49ers Blog and Q&A

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

May 2, 2014
Draft-savvy? 49ers stand out in league-wide analysis

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General manager Trent Baalke has been taking some lumps lately. There's the failed 2012 draft that included first-round pick A.J. Jenkins, who was traded last year to Kansas City. Even Baalke's star-studded 2011 draft class doesn't look quite as bright today following the recent arrests of Aldon Smith (first round) and Chris Culliver (third round).

But take a step back and you'll find that the 49ers, thanks to Baalke and predecessor Scot McCloughan, lead the league in finding players, especially starters, in the draft or as undrafted free agents. According to an analysis by The Boston Globe, the 49ers and Texans have the most draft picks still on the team and that the 49ers have more starters and pro-bowl draftees than any other franchise.

The 49ers have done a particularly good job in the first round with seven of their picks in starting spots. Only the Patriots claim as many, according to the study. San Francisco, however, has only one starter from rounds 5-7 (Bruce Miller). The Seahawks lead the league with five starters from that part of the draft. (The Globe's numbers do not include the 2013 draft. Eric Reid would be the eighth first-round starter; Daniel Kilgore will be another 5-7-round draftee if, as expected, he starts at center this season).

I count 17 drafted players or undrafted free agents currently penciled in for starting spots in 2014 with free-agent pickup Glenn Dorsey getting the nod, in my mind at least, over Ian Williams. Of those 17, six were brought in when McCloughan was in charge of personnel decisions 2005-2009.

Projected defensive starters:
LDE Ray McDonald
LOLB Aldon Smith*
ILB NaVorro Bowman+
ILB Patrick Willis
CB Tramaine Brock
CB Chris Culliver
S Eric Reid

Projected offensive starters:
WR Michael Crabtree
RB Frank Gore
FB Bruce Miller
LT Joe Staley
LG Mike Iupati
C Daniel Kilgore
RG Alex Boone
RT Anthony Davis
TE Vernon Davis
QB Colin Kaepernick

-- Matt Barrows

April 28, 2014
Baalke's list: Analyzing the 49ers' pre-draft visitors

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NFL teams are allowed to host up to 30 draft prospects, and Sunday was the final day NFL teams could have such a visit. Here's a partial list of the players who have visited with a bit of analysis below each position group.

Wide receivers:
Kelvin Benjamin, Florida State
Martavis Bryant, Clemson
Paul Richardson, Colorado
Albert Wilson, Georgia State

The common thread here is that each of these players can make plays downfield, a high priority given that the 49ers' starters, Anquan Boldin and Michael Crabtree, aren't exactly speedsters. The team also has spent time with LSU's Odell Beckham, Jr. and Indiana's Cody Latimer, who fit the above description as well, especially Beckham. The most intriguing name on this list is Benjamin, who has almost tight end-like size, including the long, powerful arms that Trent Baalke desires. But he's also a 23-year-old, redshirt sophomore, who comes with red flags, including showing up at the combine heavier than expected at 240 pounds. His visit is doubly intriguing because Baalke already had attended FSU's pro day. Wilson has return-man abilities. So does Beckham.

Running backs:
RB Terrance Cobb, University of the Cumberlands
RB Storm Johnson, Central Florida
RB Terrance West, Towson University

April 25, 2014
Baalke: 49ers won't give up on Aldon Smith

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In the first public appearance by any 49ers official since Aldon Smith's airport arrest on April 13, general manager Trent Baalke today said he and the organization are disappointed by the pattern of bad behavior by the linebacker but not discouraged by it.

Baalke made it clear the team would stand by Smith, who holds the franchise record for sacks in a season but who also has been arrested three times since 2012. "We're a family," he said. "You don't just open a door and toss people out of it."

Smith has been working out at the team facility since the start of the offseason program April 21.

Baalke, however, was vague about how the team would handle the fast-approaching May 3 deadline for picking up a fifth-year option on Smith's contract that would pay Smith nearly $10 million in 2015. He said that's still being discussed internally. According to a league source, the 49ers are leaning against picking up that option.

Smith, 24, has a court date next week in relation to a September DUI arrest as well as gun charges stemming from a party at Smith's home that grew out of control in June 2012. In addition, the Los Angeles City Attorney's office is considering whether to file misdemeanor charges against Smith for allegedly saying he had a bomb as he went through Los Angeles International Airport's security line earlier this month.

During a nearly hour-long session with reporters, Baalke walked a line between saying he was disappointed with Smith's actions and those of several other 49ers in recent years and defending his players.

March 25, 2014
Tension at 49ers headquarters? Yes, but they like it that way

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ORLANDO, Fla. - Yes, there's been some tension at 49ers headquarters when it comes to fiery Jim Harbaugh and feisty Trent Baalke. "I think I've said this before: 95 percent of the time they're on the same page," team owner Jed York said on Tuesday. "Five percent of the time is gets really interesting."

But according to York, tension isn't always a bad ingredient, and it certainly hasn't hindered the 49ers in recent seasons.

"We've been competing for the Super Bowl - realistically competing for the Super Bowl - for the last three years," York said during a break at the owners' meetings here. "They get along. They're just grinding. They want a ring. And they're trying to battle and fight to get a ring. And sometimes it wears on people. But I like that tension," he continued. "I think they like that tension. And I think both of them compete better when there's something to compete against."

Stories about a cold war between Harbaugh and Baalke, the team's general manager, began emerging last month after news broke that the Browns had inquired about trading for the 49ers' head coach. One national report said that the two don't even talk, communicating instead through emails.

Both York and Baalke on Tuesday insisted the portrait being drawn of two men constantly at each other's throat is overblown. The coach and general manager, in fact, have been observed consulting with one another at the league's hotel in Orlando, and they emerged from one of the many meetings here side by side and laughing.

Said Baalke: "He's our football coach, he's a damn good football coach, and we expect him to be our football coach for a long time."

March 19, 2014
Breaking Benjamin? Baalke attends Florida State pro day

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General manager Trent Baalke was among the many NFL faces who attended Florida State's pro day on Tuesday. This shouldn't be all that surprising. The Seminoles are loaded with talent, including two, shall we say, 'persons of interest' for Baalke and the 49ers: receiver Kelvin Benjamin and cornerback Lamarcus Joyner.

The 49ers could stand to add players at both positions in May. At 5-8, Joyner is undersized. But he is tough, aggressive, a team leader and could fill in at the nickel cornerback spot Carlos Rogers played the last three seasons. Joyner likely will be taken in the second round, a round in which the 49ers have two picks.

Benjamin is a possibility in the first round, and he could be someone the 49ers move forward to get. He's got excellent size for a wideout (6-5, 240) with the long arms that Baalke covets. He's not the speedy, slot receiver-style complement to Anquan Boldin and Michael Crabtree the 49ers could use (although he did a lot of damage for the Seminoles on go and post routes). Instead he conceivably would be a future replacement for Crabtree and Boldin whose contracts expire in 2015 and 2016 respectively.

Boldin, of course, also went to Florida State, and the 49ers view him as the ideal mentor for the young wideouts in their locker room. He also is from Pahokee, Fla., a sister city on the shore of Lake Okeechobee with Belle Glade, which is where Benjamin is from.

The 49ers drafted two Florida State players last year, Tank Carradine and Nick Moody. Baalke also attended Wisconsin's pro day this month.

Speaking of pro days, I'll be heading off to San Jose State's this afternoon. The headliner is the quarterback, David Fales. But the Spartans also have a cornerback, Bene Benwikere, and a wideout, Noel Gigsby.

-- Matt Barrows

March 3, 2014
Blink: Baalke says draft snap judgments usually correct

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Which college players have caught Trent Baalke's eye in the run-up to the draft? The notoriously tight-lipped 49ers general manager never would say. But he did reveal that it doesn't take him long to decide who makes his draft-day list and who gets crossed off.

"Have you ever read the book, 'Blink?'" Baalke said at the combine. "Keep it simple. The first time you look at a player, you're usually right."

The book, by Malcolm Gladwell, asserts that instant assessments, especially when made by someone with expertise in a field, are better and more accurate than long, deliberate ones. (Editorial: Gladwell makes this point in the first chapter and then makes the same point using less-convincing examples, over and over and over, in the remaining chapters).

Said Baalke last month: "Your gut is usually right. Through the process, you gather more and more information and you watch more and more film. And sometimes the process is so long and it's drawn out another two weeks that you end up talking yourself out of that first impression. So I always go back to the book 'Blink.' And if you've read it, you understand where I'm coming from. And if you haven't, you should. It's a great book."

That doesn't mean the 49ers' draft board won't change between now and May 8. The 49ers will attend pro-day workouts and host 20 or so draft-worth prospects at team headquarters. But at this stage, that information is more of the dotting-i's and crossing-t's variety. Baalke already knows who he likes. And he is so sure of himself that he often will trade ahead in the draft - including the first round - to grab his favorites.

December 18, 2013
York: Harbaugh's never asked for more personnel power

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Jed York today said that there's always going to be push and pull between an NFL general manager and a head coach, and he acknowledged that Jim Harbaugh and Trent Baalke "butt heads" from time to time. But on KNBR radio this morning the 49ers owner said that Harbaugh never has asked for more control of personnel and that he doesn't envision Harbaugh having more control in the future. As of now, Baalke has the final say on the team's roster.

"He's never asked for that, he's never intimated any of that," York said. "And it's easy to say, it's easy to speculate, 'Well, he was in college and he had full control and he wants full control here.' That sounds great until you actually get to reality. And Jim's never really ever asked for that. Now do we butt heads on players from time to time? Of course. That's what GMs and coaches do. But Jim knows that being a coach is a full-time job, and he has a lot of respect for the job that Trent has done. I mean you look at the folks we've added through the draft, free agency and trade - we're in a pretty good spot from a talent standpoint."

York continued: "And I've always said, you can have control in your contract, but if you can't sit down and actually talk something through, it really doesn't matter what your contract says. And I think that's where Jim and Trent are. They sit down and argue things out. And then they figure out, 'What's the best thing for the 49ers?' and let's move forward. And that's how I really see this team operating in the future and in perpetuity."

Harbaugh is reaching the end of the third year of a five-year, $25 million deal. He's the third-highest paid coach in the NFC West - behind Seattle's Pete Carroll and St. Louis' Jeff Fisher - and York has said that the two sides will sit down in the offseason to work out something better for Harbaugh.

"You can't really ask for a much better job than what he's done over the last two and a half seasons," York said. "Now's not the right time to get into a deep contract discussion. But he knows we want him here long term, and we'll sit down at the end of the season, we'll assess like we always do, and I definitely anticipate Jim being here for a long period of time."

-- Matt Barrows

July 19, 2013
49ers knew about Wright's arrest before trading for him

The 49ers say they weren't snookered by the Buccaneers in trading for cornerback Eric Wright, who was arrested last week on suspicion of DUI, a misdemeanor. The arrest wasn't made public until after news of the trade broke this afternoon, leading to speculation that the Buccaneers unloaded a troublesome player onto the unwitting 49ers.

A team source said that Tampa Bay general manager Mark Dominik told his 49ers counterpart, Trent Baalke, about the arrest before the trade was consummated. The 49ers officially acknowledged the transaction this afternoon, and Baalke's quote signals that he knew about Wright's recent incident.

"We are pleased to add Eric to our team," Baalke said in a statement. "As an organization, we have done our due diligence and anticipate Eric working hard to contribute to the 49ers."

Wright, 27, was pulled over at 5:15 p.m. last Friday on the corner of Crenshaw and 30th street in Los Angeles, the LAPD said. His attorney, Jeremy Lessem, noted that Wright has not been charged and that it may be weeks until the L.A. City Attorney's office makes a ruling on the case. Wright was given a chemical test to determine his blood-alcohol limit. The results of that test are not public.

Lessem also noted that Wright was arrested nearly a year ago in Los Angeles for felony DUI but never was charged. He said a breath-test taken at that time registered 0.0. Wright is tentatively scheduled to have his initial court date on Aug. 7, a day before the 49ers host the Broncos in the team's exhibition season opener. Wright does not have to be present on that day.

The 49ers traded a conditional late-round draft pick in 2014 for Wright. That means that if Wright does not make the roster, the team won't owe the Buccaneers anything. The transaction won't be completed until Wright passes a physical next week. The 49ers currently have 10 picks in the upcoming draft.

-- Matt Barrows

May 1, 2013
49ers move Joel Patten into Tom Gamble's former role

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Everyone take one step forward.

That is essentially what occurred in the 49ers' personnel department after Tom Gamble left for the Philadelphia Eagles earlier this year. Joel Patten, previously the director of college scouting, now officially is in Gamble's former spot, director of player personnel, the team announced today. The only man above him in the personnel department is general manager Trent Baalke.

Meanwhile, Matt Malaspina is the new director of college scouting and Mike Williams becomes director of pro personnel. The team also promoted former regional scout Justin Chabot to national scout, Steve Rubio to regional scout and Josh Williams to pro personnel scout. Chabot was one of the scouts who evaluated first-round draft choice Eric Reid this year.

Patten is in his fourth year with the 49ers. In his previous position, he managed the college scouting staff and the daily operations of the department. He joined the 49ers with 14 years of NFL scouting experience and more than a decade of playing experience.

A graduate of Duke, Patten played eight seasons in the NFL and three in USFL as an offensive tackle. Having originally entered the NFL as an undrafted free agent with the Cleveland Browns in 1980, he played in 56 career games for the Browns (1980-82), Colts (1987-88), Chargers (1989-90) and Los Angeles Raiders (1991-92). He also played for the Washington Federals (1983-84) and the Orlando Renegades (1985) of the USFL.

-- Matt Barrows

March 17, 2013
What the heck is Trent Baalke doing?!?! Exactly what he did two years ago, that's what

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-- Bye Nnamdi! Sorry you couldn't play for food stamps! Our origination is so cheap it's unbelievable!!

-- He's not signing here,49ers too cheap..Craig Dahl terrible sign if a starter, white guys don't do well as DB's this isn't 1950

-- I am assuming both Baalke & Pope Harbaugh are aware that free agency period started already! Craig Dahl???

Jeeze-Louise, Trent Baalke sure has been taking it on the chin the last few days, as the preceding comments -- just a smattering from that destroyer of the English language, Twitter -- indicate. In fact, the last time this many 49ers fans thought their general manager was an idiot was 2011. You remember, right?

It was quite similar to the current free-agency period. A few days in, the 49ers had lost several of their own players, including center David Baas. While other teams were reeling in prized free agents left and right, showing them off at press conferences and getting all sorts of kudos on ESPN, the 49ers' only signing was a kicker, David Akers.

Most infuriating to fans, the 49ers had shown some interest in the biggest, most seductive catch of all, can't-miss cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha, but backed off the hunt. The Eagles ended up signing him to a massive, five-year deal.

"What are the 49ers doing?!" the fans railed while pulling out their hair, shaking their fists at the heavens, threatening to jump from bridges. "Every other team is getting better! Our team is getting worse!" (Except it was punctuated poorly and every other word was misspelled).



MATTHEW BARROWS

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

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