49ers Blog and Q&A

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

February 28, 2014
Jed York flies to Miami to _____________?


Jed York took a flight from the Bay Area to Miami yesterday, which according to Twitter chatter, means: A.) He is trading Jim Harbaugh to the Dolphins, B.) He is negotiating with the Dolphins for Jonathan Martin, C.) He is signing Colin Kaepernick to a long-term deal, D.) He is signing Anquan Boldin to a short-term deal E.) He is reworking Frank Gore's contract.

Or it's quite possible it's option F.) None of the above. The league is holding committee meetings in South Florida early next week, and that's why York is in town.

One possibility you can cross off the list is Kaepernick's deal. The two sides met for the first time last week in Indianapolis. I've been told that the dinner was a good first step but that's all it was - a first step. This is a huge contract, perhaps the biggest one ever completed in the history of the franchise. So it's not something either side wants to rush. There promise to be be plenty of phone calls, faxes and at least one other face-to-face meeting before it is complete.

The recent deals signed by Tony Romo and Jay Cutler will serve as a baseline for negotiations. Both contracts average about $18 million per year. Kaepernick's team will shoot for more than that. After all, their client is younger and has more upside than Cutler and Romo. And unlike the latter, Kaepernick has been at his best in big games.

As far as Boldin, I'm told that both sides want to get a deal done and that they are on the same page as far as Boldin's value. He made $6 million last season, and that's likely what his new deal will average. That's also in keeping with the three-year, $17.5 million salary another 30-something, but still-productive, receiver, Reggie Wayne, signed with the Colts two years ago. The question with Boldin is whether he wants a two- or three-year deal.

February 28, 2014
Live chat: 49ers after the combine, 11 a.m.

Join The Bee's Matt Barrows for a live chat to discuss the 49ers in the wake of the NFL combine. Chat about what they saw from potential draft choices and how they might proceed when it comes time to pick the team's next building blocks.

Click here to access the live blog from all mobile devices.

February 27, 2014
Future at center? 49ers sign Daniel Kilgore through 2017


With veteran Jonathan Goodwin a pending free agent, draft prognosticators had the 49ers looking for a center in the upcoming draft. It turns out the team's future center has been on the squad all along.

The 49ers today inked Daniel Kilgore, who had been Goodwin's backup the last two seasons, to a three-year deal that locks him up through the 2017 season. Kilgore was a fifth-round pick in general manager Trent Baalke's fruitful 2011 draft. "This move is another example of our philosophy to extend the contracts of our own young players," Baalke said in a statement.

The 26-year-old Kilgore mostly has been used, alongside Adam Snyder, as an extra lineman in the team's heavy-jumbo packages. He played 20 snaps last year at center. A native of Kingsport, Tenn, Kilgore played collegiately at Appalachian State, where he appeared in 48 games (29 starts) for the Mountaineers.

He was arrested in Kingsport last month for public intoxication after he and a friend were stopped while walking outside a bar. There is no mention of unruly or dangerous behavior in the police report. Instead, the two men were arrested "for their safety and the welfare of the public."

Snyder and backup Joe Looney also are options at center this year if Goodwin is not re-signed.

-- Matt Barrows

February 27, 2014
Combine wrap: Which cornerbacks are fits for the 49ers?


The 49ers have exactly two spots in their secondary nailed down for the 2014 season. Eric Reid will play free safety while Tramaine Brock will start at one of the cornerback spots (The versatile Brock can play either side). The other positions are up in the air at this point, including the increasingly critical nickel role.

Carlos Rogers, who is due to count a team-high $8.1 million toward the salary cap, has manned the nickel spot for the last three seasons. Perrish Cox also played there. Despite what Trent Baalke said last week, Cox is a restricted free agent, which means the 49ers will be able to get him back if they want him. Two others capable of moving to nickel, Tarell Brown and Eric Wright, will be unrestricted free agents next month.

* Last week, NFL Network's Mike Mayock cited two players, TCU's Jason Verrett and Florida State's Lamarcus Joyner, he thought could play nickel at the next level. Verrett was one of the standouts of the combine, running the 40-yard dash in 4.38 seconds, leaping 39 inches in the vertical jump and otherwise looking cat-quick and fluid throughout. Verrett is feisty and a willing tackler, and in that way would make a good slot cornerback. The caveat is that at 5-9 he's a little guy.

Defensive coordinator Vic Fangio has preferred bigger-body players at the position. Rogers and Cox, for example, both are 6 feet. That goes for playing on the outside as well. The league trend (See: Seahawks, Seattle) is for bigger cornerbacks, and that's who the 49ers have drafted (Chris Culliver, Marcus Cooper) in recent years and gone after in free agency (Rogers, Nnamdi Asomugha, looked at Sean Smith). Verrett has a small, wirey frame, which when coupled with his aggressive nature could lead to injuries. Indeed he has a shoulder injury that may or may not require surgery next month. (You could argue, of course, that given the 49ers' last two drafts the prospect of surgery will vault him up GM Trent Baalke's draft list). The other caveat is that Verrett may not be around at pick No. 30. Look at the impact he makes in the above video. (Also look for LSU WR Odell Beckham, another possibility at pick No. 30).

* Joyner, who played in various spots in the Seminoles' secondary, including safety, is extremely aggressive and a very good tackler. But he also is very short, measuring in at 5-8. Donte Whitner is considered a short safety. By comparison, he was a little more than 5-10 when he went to the combine in 2006. If Joyner played nickel cornerback, you can't help but think that opponents quickly would exploit his lack of height by matching him against taller opponents.

February 26, 2014
Combine wrap: Which WRs are fits for the 49ers?


Before I get into some impressions from the scouting combine, a couple of admissions. First, while I've been poring over wide receivers and cornerbacks like a chem major cramming for the MCATs, I haven't gone far afield of those two subjects. Today's blog will be WR-centric, tomorrow's will concentrate on corners.

Second, I admit I've been a bit Brandin Cooks crazy the last week or so. But that's because he was the most prominent player local to my newspaper. That he went nuts at the combine was a bonus. Is Cooks my draft crush? No, I don't have a draft crush yet. Could he be my draft crush? Stay tuned. My HBO special, "Draft Crush '14: Race for the Rose" airs May 1 on HBO.

* I keep going back and forth between Mike Evans and Kelvin Benjamin as the No. 2 receiver in the draft. If the 49ers went up in the first round to get a receiver, I figure it will be one of those two guys. Evans had a decidedly better combine than Benjamin. He ran a 4.53-second 40, he looked smooth and fluid in the gauntlet drill and his arms? They measured 35 1/8-inches. (I heard they had to administer smelling salts to Trent Baalke after he swooned in the weigh-in room). He also said all the right things, including that he would love to jaw with and otherwise go up against Richard Sherman.

* Benjamin, on the other hand, ran his 40 in 4.61-seconds. This after telling reporters he was aiming to run in the 4.3-second range. If, before Sunday, I had bet which player would have been faster, I would have put my money on Benjamin, who consistently put pressure on the back ends of defenses. Both players are raw, but their size - and the fact that they use that size in aggressive and physical manners - make them appealing. Benjamin will get another bite of the apple at Florida State's pro day on March 18.

February 25, 2014
Who benefits from the Harbaugh-to-Browns drama? Harbaugh, of course


The Harbaugh-to-Cleveland story has taken on a he said-she said-Browns said quality. The truth usually is in the middle. But in my mind, at least, it skews toward the 49ers' side of the story. Here's why:

Jed York said an offer was made for Harbaugh and was quickly rejected. Adam Schefter's report that a first-round pick was not part of the offer supports York's version. After all, Tampa Bay once gave up two first-round picks and a second rounder for Jon Gruden. York should have hung up the phone if two first-round picks weren't included. A league source told me Sunday that the Browns' offer was "laughable." That's a far cry from the imminent deal that was painted in the original report on Friday.

So why would Browns owner Jimmy Haslam say his team had an "opportunity" to get Harbaugh? It's quite possible he was led to believe by either one or two men who realized their jobs were on the line -- CEO Joe Banner and GM Mike Lombardi -- that landing Harbaugh was more realistic than it was. That sense easily could have been bolstered by Harbaugh's agent, David Dunn, who has been in the background pulling strings and trying to leverage a bigger deal for his client. It's no coincidence that Harbaugh's name came up during USC's and Texas' coaching searches even though he had no intention of taking either job.

The Browns had suffered through a humbling coaching search to that point. That also may have made Haslam, et alia more desperate to shoot the moon with a whopper of a hire and made him more willing to believe that was a possibility. Perhaps Haslam felt that by essentially saying, 'Well, we did almost land Jim Harbaugh,' it adds legitimacy to what has been a widely panned coaching search. Was Haslam unhappy with how everything turned out? The man who inquired about Harbaugh, Banner, was fired earlier this month. So was Lombardi.

Who wins in all this? Certainly not the Browns, who only have undermined their current head coach, Mike Pettine. And definitely not the 49ers, who now have to deal with all sorts of questions about tension at the top of their organization.

February 24, 2014
49ers reduce Dahl's salary; more optimistic about retaining Whitner


The 49ers have reduced the 2014 salary of safety Craig Dahl, the primary backup behind starters Donte Whitner and Eric Reid in 2013. According the the NFLPA's database, Dahl's salary dropped from $1.35 million to $825,000, a savings of $525,000. The reduction was first noted by the website, ninercaphell.com.

If Whitner, who becomes an unrestricted free agent March 11, moves on to another team, Dahl would becomes the de facto backup, at least until the draft. However, sources at the combine in Indianapolis said the 49ers are now more optimistic they can re-sign Whitner, one of the veteran leaders in the locker room, than they were before the combine when they figured they would lose the veteran to a team with more salary-cap space. Whitner still could test the free-agent market. But he wants to be back with the 49ers, and there promises to be more room under the salary cap than previously expected.

That Dahl reduced his salary is another indication the 49ers don't envision a big role for him in the upcoming season. The team signed him to a three-year, $5.25 million free-agent deal last year.

Another option is special teams ace C.J. Spillman. He is big and fast, one of the hardest hitters on the team and also is bright. He's been used as a safety in goal-line situations over the past few years but otherwise has not had a big role on defense. I've been told by multiple sources that Spillman's issue is that he's a "9-to-5 guy." That is, he doesn't put in the amount of work coaches want to see from a starter.

The 49ers reduced receiver Jon Baldwin's pay from $1.4 million to $645,000 last week.

-- Matt Barrows

February 24, 2014
York: 49ers had "no interest" in trading Jim Harbaugh


Yes, the Browns reached out to the 49ers about a possible trade for Jim Harbaugh, 49ers owner Jed York said today, but the overture was quickly turned down. York, who has had on-and-off contract discussions with Harbaugh, also reiterated what he said in December: "We want Jim to be our head coach, and we've said that very clearly."

When Pro Football Talk's initial report about about a near-trade of Harbaugh to Cleveland first surfaced Friday, York went onto Twitter to say it wasn't true. He elaborated today, confirming an earlier report in The Bee that the Browns, the only team without a head coach when the 49ers season ended Jan. 19, initially called to ask about offensive coordinator Greg Roman and defensive line coach Jim Tomsula. They followed that by asking about Harbaugh.

How far did the conversation get? "Not far at all," York said. "We had no interest in entering those discussions."

ESPN's Adam Schefter has reported that a first-round pick was not part of the compensation the Browns offered, lending credence to the stance that any trade discussion was short-lived.

Asked why he initially offered a flat denial of the PFT story, York said it's because the story wasn't true. The original story said the two sides nearly pulled off a trade for Harbaugh and that it was Harbaugh who ultimately decided not to leave the 49ers.

Asked why he waited to address the story, York said he and the 49ers have a policy to keep trade discussions private. "We keep calls to ourselves," he said. "I see no reason talking about another team - that's how we do business."

February 23, 2014
Source: Browns asked about several 49ers coaches, including Harbaugh


Shortly after the 49ers season ended on Jan. 19, the Browns called to inquire about 49ers assistant coaches Greg Roman and Jim Tomsula, according to a source with knowledge of the conversation. During subsequent conversations, Jim Harbaugh's name also came up, at which point then-Browns CEO Joe Banner listed the compensation Cleveland was willing to provide for the 49ers head coach.

The source, however, said the offer was rebuffed and the conversation never developed from there.

That scenario starts to explain the widely differing reactions by the 49ers and Browns to Friday's report by Pro Football Talk that the two teams were close to pulling off a deal that would have sent Harbaugh to Cleveland for multiple draft picks.

"There was an opportunity there, and it didn't materialize," Jimmy Haslam told told USA TODAY today. Haslam did not elaborate on why the deal fell through.

Haslam's counterpart, however, took to Twitter on Friday with a terse take on the subject. "Report isn't true," Jed York wrote. Harbaugh, meanwhile, said the same thing to several reporters and called it "ridiculous" in a brief interview with CSN Bay Area. While the Browns issued a press release that did not deny the original report, the 49ers have not had an official statement.

It's in the 49ers' interest, of course, to steer clear of a story about trade talks involving their head coach. Acknowledging would only add to any sense of instability at the top of the organization.

Why would the Browns have asked about Harbaugh in January? A month earlier, a report by The Mercury News detailed friction between Harbaugh and general manager Trent Baalke. Harbaugh and the 49ers also began talking about a contract extension during the summer, but it was tabled when the two sides realized how far apart they were. Talks are expected to resume this offseason.

Meanwhile, the Browns' general manager at the time, Mike Lombardi, is a friend of Harbaugh's from their time with the Raiders. Harbaugh hired Lombardi's son, Mick, as an assistant last year. The Browns may have thought that working alongside Lombardi would appeal to Harbaugh.

Both Banner and Lombardi were fired earlier this month. The Browns never have denied the initial report. Mere days after they called the 49ers, they settled on Bills defensive coordinator Mike Pettine as their head coach.

-- Matt Barrows

February 23, 2014
Official 40-yard dash times for wide receivers

Wide receiver 40 times
Jared Abbrederis, Wisconsin: 4.50
Davante Adams, Fresno St.: 4.56
Odell Beckham, LSU: 4.43
Kelvin Benjamin, Florida St.: 4.61
Chris Boyd, Vanderbilt: 4.73
Corey Brown, Ohio St.: 4.51
John Brown, Pittsburg St.: 4.34
Martavis Bryant, Clemson: 4.42
Isaiah Burse, Fresno St.: 4.58
Mike Campanaro, Wake Forest: 4.46
Brandon Coleman, Rutgers: 4.56
Brandin Cooks, Oregon St.: 4.33
Damian Copeland, Louisville: 4.50
Bruce Ellington, South Carolina: 4.45
Quincy Enunwa, Nebraska: 4.45
Shaq Evans, UCLA: 4.51
Mike Evans, Texas A&M: 4.53
Bennie Fowler, Michigan St.: 4.52
Austin Franklin, New Mexico St.: 4.56
Jeremy Gallon, Michigan: 4.49
Ryan Grant, Tulane: 4.64
Matt Hazel, Coastal Carolina: 4.50
Robert Herron, Wyoming: 4.48
Cody Hoffman, BYU: 4.65
Josh Huff, Oregon: 4.51
Allen Hurns, Miami: 4.55
Jeff Janis, Saginaw Valley St.: 4.42
T.J. Jones, Notre Dame: 4.48
Jarvis Landry, LSU: 4.77
Lee, Marqise, USC: 4.52
Marcus Lucas, Missouri: 4.60
Jordan Matthews, Vanderbilt: 4.46
Donte Moncrief, Mississippi: 4.40
Kevin Norwood, Alabama: 4.48
Walt Powell, Murray St.: 4.63
Tevin Reese, Baylor: 4.46
Paul Richardson, Colorado: 4.40
Allen Robinson, Penn St.: 4.60
Jalen Saunders, Oklahoma: 4.44
Willie Snead, Ball St.: 4.62
Josh Stewart, Oklahoma St.: 4.69
Devin Street, Pittsburgh: 4.55
L'Damian Washington, Missouri: 4.46
Sammy Watkins, Clemson: 4.43
Albert Wilson, Georgia State: 4.43

-- Matt Barrows

February 23, 2014
Need speed? WR Brandin Cooks blazes in Indy


Wide receiver Brandin Cooks, who grew up a 49ers fan in Stockton, said he'd "love to blow the top off" of defenses for his favorite team. But after his scorching 40-yard dash time Sunday in Indianapolis, you have to wonder whether Cooks will be around when the 49ers pick at No. 30.

The 5-9 3/4, 189-pound Cooks led all receivers with a 4.33-second 40, bolstering his standing as one of the top catch-and-go receivers in the draft as well as someone who can put pressure on the back end of NFL secondaries, something the 49ers failed to do at wide receiver last year. The Oregon State receiver led the nation in receiving yards last year and won the Biletnikoff Award as the nation's top wideout.

"Cooks had a big day," NFL Network's Mike Mayock said. "People are going to be buzzing about him. He's something."

Other standouts today included the top-rated pass catcher in the draft, Sammy Watkins, who ran a 4.43-second 40. His tall, lanky Clemson teammate, Martavis Bryant, ran a 4.42. LSU's Odell Beckham, a possibility to the 49ers at the end of the first round, ran a 4.43.

Ole Miss' Donte Moncrief also stood out. The powerfully built Moncrief -- he measured 6-2, 221 pounds on Friday -- ran his 40-yard dash in 4.40 seconds. Vanderbilt's Jordan Matthews, the SEC's all-time leading receiver, had a 4.46-second 40, not bad at all considering he's 6-3, 212 pounds with 33 1/4-inch arms and massive, 10 3/8-inch hands.

Some disappointing times were turned in by Florida State's Kelvin Benjamin, who on Friday said he was pushing for a 4.3-second 40 but who ended up running a 4.61. LSU's Jarvis Landry clocked a 4.77-second 40 while USC's Marqise Lee was clocked at 4.52 seconds.

February 22, 2014
Michael Sam: Positive reactions have outweighed the negative


INDIANAPOLIS -- Michael Sam today was asked if he'd thought about how he would react if he encountered harassment or slurs when he reaches the NFL. Would it lead to a fight?

"A fight?," he asked, sounding surprised at the suggestion. "If someone wants to call me a name, I would have a conversation with that guy, and hopefully it won't lead to nothing else."

The first openly gay player at the NFL scouting combine said nothing of the sort has occurred in Indianapolis, where he is trying to showcase himself as a draft-worthy defensive end or outside linebacker. Sounding confident and in command in front of a throng of reporters, Sam said none of the teams he's met with so far has asked about his sexual orientation. Teams were warned against doing so during interviews and meetings with their would-be draft picks.

Said 49ers Trent Baalke on Friday: "We're going to treat that the same way we would treat any other player. We're going to evaluate the film, take a hard look at the fit for our organization. What can he do for us on the field, within the community? His decision to come out has no bearing on where we place him on our board."

Baalke compared Sam to former 49er Parys Haralson, a fifth-round pick who, like Sam, played defensive end in college but was converted to outside linebacker.

Sam's experience so far echoes what he went through at the University of Missouri. He told teammates his secret before the season began and said he had no issues. "Everyone could be normal around me," he said. "If we wanted to, we could joke around. We're brothers. It's a brotherhood, it's a family. We could say things to each other. We don't draw blood. It's all fun and games."

After he came out earlier this month, the reaction mostly has been good. He said some people approach him and "start crying in my arms." Sam was wearing a rainbow button that said "Stand with Sam" that was given to him by a woman at a basketball game.

"The positive outweighs the negative," he said. "I'm kind of surprised, actually."

The smiling and charasmatic defender said he missed much of the media reaction to his revelation because he's been busy training for the combine. He and the rest of the defensive linemen will work out here on Monday. He said he wished reporters would treat him like the NFL teams and fellow draft prospects have so far.

"I just wish you guys would see me as Michael Sam the football player not Michael Sam the gay football player," he said.

-- Matt Barrows

February 22, 2014
New Browns coach calls team's pursuit of Jim Harbaugh a positive


INDIANAPOLIS -- New Browns coach Mike Pettine got a heads up yesterday that a report soon would appear that said the Browns nearly completed a trade that would make the 49ers' Jim Harbaugh their head coach.

Pettine admitted his initial reaction was a bit animated.

"I shot the messenger a little bit," he said today at the NFL Scouting Combine. "Because I asked him, 'How does that affect my tenure as head coach?' And then in the next sentence, maybe I used the word 'flying' followed by something (laughter) or referenced a part of a rat's body."

But Pettine said he ultimately decided that a pursuit of Harbaugh, who has gone to three straight NFC Championship games, showed the Browns were intent on changing their losing ways. "When you look at it, I think that it shows that the organization is committed to getting it turned around, that it would investigate that option," he said. "Me, I see that as a positive."

Pettine's words were an acknowledgment that, at least in his mind, an attempt was made by the Browns to land Harbaugh. Both Harbaugh and 49ers owner Jed York have denied the initial report from Pro Football Talk, which said that it was Harbaugh who ultimately nixed a deal. The 49ers and Harbaugh have been negotiating an extension to Harbaugh's contract.

Pettine, however, said that the Browns' coaching search has no bearing on him or the organization. The two men who conducted it, Mike Lombardi and Joe Banner, were fired earlier this month. The team hired Ray Farmer as its new general manager.

"I think that's noise," Pettine said. "It's something that has no bearing on my job moving forward. I think that's a critical thing. I think a big part of being an NFL head coach is dealing with the noise and dealing with the distraction and you can just add that one to the list."

-- Matt Barrows

February 21, 2014
49ers owner denies Harbaugh-to-Browns report

Jed York, the 49ers' team owner, issued a terse and pointed denial of the report that the 49ers and Browns nearly pulled off a deal that would have sent Jim Harbaugh to Cleveland in return for multiple draft picks. The report said that Harbaugh ultimately nixed the deal. York took to Twitter to write, "report isn't true."

Hours later, ESPN's Ed Werder Tweeted that Harbaugh had sent him a text message that reads: "I echo Jed York's comment - isn't true. I know nothing about a trade between the Cleveland Browns and us, involving me."

Here's the timeline to which York was responding:

Two of the main points to keep in mind when it comes to this story: 1.) York and Harbaugh began discussing a contract extension last offseason but talks broke off when there was little progress. 2.) Harbaugh is close to former Browns general manager Mike Lombardi, who was fired earlier this month.

-- Matt Barrows
The report said that Harbaugh ultimately nixed the deal. Team owner Jed York took to Twitter to write, "report isn't true."

February 21, 2014
Report: Browns, 49ers discussed trading Jim Harbaugh


Citing multiple sources, Pro Football Talk today reported that the 49ers and Browns were close to pulling off a whopper of a trade that would have sent multiple draft picks from Cleveland to San Francisco. The kicker: It involved head coach Jim Harbaugh and not a player.

The report said that Harbaugh ultimately nixed the deal. Team owner Jed York took to Twitter to write, "report isn't true."

The backdrop to the alleged transaction is Harbaugh's pending contract extension. The two sides began discussing one last year but talks broke off with no progress with the understanding they would resume this offseason. Harbaugh, who took the 49ers at least to the NFC Championship game in the three seasons he has been in San Francisco, just completed the third year of a five-year deal that pays him $5 million a year. He is currently the third-highest-paid coach in the NFC West.

It's also notable that Harbaugh's close friend, Mike Lombardi, is the former general manager of the Browns. Harbaugh hired Lombardi's son, Mick, to his staff last season. Lombardi was let go in Cleveland earlier this month. The team ultimately hired former Bills defensive coordinator Mike Pettine four days after the 49ers lost to the Seahawks in the NFC Championship game.

Cleveland issued a statement today that did not deny they discussed trading for Harbaugh.

"The team conducted an extensive coaching search, and explored several options," the statement read. "That search produced an outstanding head coach in Mike Pettine and we're excited about his future with the club."

General manager Trent Baalke spoke to the media today in Indianapolis before the report of trade talks surfaced. A report in The Mercury News two months ago cited a strained relationship between Harbaugh and Baalke, who has the ultimate say in personnel decisions. Baalke, however, painted a rosy picture of his relationship with Harbaugh as it pertains to scouting prospects.

"There's been no change," Baalke said. "We continue to work hard at it. What we're trying to do is get it right for the 49ers and the best way to get it right is to be on the same page and to work hard together and try to make the best decisions for the team and the organization as a whole. We're going to continue to do that, so from that standpoint nothing has changed."

The 49ers have not yet commented on the report.

-- Matt Barrows

February 21, 2014
Baalke says Michael Sam comparable to former 49ers fifth rounder


A good NFL comparison to Michael Sam, the Missouri defender who became a national story when he announced this month that he was gay? According to 49ers general manager Trent Baalke, Sam is a similar player to former 49er Parys Haralson.

"He's a young man that's had his hand in the dirt, that's played strong end for them for most of his career," Baalke said Friday at the NFL Scouting Combine. "So I think, yeah, I think that's a fair comparison."

Like Sam, Haralson was a defensive end in college. The 49ers selected him with a fifth-round pick in 2006 and converted him to outside linebacker. Haralson started 68 games for San Francisco in six seasons and had 21.5 sacks over that span. The 49ers traded him to the Saints last offseason for a seventh-round pick.

Baalke reiterated his stance that Sam's announcement would have no bearing on where the 49ers rank him. Baalke said he wasn't aware that Sam was gay before he came out nearly two weeks ago.

"We're going to treat that the same way we would treat any other player," Baalke said. "We're going to evaluate the film, take a hard look at the fit for our organization. What can he do for us on the field, within the community? His decision to come out has no bearing on where we place him on our board."

-- Matt Barrows

February 21, 2014
Combine notes: 49ers seeking an ILB?; an extra season for Marcus Lattimore


INDIANAPOLIS -- Trent Baalke said the 49ers have options at inside linebacker should NaVorro Bowman start the season on the physically-unable-to-perform list, but he raised the possibility of adding to the position this offseason.

"It's something we're looking at and certainly willing to address," Baalke said. "How we'll address it, we'll find that out."

In the next breath, however, the 49ers general manager - always leery of showing his cards - said he was happy with how veteran Michael Wilhoite filled in for Patrick Willis in 2013 and said the team has high hopes for Nick Moody, a sixth-round pick last year. Baalke said he was happy that Moody was training in South Florida at the same facility as notoriously hard-working quarterback Colin Kaepernick, running back Frank Gore and receiver Anquan Boldin.

"I like the fact that they're working," he said. "I like the fact that they didn't take much time off. It's a hard-working group. They came back, obviously from a disappointing loss, took a week off and then went back to work."

Wilhoite started two games last season and finished with 34 tackles. He was active for all 16 games, playing special teams in each. Moody, who converted from safety to linebacker late in his career at Florida State, only was active for four games last year.

For whom the contract tolls - With one of the deepest rosters in the league, the 49ers have shown a tendency - from Joe Looney to Tank Carradine to Marcus Lattimore - to select players who drop in the draft because of injuries. "This is not accidental," Baalke said.

February 21, 2014
Baalke: 49ers not compelled to cut Gore's pay; won't trade LaMichael James


INDIANAPOLIS - On Thursday, Jim Harbaugh assessed Frank Gore's 2013 season as "A-plus, plus." Today, general manager Trent Baalke gave Gore the same sterling grade.

"A-plus, plus. I mean, how can you argue with the statistics?" Baalke said. "And he brings so much more to the team, I think we all know that. Frank's an extremely passionate guy, loves the game of football, he loves the organization. He's everything we're looking for from a DNA standpoint, and he's an awfully good football player and he's a great teammate."

Gore is entering the final year of his contract, one that will pay him $6.45 million. The combination of that sum and his age - he turns 31 in May - has prompted speculation that the 49ers will ask him to take a pay cut in 2014.

Baalke declined to talk specifically about that prospect. "The bottom line is we're going to take a look at everything and we're going to do what's best for the organization," he said. "And that's what we're going to do with all of our decisions."

But his lofty praise of Gore, coupled with the fact the 49ers are healthy when it comes to the salary cap, were hints that no request would be made.

February 20, 2014
Seattle GM likes B.J. Daniels' "eye," likens him to Russell Wilson


Seattle general manager John Schneider said today what many suspected when the Seahawks signed one-time 49ers quarterback B.J. Daniels off of waivers in 2013 - Daniels reminded him of Seattle's starting quarterback, Russell Wilson.

"He's got an ability to find passing lanes," said Schneider at the scouting combine. "He's got a very good eye. These guys that are undersized, they've got to be able to move. So that stands out right away. Yeah, absolutely. Similar traits."

The Seahawks signed Daniels, who originally was a seventh-round pick for the 49ers, to their 53-man roster when the 49ers released him in October. They later moved him to the practice squad. Earlier this month, Seattle signed Daniels to a reserve/future deal, which means the former South Florida quarterback will compete for a spot on the Seahawks roster this offseason.

Daniels and Wilson have similar profiles - both are listed at 5-11 - and they are the only Seahawks quarterbacks signed for next season.

Schneider was asked what he looks for when scouting quarterbacks. "He has to have the locker room," he said. "He's got to walk into the team meeting room and the players know, 'Hey, this guy's got it. He's got it.' ... Russell's very much like that, very confident guy."

- Matt Barrows

February 20, 2014
Harbaugh: Anquan Boldin negotiations "going in a positive direction."


INDIANAPOLIS -- The 49ers coaching staff sent a strong signal they wanted receiver Anquan Boldin back in 2014 when they voted him the team's MVP. Today, Jim Harbaugh articulated that desire even more, saying that Boldin, who becomes a free agent next month, is their "No. 1" priority to re-sign.

"There's angst, and there's work to be done," Harbaugh said. "... The direction it's going is very positive because we're unanimous. It's not just me who wants Anquan Boldin back. We feel there's a process. It could be days, weeks, but there's a process, and it's going in a positive direction from the standpoint of the San Francisco 49ers. ... We're all in lockstep with how we feel about him."

Boldin, 33, led the 49ers in receptions and receiving yards last season and was virtually the only wide receiver Colin Kaepernick would target when Michael Crabtree was returning from an Achilles' injury in the first half of the season. The 49ers can negotiate exclusively with Boldin until March 8.

The team recently renegotiated the contract of another wideout, Jon Baldwin. Harbaugh said that Baldwin will get an opportunity to compete for a spot in 2014. "I talked about Jon before and how I feel about him, his competitive heart, his ability," Harbaugh said. "I'm very excited about Jonathan."

-- Matt Barrows

February 20, 2014
Harbaugh: Midseason return most realistic scenario for Bowman


INDIANAPOLIS -- Recent footage of NaVorro Bowman's rehabilitation from a torn ACL shows the 49ers' inside linebacker hard at work in the early stages of his recovery. Is it possible he can return in time for the first game of the season?

"I wouldn't count NaVorro Bowman out of anything," Jim Harbaugh said today. "He's a supreme athlete, a world-class athlete among world-class athletes. The way he moves, his strength, his powers of healing. I wouldn't count him out of anything."

Still, Harbaugh said the most realistic scenario for Bowman's recovery may be to put him on the physically-unable-to-perform list, as was the case with Michael Crabtree last year, and bring him back at some point during the season.

"Realistically, halfway through the season (or) something like that would be more realistic," he said. "But I never underestimate NaVorro Bowman."

If the 49ers are eying a midseason return, they promise to have a good training-camp competition among Michael Wilhoite, 2013 draft pick Nick Moody and whoever else they bring in this offseason at inside linebacker. Wilhoite filled in well for another inside linebacker, Patrick Willis, when he was injured early in 2013.

Bowman suffered a gruesome tear to his left ACL and MCL when, while stripping the ball from Seahawks receiver Jermaine Kearse in the NFC Championship game, Kearse was driven into Bowman's leg. The knee was bent at an awkward angle and he had surgery to repair it earlier this month. The prognosis for such an injury is 6-8 months, but Harbaugh said the 49ers might take their time with Bowman, their best defensive player in 2013, even when he's medically cleared to play.

"We'll take good care of NaVorro Bowman," he said. "That would be the smart thing, wouldn't it?"

Harbaugh said a number of people - from fans to fellow coaches - have approached him in recent weeks to say how heroic it was for Bowman to hang onto the football while suffering the grisly injury. His brother in law, Tom Crean, even showed the footage to his Indiana basketball team for inspiration.

Said Harbaugh: "People were saying he knew he got hit, you could see his face grimace and he wasn't going to let his team down and let the ball come loose."

-- Matt Barrows

February 20, 2014
Harbaugh: Tank Carradine had recent procedure on injured knee


INDIANAPOLIS --Jim Harbaugh today said that defensive end Tank Carradine, who did not play a snap his rookie season, had a procedure to remove a "mass of scar tissue" from his surgically repaired knee.

"He wasn't able to straighten out his leg before that," Harbaugh said. "Then they took that out and his leg went straight. He looks like a different guy now, since that procedure. Just what we saw when he did practice with our football team and now this procedure that's been done, I'm even more excited. I think he's going to have a great offseason and look forward to his progress very, very much."

Harbaugh said later that he expected Carradine would be able to take part in the team's offseason program that begins April 21. Carradine suffered an ACL tear at the end of the 2012 season when he was at Florida State. The 49ers used a high second-round pick on him in April with the hope that he would be able to contribute late in his rookie season.

During November practices, however, coaches did not think he was getting maximum power from his knee and decided to shut him down for the rest of the year. He is expected to part of a rotation at defensive line in the upcoming season and the hope remains is that he eventually can take over a starting role from Justin Smith.

-- Matt Barrows

February 20, 2014
Report: WR Baldwin takes pay cut, will compete for job


INDIANAPOLIS -- Wide receiver Jon Baldwin, who had three catches for the 49ers in 2013, has agreed to take a pay cut. According to a report by ESPN Boston, the wideout has reduced his salary from $1.4 million to $645,000. He can make up the difference in incentives he came no where close to achieving during his first year with the 49ers.

If he plays 80 percent of the team's offensive snaps, finishes with 65 catches and has more than 800 yards, he will earn back the $755,000 difference. Last year, however, Baldwin had only 28 receiving yards and was a healthy scratch at the end of the season. Despite an opening for a big, downfield receiver - especially early on when Michael Crabtree was dealing with an Achilles' tear - Baldwin never made an impact.

The reduced contract, however, points to Baldwin at least beginning the offseason with the 49ers. That was unlikely to happen on his previous contract. Still, the 49ers are expected to add more receivers to the roster this offseason, especially during a draft that is particularly deep at the position.

Baldwin was the third receiver selected in the 2011 draft. The 49ers traded their own disappointing first-round wide receiver, A.J. Jenkins, to the Chiefs in August in order to acquire Baldwin. Jenkins, who had no catches for the 49ers in 2012, finished with eight catches for 130 yards for the Chiefs last season.

The 49ers routinely ask a handful of high-priced veterans to take pay cuts in the offseason or risk being cut. Center Jonathan Goodwin and linebacker Parys Haralson agreed to reduce their salaries last year. The 49ers approached cornerback Carlos Rogers about a pay cut, but he refused and was one of the team's highest paid players in 2013.

The 49ers likely will approach Rogers again this offseason. They also could approach running back Frank Gore, who stands to earn $6.45 million in 2014, far more than any other 30-something running back. However, Gore's production has not fallen off and the 49ers do not have a sure-fire replacement in their power-running scheme.

- Matt Barrows

February 19, 2014
New gig: Mangini to coach 49ers tight ends in 2014


INDIANAPOLIS - Eric Mangini, who spent his first season in San Francisco with the nebulous title of senior offensive consultant, will have a more specific job description in 2014 -- tight ends coach.

Reggie Davis, who coached 49ers tight ends for the last three years, will become the team's assistant offensive line coach, a spot that opened when Tim Drevno was hired to coach the offensive line at USC.

Mangini formerly coached the Jets and Browns. Until last season, his expertise mainly has been on the defensive side of the ball. But he was brought in by Jim Harbaugh to work with the team's offense by offering a defensive-minded perspective.

Harbaugh also said he consulted with Mangini, who watched games from the coaches' booth, on replay reviews. The 49ers were 2-9 on replay challenges in 2013. Only five teams were worse.

Asked Thursday what made Mangini right for coaching tight ends, Harbaugh said, "He has a very extensive resume as a football coach. He spent the whole season on the offensive side of the ball last year. He's coached an entire defense, an entire team. He's more than qualified to coach three, four, five tight ends."

Mangini, 43, spent 2011 and 2012 as an NFL analyst for ESPN. But after being hired by the 49ers, he was frank about his desire to be a head coach again.

"That's definitely a goal of mine," Mangini said in June. "Right now, I'm doing what I can do here as well as I can do it. I think it's every coach's goal to eventually do that."

Mangini first met Harbaugh three years ago when the 49ers spent a week in Youngstown, Ohio. Mangini remained close with special teams coach Brad Seely, Magini's assistant when he was the head coach of the Browns, and Seely invited him to the session. He took a trip to Santa Clara early last offseason, which is when Harbaugh and he first discussed a spot on his staff.

"The great thing that I've found with Jim and (offensive coordinator) Greg (Roman) and all the guys here is it's ego-less," Mangini said. "And that's really appealing. Everyone just wants to get to the right answer. And to me, input seems to be really encouraged, and I'm happy to offer it if I think it will help."

One of the new tight ends coach's main tasks will be to get more production out of No. 2 tight end Vance McDonald. A second-round pick in April, McDonald played 480 snaps in 2013 but finished with only eight catches for 118 yards and no touchdowns.

-- Matt Barrows

February 18, 2014
Nickel for your thoughts: Mayock lists top slot cornerbacks


Mike Mayock says the upcoming draft class is the best - both at the top of the draft and throughout it - he's seen in the last decade. The top positions, according to the NFL Network analyst: wide receiver, offensive tackle and cornerback.

That works out well for the 49ers, who not only have 12 picks, including at least five in the first three rounds, but who have big needs at wide receiver and cornerback. One of the team's long-time starters at cornerback, Tarell Brown, will test the free-agent market next month. Another, Carlos Rogers, will be asked to take a pay cut, something he refused to do last season.

Rogers not only started on the outside, he moved inside to the nickel cornerback position when opponents lined up three receivers. The 49ers have options at the ever-more-critical nickel spot. Perrish Cox and Eric Wright are capable of playing there. Both are free agents but should be easy to re-sign if the 49ers want them back.

And if the 49ers wanted a nickel option in the draft? I asked Mayock which prospects were the best options to play the slot position. He had two options, TCU's Jason Verrett and Florida State's Lamarcus Joyner.

On Verrett: "The only reason I wouldn't say he's a top 20 pick is because of his size. He's 5-9. He's probably a buck 85. But he's ideal for the slot because he's quick-footed, he's tough. And remember, the slot guys - what gets overlooked - is that you've got to tackle also. And this kid's a tough kid even though he's undersized."

On Joyner: "I think he's a little bit like (Cardinals defensive back) Tyrann Mathieu in that he was a corner in college, but I think he's going to have to kick inside and either be a safety or nickel or both. ... He's an explosive, quick-twitch athlete. He can play safety or nickel. He played mostly corner at Florida State and has some special team ability also. I like him a lot."

Mayock's rankings:

1. Darqueze Dennard, Michigan State 
2. Justin Gilbert, Oklahoma State 
3. Kyle Fuller, Virginia Tech 
4. Jason Verrett, TCU 
5. Bradley Roby, Ohio State

1. Calvin Pryor, Louisville 
2. Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, Alabama 
3. Lamarcus Joyner, Florida State 
4. Jimmie Ward, Northern Illinois 
5. Deone Bucannon, Washington State

Wide receiver 
1. Sammy Watkins, Clemson 
2. Marqise Lee, USC 
3. Mike Evans, Texas A&M 
4. Kelvin Benjamin, Florida State 
5. Jarvis Landry, LSU

-- Matt Barrows

February 17, 2014
Think big: A ranking of WRs who fit 49ers' physical style


NFL Films' Greg Cosell says there hasn't been a wide receiver as good as Clemson's Sammy Watkins since A.J. Green and Julio Jones were drafted fourth and sixth overall in the 2011 draft. Watkins has nice size, nice speed and is ferocious when the ball is in the air - precisely the type of receiver the 49ers have had success with in recent years and what they would want for the future.

Would the 49ers trade up - likely into the Top 10 and perhaps the Top 5 - to get Watkins? With 12 picks, they certainly have the ammunition. But they have needs at cornerback and safety among other positions. Also, the lesson the Falcons learned when they traded away five draft picks in order to leap from the end of the first round to get Jones is that, after giving a big-money deal to their quarterback, they didn't have a lot of means to rebuild other areas of their roster.

Finally, this draft not only has good wideouts at the top of the draft, it has intriguing ones throughout. (That's opposed to the 2011 draft; the next wideout taken after Jones that year was Jonathan Baldwin). Because there are so many this year, I asked Cosell about big, physical wide receivers - the type of receiver Colin Kaepernick has been comfortable targeting in recent seasons and the type that fit well in a power-based offense. There will be plenty of time to write about other types of receivers - LSU's Odell Beckham and Oregon State's Brandin Cooks, for example - between now and May.

Here are Cosell's initial thoughts on big, physical receivers. He differs from most draft prospect watchers by putting Kelvin Benjamin ahead of Mike Evans. For what it's worth, I agree with him. Watch the Florida State-Florida game this year when Benjamin is matched against NFL-caliber cornerback Louchiez Purifoy and you'll see why. The heights and weights are from the players' respective colleges. That means they are bound to drop by a few pounds and an inch or so when the players are officially measured in Indianapolis later this week.

Kelvin Benjamin
Florida State
6-5, 234
Cosell said he liked Benjamin a bit more than Evans because he's a little more athletic and moves better than the Texas A&M product. "I thought he was pretty fluid for a big kid," Cosell said. "He can turn his hips and adjust for the ball, something a lot of big guys don't do." He comes from the same part of Florida as Anquan Boldin, and like Boldin played at Florida State.

February 17, 2014
Kaepernick on having a gay teammate: No one cares


If you can help us win, you'll be accepted. That was the message delivered by a pair of quarterbacks, Colin Kaepernick and Cam Newton, when they were asked about the prospect of a gay player, Missouri defensive end Michael Sam, joining their locker room.

"I think when he steps into that locker room, everyone's going to know he's there to help us win games," said Kaepernick on ESPN's SportsCenter on Sunday. "That's why you're in the NFL: to help us win games. No one cares if you're black, white, straight, gay, Christian, Jewish, whatever it may be. When you step on that field, you're a member of, in my case, the 49ers. Or the Carolina Panthers. That's your job. That's your occupation."

Sam, who came out last week, likely will be converted into a 3-4 outside linebacker in the NFL and is expected to be a mid-round selection in May. Said Newton: "The main focus with football players is we're here in this organization for one reason and one reason only, and if you're helping us attain that winning success, your personal life is your personal life."

The quarterbacks are co-hosting the Cartoon Network's "Hall of Game" awards tonight. Kaepernick was a presenter last year. Kaepernick and Newton were roommates at the scouting combine in Indianapolis three years ago and both are eligible for contract extensions this offseason. Both will become the highest-paid players on their teams when those deals are signed.

Kaepernick was also was asked about the allegations of bullying and psychological abuse among the Dolphins offensive linemen and whether that had an impact on what happened inside the 49ers' locker room in 2013. "Nothing on our team changed," Kaepernick said. "I think we have a very tight-knit group in our locker room. We joke around. We have a good time. We'll mess with each other here and there. But it's all in good fun. At the end of the day, we know that when we step on the field, they're on our side and they're helping us win games."

One of the key figures in the Dolphins story, one-time Stanford tackle Jonathan Martin, is currently taking classes at Stanford. He remains under contract with the Dolphins but is unlikely to return to the team. His agent will meet with Dolphins officials this week in Indianapolis. One scenario is that another squad trades for Martin. The 49ers have 12 picks in the upcoming draft.

Coach Jim Harbaugh, who recruited Martin, said during an investigation into the bullying charges that Martin functioned well when he played for Harbaugh at Stanford, that the 49ers' locker-room atmosphere was not all that different than Stanford's and that he expects Martin will be able to resume his NFL career.

- Matt Barrows

February 14, 2014
Let there be light: Thoughts on the 49ers' new stadium

When 49ers first unveiled plans for their new, 69,000-seat stadium, they said the goal was to pay homage to area's mild weather and abundant sunshine with an open, airy stadium. After touring the mostly-built stadium this week, my impression was that they succeeded.


The two concepts that jump out most are light and space. For example, the suite tower on the west flank - the stadium's money maker - is built of glass on both the side that looks onto the field and the side that looks west toward the Santa Cruz Mountains. The main club in that tower includes a large atrium that spans the width of the suite tower. At the risk of going too high brow on you, it reminded me of newly built entrances to museums - the Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C., for example - or even the newest airport terminals in which glass, natural light and large spaces replace artificial lighting.

The concourses have the same effect. They're reminiscent of the concourses at the newest baseball parks in that they're roomy - they average 63 feet in width -- and you never lose sight of the field. You could walk from the northwest corner of one end zone to the southwest corner of the other and watch the game the whole time. The spacious promenade on the northwest corner - where there will be a beer garden - also makes the stadium seem light and open.

February 14, 2014
Harbaugh: Jonathan Martin can resume successful NFL career


The Ted Wells report, which details "a pattern of harassment" among Dolphins offensive linemen, included an interview with Jonathan Martin's former coach at Stanford, Jim Harbaugh. Both Harbaugh and current Stanford coach David Shaw said that Martin fit in well inside the Stanford locker room.

"(Harbaugh), told us that he had never doubted Martin's tenacity, work ethic and dedication to the game, and that he had never seen Martin exhibit problems with social adjustment," the independent report says. "Coach Harbaugh told us he believed that Martin likely could continue to have a successful career in the NFL. It appears that Martin was up to the challenge of dealing with physical or verbal intimidation by opposing players during NFL games, but fell victim, at least in part, to persistent taunting from his own teammates."

The full report can be read here.

It says that while there was ribbing inside the Stanford locker room and that Martin dealt with bouts of mild depression, he felt comfortable there. Furthermore, Harbaugh told Wells that he didn't think the 49ers' locker room was all that different than Stanford's.

"Although initially quiet, he became a vocal leader on the team by his final year," the report reads. "Coach Harbaugh emphasized that he never doubted Martin's physical or mental toughness, and he believes that Martin can continue to have a successful career in the NFL. Coach Harbaugh also said that the atmosphere in the Stanford locker room, in his view, was not materially different from that of the San Francisco 49ers' locker room."

This, of course, makes San Francisco a possible landing spot should Martin return to the NFL. Martin played left tackle at Stanford and was a second-round pick by the Dolphins in 2012. As I wrote earlier this month, however, the 49ers do not have a big need along the offensive line. Still, they could use a young, backup tackle who can play both the right and left sides, which Martin has done. Furthermore, Martin currently is taking classes at Stanford.

Martin left the Dolphins during the 2013 season but is still under contract with them. For another team to acquire him, the Dolphins would have to release Martin or work out a trade with that team.

When allegations of bullying inside the Dolphins locker room first broke in November, Harbaugh called Martin a "personal friend."

"As far as that situation, there's only one thing I can intelligently comment on and that's knowing Jonathan Martin," Harbaugh said on Nov. 6. "I know him to be a fine person and his family. (He was a) great contributor as a student and an athlete at Stanford, epitomizes the student-athlete model and a personal friend. I support Jonathan."

-- Matt Barrows

February 13, 2014
Look ahead: wide receiver should top 49ers' offseason priority list


Over the next few weeks, I'll take a position-by-position look at the 49ers roster with an eye on the upcoming season and beyond. Today we examine the situation at wide receiver.

Signed for 2014: Michael Crabtree, Quinton Patton, Jon Baldwin, Chuck Jacobs, Devon Wylie, Brandon Carswell, David Reed, DeMarco Sampson

Pending free agents: Anquan Boldin, Mario Manningham, Kassim Osgood.

Outlook: The 49ers' first order of business is re-signing Anquan Boldin, who led the team in receiving in 2013 and who was voted - by the coaching staff - as the team's MVP. Even if that occurs, however, the 49ers must start planning for the future at the position. To me, the question isn't whether they should draft a wide receiver early in the upcoming draft. It's whether they should take two receivers over the first two days.

Boldin isn't showing any signs of slowing down. Indeed, his 1,179 yards last year were his best mark since 2006 when he was with Kurt Warner and the Cardinals. But he'll turn 34 during the upcoming season. Crabtree, meanwhile, is going into the final year of his contract and has dealt with three serious foot/lower leg injuries since entering the league in 2009. That is, as potent as the Boldin-Crabtree duo was at the end of the season, you have to wonder how long it will be together.

The 49ers also are likely to extend quarterback Colin Kaepernick's contract this offseason and would be wise to protect that investment by surrounding him with good, young pass catchers. This year's draft is considered one of the best in recent memory and is particularly deep at the wide receiver position. Having a young receiver learn the position next to Boldin for two or three years also would be ideal.

Three of those receivers fit the team's mold for big, physical pass catchers who will fight defensive backs for the ball - Clemson's Sammy Watkins, Texas A&M's Mike Evans and Florida State's Kelvin Benjamin. If the 49ers wanted any of those three, however, they probably would trade up in the first round, perhaps farther than they did last year when they jumped from pick 31 to pick 18 to grab safety Eric Reid.

February 12, 2014
49ers stadium closing in on completion

SANTA CLARA - The grass field is growing on a sod farm outside of Turlock. Half of the red seats have been installed. The dry wall is up and the furniture is on the way.

The 49ers on Wednesday provided a tour of their airy, new, 69,000-seat stadium, which confirmed what anyone driving past the facility in recent months has suspected - the heavy lifting is done and the project is nearly finished.

Project manager Jack Hill estimated that construction on Levi's Stadium, which began in April 2012, is 80 percent complete. He said approximately three percent of the remaining work will be accomplished each month from this point forth, meaning the stadium should be ready to use by August, just in time for the first event there, a Major League Soccer match between the Seattle Sounders FC and the San Jose Earthquakes on Aug. 2.

The 49ers will break in their new field with an exhibition game some time in the two weeks after that. The tour included stops at:

* The 49ers locker room, which is far larger than the one the team has been using at Candlestick Park and which will serve as the main locker room during the offseason and for weekly practices. Players will have access to hot and cold tubs as well as a hydrotherapy pool that will enable rehabilitating players to work out on a treadmill that's submerged in the pool.

February 12, 2014
Look ahead: One more year for the 49ers' bell-cow runner


Over the next few weeks, I'll take a position-by-position look at the 49ers roster with an eye on the upcoming season and beyond. Today we examine the situation at running back.

Signed for 2014: Frank Gore, Kendall Hunter, Marcus Lattimore, LaMichael James, Jewel Hampton, Bruce Miller, Will Tukuafu

Pending free agents: Anthony Dixon.

Outlook: No, Gore is not the same runner he was when he ran for 1,695 yards in 2006 and out-sprinted safeties and cornerbacks - notably, the Seahawks' safeties and cornerbacks - to the end zone. He gets caught from behind now and averaged 4.1 yards a carry in 2013, down from 4.7 yards the year prior and the lowest average of his career. That average dropped to 3.4 yards in the playoffs, and the 49ers running game - outside of Colin Kaepernick - was abysmal in the championship game against Seattle.

But it wasn't Gore's fault. Perhaps with the aid of their noisy crowd, the Seahawks defenders were far quicker than the 49ers blockers, and Gore hardly could get out of his own backfield. It's notable that backup running back Hunter, young legs and all, also averaged 3.4 yards per carry in the playoffs. Like Gore, Hunter's overall yards-per-carry average dipped in 2013, from 5.2 yards a carry to 4.7.

To me, the overarching issue in 2013 was that without Michael Crabtree and Delanie Walker the 49ers' passing game struggled for much of the season, which allowed defenses to tee off on Gore and the running game. Walker's blocking - and at the end of the season, fullback Bruce Miller's -- also was missed.

February 11, 2014
Look ahead: Vernon Davis needs wing man at tight end


Over the next few weeks, I'll take a position-by-position look at the 49ers roster with an eye on
the upcoming season and beyond. Today we examine the situation at tight end.

Signed for 2014: Vernon Davis, Vance McDonald, Garrett Celek, Derek Carrier

Pending free agents: none

Outlook: The 49ers have the most explosive tight end in the NFL. Davis averaged 16.3 yards per catch in 2013, which was higher than Jimmy Graham's, Rob Gronkowski's and Jordan Cameron's averages -- higher, in fact, than any full-time tight end's in the league.

The problem for the 49ers is that Davis was alone. He was the only deep threat in the 49ers' pass-catching arsenal, and the teams that faced San Francisco in the playoffs adjusted accordingly. Davis caught two touchdowns in the three contests, but he averaged just 18 receiving yards a game as defenses made sure to keep a safety on top of him throughout. By contrast, Davis averaged 85 receiving yards a game in the 2012 playoffs and 146 yards a game in the 2011 playoffs.

In previous seasons, if a defense concentrated on Davis, the 49ers quarterback had a trusty secondary target to which to throw, Delanie Walker. He was on the field for 529 snaps through the NFC Championship game in 2012 and finished with 429 yards and three touchdowns through that game. Walker is in Tennessee now. (He finished 10th in the league among tight ends with 60 receptions in the regular season, eight more than Davis. However, the latter had more receiving yards - 850 to 571 - and touchdowns - 13 to 6).

February 10, 2014
Baalke, 49ers "commend" Missouri's Michael Sam for courage

Trent Baalke joined a chorus of NFL owners and top evaluators today in commending Missouri defensive end Michael Sam for revealing he is gay. The 49ers general manager said the 49ers would use the same criteria in evaluating Sam they do every prospective rookie.

"The 49ers commend Michael for the courage he has displayed as he continues to pursue his NFL career," Baalke said in a statement. "We have and will continue to evaluate him as we do every eligible player, which is always based on their projected contribution to our team on and off the field."

The 255-260-pound Sam led the Tigers with 11 1/2 sacks last season. He told teammates in August he was gay, and in December they voted him their MVP. He projects to outside linebacker in the 49ers' scheme.

Baalke and the 49ers last year used a third-round pick on Corey Lemonier, who along with Dan Skuta provided good depth at outside linebacker in 2013. They don't have a pressing need at the position and likely would not use a high draft pick there unless they were sure that player was an upgrade over Lemonier.

-- Matt Barrows

February 10, 2014
Openly gay player to the 49ers? First measure his arms ...


Would the 49ers draft Michael Sam, the Missouri defensive end who over the weekend announced he was gay? When contemplating whether the 49ers would be interested in any college player, particularly a defensive player, one of the first things to do is examine his arm length. General manager Trent Baalke's opinions regarding gay athletes are unknown. His opinions regarding long-armed defenders, on the other hand, are well documented.

Baalke loves long levers. Sam's measured 33 ¼ inches at the Senior Bowl last month, which gave him some of the most impressive guns at that game, certainly so for someone who stands just 6-1 and change. In fact, no one Sam's height or shorter had longer arms at the Senior Bowl.

By comparison, 49ers linebacker Aldon Smith's famously long arms measure 35 3/8 inches, but he stands nearly 6-5. Last year's first-round draft pick, safety Eric Reid, also is known for his wing span. Reid is similar in height to Sam (about 6-1) and has slightly longer arms, 33 5/8 inches.

Sam led the No. 4-ranked Tigers in sacks in 2013, and he was named the SEC's co-defensive player of the year. For the 49ers, he would project more to outside linebacker than to a 3-4 defensive end, which calls for a player closer to 300 pounds. Scouts and pundits appear to be criticizing Sam's speed and agility off the edge, which is something that undersized linebackers - think: Von Miller whose arms, incidentally, also are 33 1/2 inches -- must possess.

It's possible that a team like the 49ers would move Sam to inside linebacker like they did last year with Darius Fleming, who played outside linebacker in college and who has similar dimensions to Sam. One of defensive coordinator Vic Fangio's strengths is figuring out how to best utilize a player. He and the 49ers have been successful with so-called 'tweeners in the past, whether it's been Smith or Chris Culliver, who played both cornerback and safety in college, or Dan Skuta, who played inside linebacker before moving outside in 2013.

From a scheme standpoint, the 49ers are able to accommodate a lot of different types of players (as long as they have long arms). In in that way, at least, it's easy to see Sam fitting in.

-- Matt Barrows

February 7, 2014
Look ahead: 49ers likely to tap depth, not draft, on offensive line


Over the next few weeks, I'll take a position-by-position look at the 49ers roster with an eye on the upcoming season and beyond. Today we examine the situation at the offensive line.

Signed for 2014: Joe Staley, Mike Iupati, Alex Boone, Anthony Davis, Adam Snyder, Daniel Kilgore, Joe Looney, Ryan Seymour, Al Netter, Carter Bykowski, Luke Marquardt

Pending free agents: Jonathan Goodwin

Outlook: Many mock drafts and offseason prognostications have the 49ers acquiring a center -- often in the first or second round -- because Goodwin, 35, is not expected back. The 49ers, however, absolutely teem with heretofore underutilized young players on the offensive line, including former draft picks Kilgore and Looney. Kilgore has been filling in at times for Goodwin - in training camp, in preseason games, in garbage time - for the last two seasons, and my sense is that he will step into the starting center position in 2014.

Looney, meanwhile, was a virtual unknown heading into the 2013 season but had to step in at right guard due to injuries on Dec. 1 against the Rams. He played well in his first-ever extended regular-season action. He also has received repetitions at center since being drafted in 2012, and the future scenario could have Kilgore starting at center with Looney the backup at center or guard. In addition, Snyder has experience at center while Seymour, a 2013 draft pick the 49ers signed off the Seahawks' practice squad, played virtually every position along the line at Vanderbilt.

February 6, 2014
Seahawks sign ex-49er QB B.J. Daniels to new deal


After the 49ers and Seahawks signed several of the other squad's former players in 2013, it was seen as form of psychological warfare between the bitter rivals. That is, what better way to learn about the enemy than by capturing one or two of the former soldiers?

A less sexy - but perhaps more accurate - way of explaining the back-and-forth transactions is that the Seahawks and 49ers simply like the same types of players. After all, former 49ers general manager Scot McCloughan is now a senior personnel executive with Seattle. That concept was corroborated in September by Seahawks coach Pete Carroll, who said the Seahawks were hoping to land quarterback B.J. Daniels, whom the 49ers drafted in the seventh round.

"We thought he was a nice player and interesting guy to get on the team, and thought a lot of him," Carroll said at the time. "We feel like we know him, and if he has a chance to play at least we have some background in him. We studied him very carefully and all that. But we think a lot of his ability."

When the 49ers released Daniels in October to make room for John Skelton, the Seahawks snapped him up. They later moved him to their practice squad, and today they signed Daniels to a reserve/future deal, which means the former South Florida quarterback will compete for a spot on the Seahawks roster this offseason.

The 49ers, meanwhile, have two quarterbacks signed for the upcoming season - Colin Kaepernick and McLeod Bethel-Thompson. Colt McCoy is a pending free agent, and the 49ers could bring in another passer - free agent or through the draft - in the offseason.

While the Seahawks landed Daniels, the 49ers signed two Seahawks 2013 draft picks, receiver Chris Harper and guard Ryan Seymour. Harper was eventually released and picked up by the Packers. Seymour is expected to compete for a spot on the interior of the offensive line this offseason.

-- Matt Barrows

February 6, 2014
Alex Smith at Pebble Beach. But where's his caddy?


Jim Harbaugh will not be carrying Alex Smith's bags in the rain this weekend. Two years ago, the quarterback caddied for his head coach at the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am with Harbaugh saying he would reciprocate for Smith at a future event.

Smith today, however, confirmed on KNBR radio that a couple of buddies, not Harbaugh, would perform caddie duties for him at the famous course. Reminded of Harbaugh's pledge, Smith said, "There was some talk of something like that, that's right."

Smith's and Harbaugh's golf partnership two years ago was interpreted as a sign of a tight bond between the two. Smith was a pending free agent at the time, but Harbaugh said at the event that the 49ers decision makers were "in lockstep" that "Alex Smith is our guy." A month later, however, Harbaugh was in North Carolina checking out another free agent quarterback, Peyton Manning. And several months after that, Harbaugh decided that Colin Kaepernick, not Smith, was the 49ers' "guy" for the future.

Smith was traded to the Chiefs in a deal that was agreed upon last February.

Smith today was his usual gracious self. Later in the interview, he was asked to compare his current coach, Andy Reid, with Harbaugh and said that they were both great coaches. He also took part in a 49ers- vs.-San Francisco Giants charity event at Pebble Beach earlier this week. Was that weird, host Brian Murphy asked?

February 5, 2014
Look ahead at safety: Goldson left last year. Will Whitner follow?


Over the next few weeks, I'll take a position-by-position look at the 49ers roster with an eye on the upcoming season and beyond. Today we examine the situation at safety.

Signed for 2014: Eric Reid, Craig Dahl, C.J. Spillman, D.J. Campbell, Ray Ventrone

Pending free agents: Donte Whitner

Outlook: The 49ers signed Craig Dahl in free agency last year with two positions in mind. The first, of course, was the free-safety spot that had belonged to Dashon Goldson, who left via free agency to Tampa Bay. But they also had an eye on Whitner's future strong safety spot. Whitner becomes a free agent next month, and like Goldson, he could be someone the 49ers want back but have decided they cannot afford to bring back.

So they have Dahl, who isn't known as a playmaker, but who has started 42 games over his career, as a fallback if Whitner indeed moves on like Goldson did a year ago. Would there be a drop off from Whitner, a team leader, a vicious hitter and someone who improved his coverage skills in 2013, to Dahl? Absolutely. But the 49ers may be forced to make tough, unpopular decisions in an offseason in which they want to re-sign receiver Anquan Boldin and give multiple young players, perhaps the starting quarterback, contract extensions.

They also might be encouraged by how easily they were able to replace Goldson. The team traded ahead 13 spots to select Reid in the first round. He had an excellent rookie season in which he finished with 77 tackles and four interceptions. By comparison, Goldson had 69 tackles and three interceptions for the 49ers the year prior. The one caveat is that Reid sustained two concussions, which has to be a concern moving forward for the team.

February 4, 2014
NaVorro Bowman: Time for surgery


Wearing a hospital gown, a surgical cap and a defiant look on his face, NaVorro Bowman today took a cell-phone selfie of himself with the caption, "Time for surgery." The 49ers inside linebacker, who tore his ACL and MCL during the NFC Championship game two weeks ago, will have a procedure to repair at least the ACL ligament today.

The injury, in which Seahawks receiver Jermaine Kearse, was forced into Bowman's planted left leg, was gruesome to watch. But in talking to multiple orthopedic surgeons, the linebacker's prognosis is still very good. The MCL promises to heal well because it has a good supply of blood. Most MCL injuries -- such as the ones suffered by Joe Staley, Mike Iupati and Will Tukuafu -- heal on their own.

Allowing the MCL to heal is one of the reasons to wait two weeks before surgery. Another is to allow the swelling and stiffness in the knee joint to dissipate so that the patient does not have a permanently stiff knee. Bowman has been rehabbing at the team facility -- keeping the knee loose and as flexible as possible -- since the injury occurred

The ACL has a poorer blood supply, which is why it always has been a difficult injury from which to return. Several 49ers, from Darius Fleming to Kyle Williams to Mario Manningham, have suffered it in recent years. All of them either have had another tear to the same knee or, in Manningham's case, did not return to full strength. Bowman's surgery will be performed by renown surgeon James Andrews in Florida, according to a league source. Andrews, who has a good relationship with the 49ers' team doctors, has worked on a number of high-profile clients, including Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III (knee) and Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith (shoulder).

Doctors believe that Bowman, who won the 49ers' most prestigious team award this year, has a very good chance to make a full recovery and they place his prognosis at six to eight months. The 2014 season kicks off in seven months. If Bowman is not ready at the start of the season, Michael Wilhoite, who is an exclusive rights free agent, is a likely candidate to start next to Patrick Willis at inside linebacker.

-- Matt Barrows

February 2, 2014
Super Bowl observations ... with a 49ers twist


A lot of comments on social media during the Super Bowl noted that it was a throwback to the 1980s and 90s when the games were routinely blowouts. Back then, the NFC -- with teams like the Redskins, Giants, Cowboys and Bears -- was decidedly more physical than the AFC. The 49ers were known more for precision than power but were physical in their own way. The bottom line is that by the time the Super Bowl arrived, teams from the NFC were more battle-tested than their AFC counterparts, and it showed.

History repeated itself this year. It can safely be said that the Broncos were not the second-best team in the NFL this year. The 49ers get that honor. Heck, the Broncos might even be behind the Panthers and Saints after their anemic effort against Seattle. The 49ers' fans won't be happy that their arch rivals are Super Bowl champions. One of the bottom lines, however, is that three games against the 49ers made the Seahawks better.

The other take-away is that the 49ers are built very much like the Seahawks. Which is to say, power still trumps finesse in the National Football League, and the 49ers are one of the league's two most powerful teams.


Colin Kaepernick and Greg Roman, who took their lumps in the media and from the fan base two weeks ago, don't look so bad right now. Seattle's defense -- in a neutral site, mind you - thoroughly throttled the league's No. 1 offense and the league's MVP, Peyton Manning. The Denver quarterback, not known for his mobility, was a sitting duck for the Seahawks' wolfish defense, and he threw ducks all evening. Kaepernick and the 49ers, meanwhile, beat the Seahawks in San Francisco, and Kaepernick -- thanks to his athleticism and his running ability -- was one throw away from doing it in Seattle, too. I imagine that Manning and the Broncos added value to Kaepernick's contract, if it is indeed extended this offseason.

February 1, 2014
No Haley or DeBartolo in 2014 hall-of-fame; Bowman gets no DPOY votes


The vote for the Pro Football Hall of Fame is starting to sound like a broken record for a couple of ex 49ers: Charles Haley and Eddie DeBartolo, Jr. came close, but neither will be enshrined this year. Haley, the one-time sack master, made the final 10 nominees. DeBartolo, the team's successful former owner, did not. Both had made the cut to 15 modern-era semifinalists.

Meanwhile, the NFL's awards show also did not yield any accolades for San Francisco. The player with the best shot at an award was team tackle leader NaVorro Bowman for defensive player of the year. The honor, however, instead went to another inside linebacker, Carolina's Luke Kuechly, who was the defensive rookie of the year in 2012. Both Kuechly and Bowman were named to the Associated Press All-Pro team. The AP also votes on defensive player of the year. Bowman, however, received no votes for the end-of-year award.

DPOY final tally:
Luke Kuechly 19
Robert Mathis 11½
Earl Thomas 7½
Robert Quinn 6
Richard Sherman 4
J.J. Watt 2

This year's hall-of-fame class is: cornerback Aeneas Willliams, defensive end Michael Strahan, linebacker Derrick Brooks, offensive tackle Walter Jones and receiver Andre Reed as well as punter Ray Guy and defensive lineman Claude Humphrey.

Here were my should win/will win projections for tonight's awards show.

-- Matt Barrows


Matt was born in Blacksburg, Va., and attended the University of Virginia. He graduated in 1995, went to Northwestern for a journalism degree a year later, and got his first job at a South Carolina daily in 1997. He joined The Bee as a Metro reporter in 1999 and started covering the 49ers in 2003. His favorite player of all time is Darrell Green.


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