There were 31 teams on hand today to watch ascending wide receiver Stephen Hill run routes and catch passes today at Georgia Tech's pro day. The one absence, according to two people who attended? The San Francisco 49ers.

Hill is the receiver who turned heads a couple of weeks ago at the scouting combine where, at 6-4, 215 pounds, he ran his 40-yard dash in less than 4.4 seconds and then looked fluid in his pass-catching drills. He understandingly opted to rest on his combine numbers today - which is perhaps why the 49ers didn't attend - and instead ran routes and caught passes. NFL Network's Mike Mayock reported that Hill caught 28 of the 33 balls that went his way.

Don't be fooled by the 49ers' absence. He was one of the players they interviewed at the scouting combine, and they appear to be in a good position to take him in the draft. Heck, this guy has them selecting Hill with the 30th overall pick.

Georgia Tech has posted a brief video of Hill's pro day that can be seen here.

-- Matt Barrows

March 6, 2012
49ers live chat: Free-agency market takes shape

Join Matt Barrows at 11 a.m. Tuesday for a live chat focusing on the 49ers and the free-agent market. The team stands to lose some key players and is looking to bolster some positions by playing the market. Matt will provide insider perspective while discussing the issues with you.

March 6, 2012
March mock: The 49ers go wide receiver ... twice.

A smart and rational man wouldn't compile a mock draft until after free agency. I am not that man. Here is the early March Mock, complete with a 1-7 Round prediction of the 49ers' picks. And, yes, I know the 49ers have updated their helmets. Sue me.

1. QB Andrew Luck, Stanford
Luck. That's the key word here for a franchise that stopped being excellent precisely when a franchise quarterback was available. Luck.

2. QB Robert Griffin III, Baylor
Griffin's early challenge will be surviving a team that has a terrible offensive line and mediocre receivers. How much will Snyder give up to get this pick?

3. OT Matt Kalil, USC
A nice convergence of need and best player available.

4. RB Trent Richardson, Alabama
The best friend of a young, inexperienced quarterback (See pick No. 11) is a strong running game.

5. CB Morris Claiborne, LSU
The team's best cornerback, Ronde Barber, turns 72 this year.

6. WR Justin Blackmon, Oklahoma State
The Rams get the player they would have contemplated taking at No. 2 and Sam Bradford gets a No. 1 option in the passing game. Counterpoint: The two most oft-used examples for not drafting a Big 12 wide receiver in the first round were both drafted by the 49ers. Can you name them?

March 5, 2012
Who's left? The incredible shrinking WR crop


That deep pool of free-agent wide receivers? It's evaporating like a 2012 California reservoir. The latest big name to come off the list is Buffalo's Stevie Johnson, who received a five-year deal reportedly for $36.25 million to stay with the Bills. Others, such as *Dwayne Bowe, could be franchised today, the final day to apply that tag.

With that in mind, here's a revised list of the potential unrestricted free agents beginning March 13. (I included one restricted free agent, Mike Wallace). I've broken down the list into several tiers and included the players' ages, which is one of the top three criteria when considering a free agent. Who did I leave off? Please share your (civil) thoughts.

Proven commodities
* Jackson, Vincent - San Diego. Age: 29. He's a big, downfield receiver - just what the 49ers need. But he's older than most FAs on this list and has some character issues.
* Bowe, Dwayne - KC. Age: 27. A legitimate No. 1 receiver. He could be franchised by the Chiefs later today. Update: The Chiefs indeed franchised Bowe.
* Wallace, Mike - Pittsburgh. Age: 25. Restricted free-agent; will receive a first-round tender March 13. Is he worth the 30th pick and a big, free-agent contract?
* Colston, Marques - NO. Age: 28 With Drew Brees franchised, Colston promises to hit the open market. He's been consistently productive in New Orleans but has a long injury history.
* Johnson, Stevie - Buffalo. Age: 25. San Francisco native signed a five-year, $36.25 million deal to stay in Buffalo.
* Jackson, DeSean - Philadelphia. Age: 25. The former Cal star was franchised by the Eagles last week.
* Welker, Wes - NE. Age: 30. It's hard to see him leaving New England and he's likely to be franchised by the Patriots. Update: The Patriots indeed franchised Welker.

March 2, 2012
49ers make it official, place franchise tag on Goldson

The 49ers officially named safety Dashon Goldson their franchise player today. The team gave him the "non-exclusive" tag, which technically allows Goldson, who had been a pending unrestricted free agent, to shop himself on the open market beginning March 13.

However, the non-exclusive designation means the 49ers could match any offers he receives and, moreover, the 49ers would have to be compensated with two first-round draft picks by any team that signs him. That effectively takes Goldson, 27, off the market. The franchise tag number for safeties is expected to be $6.2 million.

Goldson's designation also makes it less likely that two other soon-to-be unrestricted free agents, Reggie Smith and Madieu Williams, will be back with the 49ers. Smith, a former third-round pick, would have started this past season if Goldson had not made an unexpected return to the team after being disappointed with the free-agent market. Williams, meanwhile, also saw his role decrease upon Goldson's return. Both he and Smith will be looking for bigger roles when free agency begins March 13.

Players generally don't like the franchise tag because it comes in lieu of the long-term contracts - and long-term security - they are seeking. The last player the 49ers franchised, nose tackle Aubrayo Franklin, did not sign his deal until the middle of the 2010 preseason and missed all of the offseason practices and activities until that point.

Teams can continue to negotiate long-term deals with their franchised players until July 16, and general manager Trent Baalke indicated that would take place with Goldson and his new agent. "Dashon has been a 49er since we selected him in the fourth round of the 2007 draft," Baalke said in a statement. "By using the franchise tag on Dashon, it affords us the opportunity to continue to work on a long-term contract with him, while also ensuring he will be a 49er for a sixth season, in 2012."

-- Matt Barrows

March 2, 2012
Source: Goldson to receive franchise tag today


***Update, 10:40 a.m.*** It's now official. The 49ers announced they had placed the franchise tag on Goldson. Said GM Trent Baalke in a statement: "Dashon has been a 49er since we selected him in the fourth round of the 2007 draft. By using the franchise tag on Dashon, it affords us the opportunity to continue to work on a long-term contract with him, while also ensuring he will be a 49er for a sixth season, in 2012."

San Francisco safety Dashon Goldson long has been the logical choice to receive the franchise tag, and that designation is expected to come today, according to a source familiar with the process. If the 49ers keep the tag on Goldson during the 2012 season, he would earn approximately $6.2 million. The deadline for applying the tag is Monday.

While the tag prevents Goldson, 27, from testing his value on the open market, which he did last summer, the 49ers and his new agent can continue to negotiate a long-term contract through mid July. The 49ers offered Goldson, their top safety, a five-year, $25 million contract last year but it was rejected by Goldson and his then-agent, Drew Rosenhaus.

Rosenhaus continued to shop Goldson on the open market, including to the Patriots, but he never received the desired offer, and Goldson ended up signing a one-year deal with the 49ers instead. Goldson parted ways with Rosenhaus last month and signed CAA, which represents several high-profile 49ers, including Alex Smith, Patrick Willis and Aldon Smith.

March 1, 2012
Q&A: How does Brooks' deal affect Goldson, Rogers, Wallace, et al?


The Head Honcho @JuiceCrocker: The 49ers cashed out for Brooks. What do you think their plans are for Goldson/Rogers?

Tim Guilanians ‏@tguilanians31: What does Brooks' signing do to 49ers cap situation/strategy on C. Rogers/strategy on M. Wallace?

A: The actual parameters of Ahmad Brooks' deal aren't in yet. However, I'd be shocked if the $44.5 million contract weren't set up with relatively low base salaries early on, high ones late, and a lot of difficult-to-attain bonuses. That is, the 49ers will have cut their first meaningful free-agent deal of the season to be salary-cap friendly and to allow them to sign more of their own free agents.

Goldson, meanwhile, parted ways with Drew Rosenhaus and hired CAA, which represents, among others, Aldon Smith, Alex Smith, Justin Smith and Patrick Willis. On the one hand it signals that Goldson wants to avoid the frustration of last year when Rosenhaus couldn't land him the contract he desired. On the other hand, switching agents doesn't change the fact the 49ers - or any other team - was willing to pay Goldson like one of the top safeties in the league. My sense is that he either will agree to the contract offered last year - five years, $25 million (or perhaps a little better given his pro bowl season) - or be hit with the franchise tag. The 49ers have the leverage here.


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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