49ers Blog and Q&A

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

April 29, 2014
49ers hoping for clarity in Aldon Smith's court case


Aldon Smith has his day in court today at 2:30 p.m. The hearing was described to me by the district attorney's office as a "status conference," a perfunctory meeting between the two sides as they exchange information and sort out both the DUI and gun possession charges levied against the 49ers linebacker

However, any time the two sides get together, there's the possibility of a plea agreement. That's why the 49ers are intently watching what happens today. A plea deal would bring some clarity to Smith's situation. As far as NFL discipline, the league will wait to dispense it until the case has been resolved in court. A plea will give the NFL a better idea of how to discipline Smith, which will give the 49ers a better idea how to proceed with him as far the fifth-year option on his contract.

The deadline for triggering that option is on Saturday. The 49ers haven't decided whether to use it but are leaning against it. As I wrote earlier this month, the team is leery of sending mixed signals to Smith. Exercising the option means Smith would earn, if he's still on the team in March, $9.754 million in 2015. The message the 49ers want to send to the linebacker is that he needs help, not that he will be rewarded with nearly $10 million.

There's also a possibility the 49ers could retain him in 2015 for far less money. If the NFL decides to suspend Smith for the full season, his 2014 salary would toll. That is, the $2.336 million he is set to earn this year would roll over to next year. In that scenario, however, there would be no fifth-year option for the 2016 season.

The 49ers also could put Smith on the non-football injury list for 2014. In that scenario, he'd earn the $2.336 million for 2014 but they'd also have him for the 2015 season at that rate. In other words, there are a number of scenarios the 49ers are sorting through, another reason why the team has not yet decided on the fifth-year option.

The bottom line is that the 49ers want to retain Smith for the long term but that they feel he needs help now. They are willing to see him miss a chunk, perhaps all, of this year's season, if it means he gets on top of his issues and can play for them, say, for the next decade.

One additional item: The Los Angeles City Attorney's office has yet to decide whether to file misdemeanor charges against Smith for the alleged bomb threat he made at LAX this month. It may take a week or two for that decision to be made. The airport incident is unlikely to be a factor in today's hearing.

Former agent Joel Corry wrote about this topic recently in the National Football Post. It includes a couple of precedents as far as league discipline, Tank Johnson and Adam "Pac Man" Jones, and is worth a read.

-- Matt Barrows

March 25, 2014
AFC roundup: Andy Reid thinks Alex Smith is "brilliant"


ORLANDO, Fla. -- Hotcakes with Harbaugh? That's tomorrow when the NFC coaches have breakfast with the media. Today was the AFC's turn. Here are some 49ers-related tidbits from the coaches in that other conference ....

When the Kansas City Chiefs gave up two second-day draft picks for Alex Smith, it seemed like a steal for the 49ers. Smith, however, finished the 2013 season with a career-high 3,313 yards (in 15 starts) and led the Chiefs to a surprising playoff berth after they had a 2-14 record the year before.

Chiefs coach Andy Reid today sounded as if he was more than happy with the deal. "He's a brilliant guy," he said of Smith. "He can digest a lot and not be paralyzed by it. I would say with him you're not going to run out of gigabytes, right? He's got plenty of those. He can still function well with a lot of knowledge."

Reid sounded a lot like Smith's previous coaches, especially Urban Meyer and Jim Harbaugh, in detailing Smith's strengths. Meyer once talked about how Smith would work late into the night on game plans with the Utah coaching staff.

Said Reid: "He's a gym rat. I mean, you've got to kick him out. I was almost on double-secret probation his first week in the building because he wanted to stay there forever. And I'd have to, like, kick him and out and (tell him) to come back. I said, 'You've got to go.' That's how he approaches the game."

March 8, 2014
Brown to see green? CB market rising before free agency even begins


"What a difference a year makes! Free agency will be a lot better this year."

That gleeful tweet occurred midday Saturday and was courtesy of agent Drew Rosenhaus. A couple of hours later, we found out why Rosenhaus was so happy. One of his clients, cornerback Sam Shields, signed a contract with the Packers worth $39 million over four years. The contract, worth $9.75 million a year, came on the heels of the one cornerback Ben Grimes signed with the Dolphins that pays him $8 million a year.

Last year, the cornerback market was flat. Those that did sign deals made between $5 and $6 million a year. During the season, Tramaine Brock signed a four-year deal with the 49ers worth as much as $16 million.

The expanding salary cap and the suddenly robust market for cornerbacks means that 49ers free agent Tarell Brown could be more expensive to re-sign than the 49ers were hoping. It also may make Carlos Rogers more reluctant to accept a reduction -- or at least a big reduction -- to the $6.6 million salary he is due to earn in 2014.

The 49ers asked him to reduce his salary last year or risk being cut. Rogers refused. He told The Bee in February that he expected the team to approach him again this year with a similar message.

Rogers noted that he plays both left cornerback and nickel cornerback. "The last three years, I played the most snaps on this whole team, period," he said. "Why would I take less? That was our approach last year. This year? It may be something different. I know the average for a cornerback -- the average -- is still high."

It's bound to be even higher this year. Free agency begins Tuesday.

-- Matt Barrows

March 4, 2014
Just win, baby: The prism through which Jim Harbaugh's words must be filtered


Monday wasn't the first time Jim Harbaugh - with gusto - felt compelled to set the record straight. For those just catching up, in an interview with Sports Illustrated Harbaugh dumped a barrel of ice water on the notion that: A.) He is gunning for a big contract. B.) He is unhappy with with general manager Trent Baalke and C.) He will leave the 49ers before the remaining two years of his contract expire.

In other words: Everything is great. How are you?

It was similar to Harbaugh's out-of-the-blue denial in May 2012 that the 49ers ever had an interest in signing Peyton Manning. The 49ers and Manning? Harbaugh made it sound like the most insane idea he had ever come across.

"It's an erroneous perception that we were flirting with Peyton Manning," Harbaugh said nearly two and half months after Manning signed with Denver. "I keep hearing that over and over again. It's silly, and it's untrue. It's phony."

Harbaugh insisted the 49ers were committed to Alex Smith at quarterback. Always were.

Later that year, Harbaugh made an unscheduled stop at the podium to deride, chide and otherwise shake his finger at reporters who had been critical of first-round draft pick A.J. Jenkins.

"I'll go on record: A.J. is going to be an outstanding football player," a fired-up Harbaugh said. ". ... There are these so-called experts who are making these comments, and there's going to be an I-told-you-so. I foresee that happening."

It turns out the 49ers weren't committed to Smith (traded to the Chiefs) and that Jenkins (traded to the Chiefs) was not outstanding.

Here's the common thread in both examples and in the most recent one: Harbaugh will say anything to keep his team strong. Winning comes above all else. And if you have to massage the truth here and there to keep your quarterback happy, to keep the locker room tight or to motivate a first-round pick who gets knocked to the ground in non-contact practices, you do it.

"As Mr. Al Davis said so profoundly, 'Just Win Baby,'" Harbaugh said after beating Carolina in January. The quote applies in this case, too.

Winning also is what makes Harbaugh popular in the locker room. Do you think veterans like Justin Smith and Frank Gore still love the 'who's got it better than us?' chant after three years? What they love is the fact that Harbaugh has brought them - a couple of players who had been on losing teams for most of their careers -- to within a hair's breadth to the Super Bowl in two of the three years he's been in town and nearly landed a title in the other.

That's why Anquan Boldin on Monday said he laughed when he read about a rift between Harbaugh and his players. "I heard of no griping in the locker room when it comes to coach Harbaugh," he said. "Like I said, he's a guy that wants to win. Everybody in the locker room wants to do the same thing."

Former 49ers Brian Jennings said the same thing this morning on KNBR radio: "There's no one inside the building who has more of a single focus than Jim Harbaugh," he said. That single focus: winning.

It's also the reason why, while not believing everything that comes out of Jim Harbaugh's mouth, I believe his central point from his SI interview: He does not want to leave the 49ers. His best chance of winning a Super Bowl title, after all, isn't in Cleveland, Miami or Dallas. It's here.

And finally it's the reason why Baalke will tolerate all the confrontations with Harbaugh and what will motivate Jed York to try to bridge the contract impasse with his head coach. Harbaugh knows quarterbacks, he knows how to motivate and, most of all, he knows how to win.

-- Matt Barrows

March 3, 2014
49ers, Anquan Boldin agree on two-year deal


A week ago, 49ers officials said that re-signing receiver Anquan Boldin was a priority. Today they made good on that effort, agreeing to terms with their leading receiver from 2013 on a two-year deal that pays Boldin $6 million a season.

There had been strong hints that a deal was imminent, but Boldin broke the news himself on Twitter: "49er fans, I wanted to be the first to tell you that I'm returning to San Francisco," he wrote. "Looking forward to joining my teammates, coaching staff and fans to bring back another championship to the Bay Area. Let's go after our Quest For Six."

Boldin led the 49ers with 1,179 receiving yards during the regular season and caught seven touchdowns. He and tight end Vernon Davis caught all but one of Colin Kaepernick's touchdown passes in 2013. Michael Crabtree caught the only other one. Boldin will turn 34 later this year, which is why the 49ers did not lock him up for a long-term deal. However, his yardage total was his best since 2006 when he was with the Cardinals, and the physical wideout did not miss any time due to injury.

The 49ers also wanted Boldin back because of what he can impart to the team's younger wideouts. They drafted one of those young wideouts, Quinton Patton, in the fourth round last year. They are expected to take at least one more in May's draft, which is considered one of the deepest in recent memory when it comes to wide receivers.

Boldin had a near-instantaneous rapport with Kaepernick last offseason. That became critical when Crabtree tore his Achilles' tendon in May, an injury that would keep him out of the lineup until December. While Kaepernick did not find a rapport with the team's remaining wideouts, that was not the case with Boldin. According to Pro Football Focus, the Kaepernick threw 123 passes towards Boldin last season. Their other wideouts only saw 95 targets combined.

The Ravens traded Boldin to San Francisco for a sixth-round pick a year ago because they were unwilling to pay him the $6 million he was scheduled to earn. His new deal pays him exactly that and includes $8.5 million guaranteed.

-- Matt Barrows

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.

December 15, 2013
So long, 'Stick: DeBartolo has mixed feelings about stadium's final game


TAMPA -- "It truly is an end of an era," said Eddie DeBartolo Jr., who will be among the 49ers luminaries on hand for next week's goodbye to Candlestick Park. The former 49ers owner said he will serve as honorary captain for the Monday Night Football game against the Atlanta Falcons.

DeBartolo, who lives 12 miles from the Buccaneers stadium in Tampa, hasn't always been an adoring fan of the stadium, which will be razed after this season. He once referred to it as a "pig sty." And he said one of his most lasting memories came in 1977 - the 49ers were one of the worst teams in the NFL at the time - when a fan clocked him in the head with a full can of beer.

"It almost knocked me out," he said with a laugh. "That probably sticks out in my mind more than anything."

But he said Monday's farewell will be an emotional one. He, Joe Montana, Ronnie Lott, Roger Craig and Dwight Clark will be part of the ceremony. "In a different way, I left a lot of my heart and my blood, sweat and tears on that field, too," DeBartolo said. "And I think it's fitting that we're all there."

DeBartolo spoke on a range of topics before today's game, including:

* Jim Harbaugh's contract. The coach and DeBartolo's nephew, Jed York, will try to work out an extension after this season. "They get ... wound really tight," DeBartolo said of NFL coaches. "And there is a certain amount of time when you get a burn out." But he said he thinks Harbaugh and York will come to an agreement. He said he and York "talked yesterday, and I think they're well on their way to getting it done."

* The 49ers' chances this year. DeBartolo said he expects San Francisco to go to its second straight Super Bowl. "They are by far the best team in football," he said. "Seattle is great and they've had trouble in Seattle. But (the 49ers) have players back, the offensive line's coming back, the receivers. (Colin) Kaepernick's got confidence. It reminds me of our teams. It reminds me of '88, '89."

* Charles Haley's hall-of-fame chances. DeBartolo said he's sure the former 49ers pass rusher will get in this year. In fact, Haley asked DeBartolo to induct him

DeBartolo said he hasn't seen the 49ers' new stadium. But he said he's certain it will be so innovative that it will make Jerry Jones' stadium outside of Dallas "look obsolete." The 49ers will play their first game at Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara next season. DeBartolo said he figures to get an invitation to help open it.

Said DeBartolo: "We've suffered with Candlestick for a long time."

- Matt Barrows

March 13, 2013
Miller, Culliver, Boone rewarded with performance-based bonuses


The NFL's performance-based pay program is meant to be a bit of a counter-balance for those players who were late-round picks - or who weren't drafted at all - but who end up playing a lot of snaps for their team. Which is why someone like fullback Bruce Miller, who also features heavily on special teams, will get the biggest performance-based paycheck of any 49er this week, $273,400.

Miller was a seventh-round pick in 2011 who played 700 snaps last season for the 49ers. Conversely, first-round pick A.J. Jenkins, who played 35 snaps, had one of the lowest figures, $5,300. Running back Brandon Jacobs, who was hurt - and then suspended and then released - was at the bottom at $1,500. Some other figures at random:

FB Bruce Miller: $273,400
CB Chris Culliver: $229,200
G Alex Boone: $223,100
DE Demarcus Dobbs: $126,700
QB Colin Kaepernick: $85,500
TE Delanie Walker: $69,800
QB Alex Smith: $11,500

Here's the official explanation for how performance-based pay is calculated: Performance-based pay is computed by using a "player index." To produce the index, a player's regular-season playing time (total plays on offense, defense and special teams) is divided by his adjusted regular-season compensation (full season salary, prorated portion of signing bonus, earned incentives). Each player's index is then compared to those of the other players on his team to determine the amount of his pay.

-- 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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