The 49ers, who need a punt returner and a wide receiver, are interested in a player who can do both, the Cleveland Plain-Dealer reports.
A league source told the paper that the 49ers are one of five teams that have inquired about Browns returner Josh Cribbs, who was second in the league with 457 yards on punt returns in 2012. One of the 49ers' punt returners from last season, Ted Ginn, is a free agent who is not expected back, while the other, Kyle Williams, is returning from an ACL tear.
Cribbs, 29, has good size at 6-1, 215 pounds and has proven durable over his career. He had a career-high 41 receptions in 2011 but had only seven for 63 yards last season as the Browns worked young wideouts into their offense. Presumably, he would welcome a bigger role on offense with the 49ers, who like multi-faceted players and who currently have question marks at the wide receiver spot opposite Michael Crabtree.
Cribbs also is familiar to 49ers special teams coach Brad Seely, who coached Cribbs for two seasons in Cleveland. (Seely might be a connection to another Browns free agent, kicker Phil Dawson).
Randy Moss, who finished the 2012 as the team's No. 2 wideout, Tweeted his farewell to the team last month. Another candidate, Mario Manningham, is coming off a late-season ACL tear. Last year's first-round pick, A.J. Jenkins, gained little experience as a rookie but is doing his part to establish a connection with quarterback Colin Kaepernick this offseason.
-- Matt Barrows