49ers Blog and Q&A

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

May 21, 2014
Aldon Smith pleads no contest to charges; sentencing in July


Aldon Smith on Wednesday pleaded no contest to three felony weapons charges as well as misdemeanor DUI charges in Santa Clara County Superior Court. The 49ers' linebacker must appear again on July 25 when he will be sentenced. The 49ers are expected to report for training camp earlier that week.

The case against Smith, 24, had two parts: DUI charges involving an incident in which he drove his pickup truck through and came to rest in the front yard of a San Jose residence, and weapons charges relating to three semi-automatic rifles found in his bedroom following an out-of-control party in 2012. Smith allegedly purchased some of the guns legally during a 49ers road trip to Arizona but did not register or modify them upon his return to California.

Smith faces anything from probation to four years, four months in prison, which is the maximum sentence for the weapons charges.

"We are aware that Aldon entered a plea today in a case that we have closely monitored," the 49ers' general manager, Trent Baalke, said in a statement. "Today was an important step towards bringing that situation to a resolution. Any further questions concerning today's hearing should be directed to his attorney."

May 21, 2014
49ers' Aldon Smith due in court today


A hearing for Aldon Smith is scheduled for 1:30 p.m. today in San Jose, and a plea bargain is a possibility. The case includes two separate events: September DUI charges in which the 49ers linebacker drove his truck through and came to rest in the front yard of a San Jose residence, as well as weapons charges relating to three semi-automatic rifles found in his bedroom following an out-of-control party in 2012. Smith allegedly purchased some of the guns legally during a 49ers road trip to Arizona but did not register or modify them upon his return to California.

The ongoing case does not include April's incident at Los Angeles International Airport in which Smith allegedly said he had a bomb as he went through security. Witnesses said Smith was acting strangely at the Southwest Airlines ticket counter prior to security, and police suspected he had been drinking. The L.A. City Attorney's office is considering the case and has not filed charges at this time. Smith told CSN Bay Area recently that he looked forward to the truth being revealed through the legal process. "A lot of these things are being painted in a picture that's not true," he told the web site.

Smith, who has 42 sacks in 43 games played with the 49ers, could be suspended by the NFL. That suspension, however, likely would not be decided upon until after the LAX case is resolved. The 49ers, meanwhile, recently vowed to stick with Smith, the No. 7 overall pick in the 2011 draft, then followed that up by picking up an option in his contract that will pay Smith $9.75 million next season if he is on the roster in March.

Smith, 24, sat out five games last season while attending an alcohol-rehabilitation facility recommended by the NFL players' association. The 49ers won all five contests, albeit mostly against teams with losing records, with Dan Skuta and Corey Lemonier filling in at right outside linebacker. Both players are back this year. The 49ers also added a draft pick, Aaron Lynch, at the position.

-- Matt Barrows

May 20, 2014
Happy returns? Ellington, other rookies working on special teams skills


Wide receiver Bruce Ellington has been handling both kick and punt returns during the 49ers' recent "football school" and he expects to do both at the team's rookie minicamp that begins Friday. "It's something I'm working on, and hopefully I can get in this year and make some plays," said Ellington, a fourth-round pick from South Carolina.

At this point last year, Kyle Williams was the team's most experienced return man with LaMichael James serving as his understudy. Williams was released during the 2013 season while James, unhappy with his workload at running back, has stayed away from the 49ers' voluntary practices so far and is open to a trade.

Both general manager Trent Baalke and coach Jim Harbaugh have lauded James' return skills in recent weeks and have spoken as if he will be part of the team in 2014. Still, they must come up with alternatives this offseason even if James remains.

Ellington appears to be a top candidate even though mostly handled kickoffs at South Carolina. He returned three punts total, all of them in 2013. Ellington said former SMU cornerback Kenneth Acker, a fifth-round pick, also has been returning punts in recent weeks and that second-round pick Carlos Hyde, a running back from Ohio State, has been among those handling kickoffs. Acker handled 14 punt returns at SMU; Hyde had two kickoff returns at Ohio State in 2011.

Aside from James, receiver Devon Wylie (Granite Bay High) and cornerback Perrish Cox have experience returning punts in the NFL. Neither is eligible to attend the weekend rookie minicamp.

-- Matt Barrows

May 19, 2014
Jerry Rice Jr. to take part in 49ers minicamp; Marcus Lattimore can take part, too

A year after Joe Montana's son tossed passes in a 49ers rookie minicamp, Jerry Rice's boy will get a chance to catch them. Jerry Rice Jr., who played at UNLV and who took part in the team's local pro day last month, will be one of the receivers in San Francisco's rookie minicamp, which runs Friday through Sunday.

Although he's not technically a rookie, running back Marcus Lattimore also is eligible to take part in the rookie minicamp because he did not earn any pension credit last year, which was spent on the non-football injury list. Offensive tackle Luke Marquardt, who was dealing with a foot injury a year ago, also can take part in the weekend session. Offensive tackle Carter Bykowski, receiver Chuck Jacobs and defensive lineman Mike Purcell also are eligible to participate.

Rice Jr., who walked on at UCLA before transferring to UNLV, was not drafted earlier this month. But he got a chance to take part in the Ravens' rookie minicamp last week and impressed the head coach. "He doesn't have his dad's size, but he sure got his athleticism," John Harbaugh told reporters. "He runs in a real similar way. He's got that West Coast offense down. He's probably had that playbook since he was in the cradle ... Very good hands, real smooth athlete. He did a real nice job."

Fourth-round draft pick Bruce Ellington also will take part in the minicamp at receiver. In addition to Rice Jr., the team is likely to sign more players for the weekend on a tryout basis.

-- Matt Barrows

May 19, 2014
Q&A: Who might the 49ers dangle as offseason trade bait?

Answ: To me, these questions are related. The 49ers have two starting-caliber nose tackles in Glenn Dorsey and Ian Williams but only use a nose tackle on about 40 percent of their defensive plays. Furthermore, Quinton Dial has played the position in the past and may get some repetitions there this offseason. If Trent Baalke wants more draft picks for next season - and Baalke always wants more picks - it would seem like this position could fetch a nice price and that Williams would be the likeliest to be dangled. In fact, the entire defensive line is deep, especially on a team that uses only two at a time on obvious passing downs.

Answ: Do you mean, "Are the 49ers at risk of losing Hunter to free agency in March?" That's possible. But as is the case in all questions about the future of the running back spot, the 49ers still don't know exactly what they have in Marcus Lattimore. If Lattimore looks like the second coming of Roger Craig this year, it may make the team less apt to strike a long-term deal with Hunter. Still, I think the running back pecking order, at least for the first half of the season, will begin with Frank Gore and Hunter.

May 16, 2014
Stevie Johnson hasn't forgotten drop vs. Steelers, says it changed approach to the game

Receiver Stevie Johnson, who is as well-known for end-zone t-shirt displays as he is 1,000-yard seasons, says he's at a point in his career where "it's about handling business first." The new 49ers receiver said this new business-like outlook began late in the 2010 season when, as a member of the Bills, he dropped five passes against the Steelers, including the game-winning touchdown in overtime. The Bills lost 19-16.

"I'll never get over it. Ever," Johnson said after that game.

He was still thinking about it on Thursday.

"When I missed the pass against the Pittsburgh Steelers. I was pretty focused on the just showing up and having 100 yards, having a couple of touchdowns and having fun," Johnson, 27, said at 49ers headquarters. "After all that happened, I had to sit back and realized, 'You have to handle business before you have fun.'"

Prior to the Steelers game in 2010, Johnson was fined $5,000 when, following a touchdown catch against the Bengals, he lifted his jersey to reveal that he'd written "Why so serious?" on the t-shirt beneath it. He also was penalized - and benched - after revealing, "Happy New Year" on his t-shirt following a touchdown against the Patriots.

That celebration occurred more than a year after the drop against the Steelers.

- Matt Barrows

May 15, 2014
49ers sign RB Hyde, CB Johnson; five rookie deals done

The 49ers now have five of their 12 draft picks under contract after finishing deals for second-round pick Carlos Hyde, a running back, and fourth-round selection Dontae Johnson, a cornerback. The 235-pound Hyde trained with Frank Gore in Florida following the combine and the team is eyeing him as a possible workhorse running back and replacement for Gore should the veteran leave when his contract expires at the end of the season.

Johnson, meanwhile, has the size - 6-2, 200 pounds - the 49ers have been seeking at cornerback. He also is familiar to Jim Harbaugh, who recruited him at Stanford. Johnson, who is from New Jersey, chose N.C. State because it was closer to home.

"Yeah, that one left a bruise," Harbaugh said on Saturday. "But we got him now and he was really excited. Another great moment talking to him and he remembered us at Stanford, recruiting him and visiting. The time we visited together. Also [offensive coordinator] Greg Roman went out to the school and visited. So that was quite a thrill to get to talk to him, make him a part of our team."

The 49ers have deals with Hyde, Johnson, fellow cornerback Keith Reaser, outside linebacker Aaron Lynch and defensive end Kaleb Ramsey.

-- Matt Barrows

May 15, 2014
Shayne Skov eager for what may be 49ers' best offseason position battle


Shayne Skov battled a knee injury midway through his college career, a calf injury just before the scouting combine and a hamstring injury prior to his pro day at Stanford. The string of bad breaks - which translated into a sluggish 5.1-second 40-yard dash prior to the draft - helps explain why Skov, who was once viewed as one of the top inside linebackers in the nation, went undrafted last week.

Skov admitted to being surprised by the snub, which has created a sizable chip on his shoulder as he prepares for what promises to be perhaps the 49ers' best offseason position battle.

"When public opinion and people's perceptions are different than your own then obviously you're going to take that a little bit personally," Skov said on Thursday. "But at the end of the day I'm a football player. From here on out, my play and my abilities are going to dictate whether I see the field or not and what my future is as a player."

Skov played for defensive coordinator Vic Fangio for a season at Stanford and is more familiar with the 49ers' defense than any of the team's rookies. The 49ers also will have an opening at inside linebacker while NaVorro Boman recovers from his January ACL tear.

May 14, 2014
49ers sign quarterback Josh Johnson


The 49ers' quarterback carousel continues to turn.

Josh Johnson, who was cut by the Bengals earlier this week, is now with the 49ers, who have five quarterbacks on the roster. The team released defensive tackle Christian Tupou to make room for Johnson.

Johnson, 27, played for Jim Harbaugh at the University of San Diego, and he spent the 2012 offseason with the 49ers. He lost the battle for third quarterback to Scott Tolzien, who was released a year later. Johnson had a good preseason that year and outplayed Tolzien in the finale. He was picked up by the Bengals on December 26, 2012. He spent the 2013 season there but never threw a pass in Cincinnati, entering games only in a mop-up capacity.

After starter Colin Kaepernick the 49ers have Blaine Gabbert, McLeod Bethel-Thompson, undrafted rookie Kory Faulkner and now Johnson.

-- Matt Barrows

May 14, 2014
Battle stations! Ranking the 49ers' offseason competitions


The 49ers' 90-man roster likely will be tweaked here and there throughout the offseason. But the major players are set, and with them the biggest position battles of the offseason. This is how I rank them:

Inside linebacker - This gets top billing because the winner is guaranteed not to be an incumbent starter. NaVorro Bowman is doing quite well in his recovery from ACL surgery, but the 49ers are very unlikely to rush his return. The smart money is on Bowman coming back in Week 9, which is one week after the team's bye. This will be a three-way race among Michael Wilhote, Nick Moody and third-round pick Chris Borland to replace Bowman in the meantime. You also wonder if two people could win it -- one player coming in on first and second downs and the other entering in nickel packages. Moody is the most athletic member of the trio and played safety at Florida State. On paper, at least, he would seem to be the best bet for playing the nickel role. Undrafted Shayne Skov is the wild card. He obviously knows the defense and the hope is that the further he moves from his 2011 ACL injury the closer he gets to his 2010 form.

Center - When the 49ers extended Daniel Kilgore's contract this offseason, it looked for all the world that he would take over Jonathan Goodwin's starting role this year. He's still the frontrunner, for sure. After all, Kilgore is going into the fourth year in this offense, has played center extensively in the preseason and has taken a few snaps in regular-season games as well. But third-round pick Marcus Martin was taken two rounds ahead of Kilgore's spot in 2011, and he is a bigger man at 6-3, 320 pounds and with 34-inch arms. The question about Martin's future is two-fold: How quickly can he learn the 49ers' offense and will the 49ers prefer to play him at guard?

Nickel cornerback - Trent Baalke doesn't want another A.J. Jenkins situation - in which the 30th overall pick in the draft sits on the bench for virtually all of his rookie season. So he's got a reason to root for Jimmie Ward for this spot. Ward appears well-suited for the role. He's smart, aggressive, instinctive, quick and a very willing tackler. But Baalke also has a stake in cornerback Eric Wright having stuck his neck out for Wright after his second DUI arrest in two years last summer. (Wright ultimately was charged with reckless driving in the latest case; he pled no contest and was sentenced to 36 months' probation with a $510 fine, 100 hours of community service and six months of drug treatment with testing). Meanwhile, Vic Fangio and the coaching staff have favored Perrish Cox for the position in the past. In the end, look for a repeat of how Fangio handled Eric Reid last year. Fangio - who is hesitant to start rookies - didn't start Reid at first in the preseason but couldn't ignore his superior talent. Reid ended up starting all 19 games when the season began. That is, if Ward isn't the team's nickel corner from the outset, it will be an upset.

May 13, 2014
Numbers game: New 49ers pick their jerseys


Wideout Brandon Lloyd, who wore No. 85 in his first stint with the team, has dropped down a digit and will wear No. 84 this year. That jersey was worn last year by fellow receiver Jon Baldwin, who will wear No. 82, which he wore at Pitt. Other new numbers, in order, according to the 49ers:

  • QB Blaine Gabbert - No. 2 (He was No. 11 at Missouri and with the Jaguars)

  • WR Bruce Ellington - No. 3 (This is temporary; WR numbers must be in the teens or 80s)

  • WR David Reed - No. 10

  • WR Stevie Johnson - No. 13 (Johnson had this number in Buffalo)

  • QB Kory Faulkner - No. 18 (He wore No. 19 at Southern Illinois; WR Devon Wylie has 19 for SF)

  • CB Chris Cook - No. 22 (He was No. 20 with Vikings)

  • S Antoine Bethea -- No. 24. (He was No. 41 in Indy; Bubba Ventrone has 41)

  • DB Jimmie Ward - No. 25 (He was No. 15 at No. Illinois. DBs must be in 20s, 30s, 40s)

  • RB Carlos Hyde - No. 28 (He was No. 34 at Ohio State, which was worn by the great Joe Perry and is retired)

  • CB Keith Reaser - No. 31

  • CB Dontae Johnson - No. 36

  • CB Kenneth Acker - No. 38
May 13, 2014
Report: USF assistant suspended after questioning 49ers' selection of Aaron Lynch


The University of South Florida's strength and conditioning coach reportedly has been suspended for a tweet he made about the 49ers' fifth-round selection of former Bulls' defender Aaron Lynch.

Read the tweet from Hans Straub, which has since been removed: "Thought an organization with 5 Super Bowl titles would have a stricter draft criteria. Clearly, integrity & character are not a priority."

Josh Newberg of 247Sports, citing unnamed sources, first reported the suspension. NFL teams typically turn to college strength coaches for background on a prospect, especially that prospect's work ethic and demeanor.

The 49ers acknowledged that Lynch, who left Notre Dame for USF after an impressive 2011 season and then had only a middling 2013 year with the Bulls, had red flags. But Lynch had the backing of USF head coach Willie Taggart, a former assistant at Stanford under Jim Harbaugh and one of Harbaugh's close friends. Taggart spoke up for Lynch prior to the draft.

"He believes that this is a good young man," Harbaugh said of his conversation with Taggart. "(Lynch) needs direction. He needs good structure around him where he's got guys, men that he would look up to. That he would have a chance to emulate. Feels that he'll thrive in that kind of environment."

Said Taggart when asked about Straub's tweet today: "Very disappointed in the tweet that you're talking about. Hans knows how disappointed I am. ... Our football team knows how disappointed I am." The quote was provided by the school's athletic communications department.

Linebackers coach Jim Leavitt, who once coached at USF, also was familiar with Lynch, a 6-6, 255 defensive end who will compete at outside linebacker for the 49ers. Lynch visited Santa Clara last month and met extensively with Leavitt and general manager Trent Baalke.

"I think you need to dig into him a little bit more," Baalke said. "This isn't a young man that has a rap sheet that you're dealing with. He's not a young man that's been in a lot of trouble. He's made some mistakes. He's got to do some things differently. He understands that and we as an organization understand that.

May 12, 2014
49ers sign six undrafted rookies; release LB Darius Fleming


The 49ers today signed six rookies who went undrafted over the weekend, including Stanford linebacker Shayne Skov and Southern Illinois quarterback Kory Faulker. A seventh, Asante Cleveland, a tight end from Sacramento who played at the University of Miami, is expected to sign shortly.

To make room on the 90-man roster, the team released three players, including linebacker Darius Fleming, a fifth-round pick in the 2012 draft. Fleming tore an ACL in each of the last two seasons and never played a snap for the 49ers. His release means that just two members of that year's draft class -- second-round pick LaMichael James and fourth-round pick Joe Looney -- remain with the squad.

The other two players who were let go are cornerback Dax Swanson and receiver DeMarco Sampson.The 49ers also signed:

* OLB Morgan Breslin, USC, 6-1, 240. He had a team-high 13 sacks last year but suffered a hip injury that limited him to just four sacks his senior year in 2013.

* C Dillon Farrell, New Mexico, 6-4, 303. He was an All-Mountain West honorable mention and has experience at both guard and center.

* OT Fou Fonoti, Michigan State, 6-4, 308. He played in 28 career games with the Spartans, and he started all 12 contests as a senior.

* S L.J. McCray, Catawba, 6-0, 215. Athletic safety who has the potential to stand out on special teams.

Skov is perhaps the most well-known free-agent pickup. He played for Jim Harbaugh and defensive coordinator Vic Fangio at Stanford, leading the team in tackles in 2010, Harbaugh's and Fangio's last year there. Skov tore his ACL the following season, however, then was injured for the scouting combine and Stanford's pro day.

May 12, 2014
Tale of the tape: 49ers have long-armed draft class ... with one exception


Trent Baalke, an admitted admirer of long-armed players, lamented in February that few draft prospects this year had the length he's looking for. "All of the guys last year on the D-line were 34 (inches) or more," Baalke said of 2013 prospects like Tank Carradine and Quinton Dial. "I think it's an important trait. It's a trait that's hard to find. If you look at this this year's measurements, you're not going to find many players in this year's draft that are 34-plus arm length regardless of position -- O-line, D-line, linebacker. So it is a trait we certainly look at."

Still, Baalke managed to land three prospects in the 34-inch club on Friday and Saturday. Keeping in mind that the average arm length -- from shoulder to the end of the middle finger -- in this draft was little under 31 inches, here are the official measures, most of them from the scouting combine:

1. S Jimmie Ward - 31"
2. RB Carlos Hyde - 32"
3A. OL Marcus Martin - 34"
3B. ILB Chris Borland - 29 1/4"
3C. OL Brandon Thomas - 34 3/4"
4A. WR Bruce Ellington - 31"
4B. CB Dontae Johnson - 31 1/2"
5A. OLB Aaron Lynch - 34"
5B.CB Keith Reaser - 30 ¾"
6. CB Kenneth Acker - 31"
7A. DL Kaleb Ramsey - 32 7/8"
7B. Trey Millard - 31"
* WR Stevie Johnson - 32 3/4"

Obviously, Borland's stubby arms stand out, and they were a knock against him in the run-up to the draft. When he met with reporters Friday night, Baalke arrived armed - sorry, couldn't resist -- for questions about Borland's levers. "How can you not love him as a football player?" Baalke said. "Not tall enough, not fast enough, arms are too short - you hear all of that. We just love the makeup. We love the player. He's everything you're looking for from a DNA standpoint."

* trade

-- Matt Barrows

May 11, 2014
49ers draft thoughts: Dr. Jekyll & Aaron Lynch ...

When it was reported last month that Aaron Lynch visited the 49ers, I put on one of Lynch's games last year at South Florida. I wasn't impressed. Yes, he got off the line of scrimmage quickly from his defensive line spot. But all he had was an outside move, and even that wasn't all that great. He was stonewalled whenever he tried to loop inside. He spent a lot of time on the ground. His stat line from that game against Michigan State: two tackles, no sacks. Meh. I didn't need to see more. This guy stinks.

But if you watch Lynch two years earlier against the same team, Michigan State, he looks like a morph between Aldon Smith and Jason Taylor. But angrier and more disruptive. Mike Mayock, who was doing the play-by-play in that game, couldn't stop gushing about Lynch, a true freshman for Notre Dame at the time, and deservedly so. Lynch played on the inside of the line and routinely brought pressure up the middle of the Spartans' pocket. In the second half, the Spartans double teamed him and chipped him with a running back, and still he came. He was unstoppable.

In short, he was a different person. At South Florida, he looked skinny and fatigued. He was bigger, nastier, more ferocious at Notre Dame. He did a lot of the inside stunting that Smith has done so well for the 49ers. The 49ers did a lot of research on Lynch, and they must believe he can return to his Notre Dame form. If he does -- and I realize this sounds a lot like draft-time hyperbole, so be it -- the 49ers hit a home run in the bottom of the fifth.

If the 49ers had traded up for a wide receiver in the first round - something GM Trent Baalke acknowledged contemplating - I was prepared to write the sentence: The 49ers' move ahead for _________ may signal that they don't intend to sign Michael Crabtree to a long-term extension. Crabtree, of course, is entering the final year of his rookie deal. The 49ers didn't trade up. In fact, they didn't draft a wideout until the fourth round (Bruce Ellington). But they traded for veteran Stevie Johnson, who is signed through the next three seasons at salaries that are lower - perhaps significantly lower - than what Crabtree will want. The bottom line: The 49ers' trade for Johnson may signal that they don't intend to sign Michael Crabtree to a long-term extension.

Another player whose long-term extension seems more unlikely today than it did a week ago? Mike Iupati's. The 49ers drafted two interior linemen, Marcus Martin and Brandon Thomas (Thomas played tackle but is projected to guard) who were among the best at their positions. Thomas likely won't play this year after suffering a torn ACL last month. But he will be ready next season when Iupati is set to hit the free-agent market. With Daniel Kilgore, Joe Looney and perhaps even Jonathan Martin contending for spots on the interior offensive line, the 49ers should find at least one candidate to play left guard should Iupati depart.

May 10, 2014
Undrafted free agents: 49ers land Skov, Southern Illinois QB


The 49ers had one of the most loaded rosters in the NFL before the draft. Then they added 12 drafts picks during it. That means they don't have a lot of room for undrafted free agents, though they are starting to fill up those slots.

* QB Kory Faulkner, Southern Illinois, 6-3, 229
Faulkner is a big, strong-armed quarterback who threw 18 touchdowns against four interceptions last year. He missed three games with a broken finger but still finished with 1,997 yards and averaged nearly 222 passing yards a game. Faulkner also can run. He rushed 60 times for 283 yards and scored two rushing touchdowns last year. Jim Harbaugh met with Faulkner during his trip to Miami, Ohio for the recent unveiling of his brother's statue on campus. He said Faulker has experience in a read-option offense and also has operated under center. He'll compete against Blaine Gabbert and McLeod Bethel-Thompson for a backup job this offseason.

* OLB Morgan Breslin, USC, 6-1, 240
The junior college transfer had a team-high 13 sacks last year but suffered a hip injury that limited him to just four sacks his senior year in 2013. He had a good showing at the Trojans' pro day in March, leaping 35 1/2 inches in the vertical jump and pumping out 26 repetitions of 225 pounds in the bench press.

* TE Asante Cleveland, Miami, 6-5, 261
Sacramento product (Christian Brothers) has great size but was underutilized by the Hurricanes. He only caught three passes as a senior last year.

* C Dillon Farrell, New Mexico, 6-4, 303
All-Mountain West honorable mention has good size and experience at both guard and center.

* OT Fou Fonoti, Michigan State, 6-4, 308
Fonoti has played in 28 career games with the Spartans, and he started all 12 contests as a senior. He started the last nine games at right tackle.

* S L.J. McCray, Catawba, 6-0, 215.
McCray is a very athletic safety who stood out with an impressive 41-inch vertical leap at his pro day. His best fit immediately might be on special teams coverage units. The 49ers' top players there -- C.J. Spillman, Bubba Ventrone, Dan Skuta and Kassim Osgood -- are entering the final year of their contracts. McCray also has returned kicks.

* ILB Shayne Skov, Stanford, 6-2, 245
Skov, of course, is familiar to Harbaugh and defensive coordinator Vic Fangio who coached him at Stanford. Skov had a fantastic season in 2010 but suffered an ACL injury the following year. He rebounded this past season and was a finalist for the Butkus Award. He recorded a team-high 109 tackles (62 solo), 13 tackles for loss and 5 1/2 sacks.

-- Matt Barrows

May 10, 2014
Seventh round: 49ers end draft with defensive lineman, versatile fullback


No. 243. Kaleb Ramsey, DE, Boston College. The 49ers waited until their penultimate pick to take a defensive lineman. Ramsey has classic size for a 3-4 defensive end at 6-3, 293 pounds. Impressively, he had 36 repetitions of 225 pounds on the bench press before the draft. Ramsey spent six seasons at Boston College after being injured in 2011 and 2012. Last year he finished with 28 tackles, four for loss and had two sacks.

No. 245. Trey Millard, FB, Oklahoma. The 49ers rounded out the draft -- perhaps appropriately -- with another player who suffered an ACL injury. Millard (6-2, 247) tore his ACL and another ligament in his left knee in October following a 38-30 win over No. 10 Texas Tech. The versatile Millard was a team captain last year. He has good size and soft hands having caught 30 passes for the Sooners in 2012. Draft picks Brandon Thomas, a guard, and Keith Reaser, a cornerback, also are coming off ACL tears.

The 49ers' starting fullback, of course, is Bruce Miller, a seventh-round pick in 2011 whom the team recently awarded with a three-year contract extension. It's possible that the 49ers are looking at Millard as an H-back.

-- Matt Barrows

May 10, 2014
Fourth round: 49ers take WR Ellington, DB Johnson


No. 106: Bruce Ellington, WR, South Carolina. The 49ers finally tapped a wide receiver, landing one of several prospects in this draft class with a basketball background. Ellington was a point guard for the Gamecocks and projects to slot receiver in the NFL. He leaped 39.5 inches at the combine and ran his 40-yard dash in 4.45 seconds. At 5-9, 197 pounds, Ellington is undersized, but he showed good toughness and was an excellent blocker with the Gamecocks.

Ellington also has punt- and kick-return experience, meaning that if LaMichael James remains on the squad this season he will have competition. Ellington was not prolific due in part to a Gamecocks offense that spread the ball around. He started 11 of 13 games last year with 49 catches, 775 yards and eight touchdowns. During a conference call, Ellington noted that he played quarterback, defensive back and running back in high school and that he split his college career with basketball. "I feel like I have a lot of growth (at receiver)," he said. "Because I only played it for three years."

No. 129: Dontae Johnson, CB, N.C. State. With their second, fourth-round pick, the 49ers took defensive back Dontae Johnson, who has the size Trent Baalke has been looking for at cornerback -- 6-2, 200. Johnson played both safety and cornerback at N.C. State, but confirmed on a conference call that the 49ers are looking at him as a press-style cornerback. Like first-round pick Jimmie Ward, Johnson lined up at a number of spots in college, including at slot cornerback (see: video below). Johnson scored well at the combine, running the 40-yard dash in 4.45 seconds and leaping 38.5 inches in the vertical jump. He started all 12 games last season with five starts at cornerback and seven at free safety.Johnson may be tall but has shortish arms for his height -- 31 1/2 inches. Hands are 8 5/8 inches.

Johnson also is brainy. He was a double major at N.C. State -- sports management and business administration -- and he also was recruited by Jim Harbaugh to play at Stanford. "Honestly, it was too far," said Johnson, who is from New Jersey. "I wanted to stay closer to home." Johnson had a formal meeting with Harbaugh and the 49ers at the scouting combine at which point the 49ers coach -- as is his custom -- asked Johnson why he turned him down five years ago.

Johnson will join a cornerback group that includes Tramaine Brock, Chris Culliver, Eric Wright, Perrish Cox, Chris Cook and Darryl Morris. Ward will compete to be the nickel/slot cornerback.

-- Matt Barrows

May 9, 2014
49ers reinforce might-is-right approach on second day of draft


While the rest of the NFL has been moving toward a more finesse, more pass-oriented style of play, the 49ers haven't budged from their old-school, might-is-right approach to the game. The team reinforced that strategy on the second day of the draft Friday as they selected two interior offensive linemen, a throw-back style inside linebacker and a 235-pound running back from Ohio State, Carlos Hyde.

"Big wins," general manager Trent Baalke said minutes after the third round was complete. "Big wins a lot of football games in the league. And big in the middle wins a lot of football games."

The 49ers began the second day of the draft with Hyde, a powerful, squat runner who gained 3,198 yards and scored 37 touchdowns in 20 starts for the Buckeyes.

The selection of a big-bodied ball carrier was a look ahead to next year when the 49ers may be without Frank Gore, who is entering the final year of his contract and who turns 31 next week. Hyde said he looked up to Gore, felt he had a similar style to Gore - "violent," he said of that style - but that he planned to push Gore for a starting spot.

"What I bring is I play with a lot of passion," he said. "I feel like guys can feed off of that. They see how hard I run the ball and how much determination I run with."

Hyde had a particularly ferocious battle in college against the 49ers' second, third-round draft pick, Wisconsin's Chris Borland, a small but gritty linebacker who was one of the top tacklers in the nation in recent years.

May 9, 2014
Third-round bounty: 49ers tap center, linebacker, guard


The 49ers now have four picks in the third round after a bevy of trades in the second. I'll post them here as they come in.

No. 70: Marcus Martin, C/G, USC. The 6-3, 310-pound Martin played center last year for USC, which puts him in competition with Daniel Kilgore, a fifth-round pick in 2011, for the starting role. Martin, 20, also played guard. And either he or Kilgore -- depending on who is playing center -- conceivably could step in for Mike Iupati at left guard should Iupati depart via free agency in March. Martin is an underclassman. He was the first true freshman to start on the Trojans' offensive line since 2004. Martin said he was "100 percent healthy" after dealing with recent knee and ankle injuries. Martin has 34-inch arms, which is excellent for an interior lineman and something that general manager Trent Baalke has said he covets in draft prospects.

No. 77: Chris Borland, ILB, Wisconsin. Borland (5-11, 245) was an ultra-productive tackler at Wisconsin -- 112 stops last year -- who has forced 15 fumbles over his career there. In terms of production, Borland was perhaps the top inside linebacker in the draft. But his size and -- gasp! -- stubby, 28 5/8-inch arms may have caused him to slip. NaVorro Bowman is expected to miss perhaps the first half of the season while he recovers from January's ACL tear, and Borland will compete with Michael Wilhoite and Nick Moody for that role. Borland said he hasn't had a lot of coverage duties at Wisconsin, something the 49ers require from their inside linebackers, but it's not because he can't do it. "I think that was because of my skills as a pass rusher, not because of any deficiencies," he said.

No. 100: Brandon Thomas, G/T, Clemson. The 49ers have a habit of picking talented but injured players, and they continued it this year with Thomas. The Clemson lineman suffered a torn ACL while working out for the Saints in the run-up to the draft. The 6-4, 315-pound Thomas is unlikely to play this season, and if that happens his rookie-year contract would toll to 2015 and he would be signed through 2018. Thomas becomes yet another candidate to play left guard should Iupati move on next year. Like Martin, Thomas has exceptionally long arms -- 34 3/4 inches -- for an interior lineman. He's also played tackle while at Clemson.

The 49ers traded the 94th overall pick to the Browns for a fourth- and the sixth-round pick this year. They now have seven picks in rounds four through seven.

-- Matt Barrows

May 9, 2014
Hyde & seek: 49ers take big RB in second round


With Frank Gore entering the final year of his contract and questions lingering about Marcus Lattimore, the 49ers selected a big-bodied running back at pick No. 57, Carlos Hyde from Ohio State. Hyde is 6-0, 235 pounds and rushed for 1,527 yards after being suspended for the first three games of the season. The suspension was stemming from an alleged assault in 2013.

The 49ers have been a run-first team for the last decade, but they suddenly have question marks at tailback. Gore, their workhorse since 2006, turns 31 next week and is not signed beyond this season. In addition, Kendall Hunter is entering the final year of his contract and LaMichael James is unhappy with his playing time and wants a trade. Lattimore, meanwhile, was a fourth-round pick last year after suffering a grisly knee injury at South Carolina in 2012. He is continuing to come back from that injury.

Hyde said he has watched and admired Gore, feels like he runs similarly to Gore, and is gunning for Gore's starting job. "I'm going to definitely get in there and compete for that starting job and keep that running game alive that Frank Gore brought to it," Hyde said in a conference call.

Hyde said he described his running style as "violent." "What I bring is I play with a lot of passion," he said. "I feel like guys can feed off of that. They see how hard I run the ball and how much determination I run with." Hyde is among the biggest tailbacks in the draft, and he scored 18 touchdowns last season, 15 of them on the ground.

As to his suspension, Hyde said the 49ers asked him about it during an interview at the combine. "That's the first incident I've ever been in in college and I haven't been in any trouble after that," he said.

The 49ers have had nine arrests involving players in the last two years.

-- Matt Barrows

May 9, 2014
Jimmie Ward makes his mother cry


New 49ers safety/slot cornerback Jimmie Ward made his debut in front of the local media today, and the personable 22-year-old came away with an A grade.

Ward, who is from Mobile, Ala., said that Round 1 of the draft also fell on his mom's birthday. Early in the day, he drove three hours west to New Orleans. He needed to find a mall that had an unusually extravagant gift he wanted to buy his mother, a Louis Vuitton purse. He drove back during the first half of the first round, then was home when Jim Harbaugh called to tell him he was the 49ers' selection at pick No. 30.

"She was proud, she was happy, then it was crazy when I got drafted," said Ward of his mother, whom he credited with steering him from trouble in the "tough neighborhood" he grew up in in Mobile. Needless to say, she also appreciated her birthday gift, which she opened in front of the whole family.

"I never, ever - I couldn't afford anything like that," Ward said. "First time for me ever buying anything for my mother over $100. So it felt great."

Ward admitted to being a class clown, and he recalled one of his grade school teachers once telling him that he would make his mother cry one day. "And she was right," he said. "But it was tears of joy."

FYI, guys, Mother's Day is Sunday.

-- Matt Barrows

May 9, 2014
49ers trade 2015 pick for WR Stevie Johnson


The 49ers, who were expected to go after a wide receiver in Friday's draft, landed one hours before the second round even began. The team acquired veteran Stevie Johnson, who was born in San Francisco and went to high school in Fairfield, from the Bills for a conditional draft pick next year. As it stands now, that pick is a fourth-round selection, but it can improve to a third rounder if certain, undisclosed parameters are met.

Johnson, 27, had been a productive - if not controversial - receiver in Buffalo, but he became expendable when the Bills drafted Sammy Watkins in the first round Thursday. Johnson had 52 catches for 597 yards and three touchdowns in 12 games last season and more than 1,000 receiving yards in each of the three previous seasons.

"Today's decision was not an easy one to make, especially involving a player like Stevie," Bills general manager Doug Whaley said in a statement. "We wish him best of luck with the 49ers and his NFL career."

He also caused the Bills a few headaches.

May 8, 2014
Trade up? 49ers' draft-day scenarios


Here are three first-day-of-draft scenarios for the 49ers in order of likelihood:

1. Trade up. 52% chance. This is the most likely outcomes for the following reasons: A.) Trent Baalke has done it in the past and it's part of their roster-building strategy - accumulate a lot of picks and then package those picks to target specific players. B.) The team has the means to do it, six selections in the Top 100 slots. C.) It's considered a deep draft, so teams in rebuilding mode might be more apt to exchange a high pick for multiple lower-round picks. How high is Baalke willing to go? My guess he wouldn't part ways with a first- or second-round pick for next year because that would run counter to the team's overall strategy. Therefore, moving into the Top 10 seems unlikely.
Targets: WR Odell Beckham, Jr., CB Justin Gilbert, CB Kyle Fuller

2. Stay put. 26% chance. Sometimes it's hard to find a dance partner. And if pre-draft chatter is even remotely accurate, the 49ers' top target, Beckham, is being eyed by a number of teams. The 49ers had the 30th pick in 2012 and stayed at that spot. If that happens again this year, look for them to take the highest rated receiver or cornerback on their board. Nebraska cornerback Stanley Jean-Baptiste's names has been bandied about as a possibility, but if the team liked Baptiste, they were very discreet about it. Another position would be surprise. But pass rusher always is a possibility.

Targets: WR Cody Latimer, WR Davante Adams, CB Jason Verrett, WR Kelvin Benjamin, WR Jordan Matthews, WR Allen Robinson, OLB Dee Ford, OLB Demarcus Lawrence

May 7, 2014
Tick tock, it's time to mock ....

1. DE Jadeveon Clowney, South Carolina.
Concerns about Clowney's work ethic are overblown. Just limit his snaps and make sure he has central a/c at all times. A mist machine and a cool glass of ice tea might be nice, too.
2. OT Greg Robinson, Auburn. The Rams must ask themselves: Protect quarterback Sam Bradford or replace him? They go with the easier move.
3. WR Sammy Watkins, Clemson.
Prolific wideout heads to Jacksonville, which along with Tennessee and Tampa forms the Bermuda Triangle of the NFL. So long, Sammy.
4. LB Khalil Mack, Buffalo.
Browns feel that Brian Hoyer is a better option than a man nicknamed Johnny Football. That's why they are the Browns.
5. OT Jake Matthews, Texas A&M.
Raiders coach - blanking on his name - takes Matthews to protect quarterback - blanking on his name.

May 7, 2014
Kaepernick: Glad the truth is getting out

Colin Kaepernick and the two other players involved in the case in Miami have been mum about the details because it is an ongoing investigation. But Kaepernick, who took to Twitter last month to strongly defend himself, was back on the social media site today, one day after Miami Police released 911 calls related to the case.

The police initially had said they would release those calls April 21. It's unknown why it took an additional 15 days to do so. Here is The Bee's story from today's paper.

-- Matt Barrows

May 7, 2014
Crossover move: One-time hoopsters to be drafted early


Cody Latimer was an aspiring power forward who didn't play football until he was a junior in high school. Mike Evans spent his prep years grabbing rebounds, not receptions. Davante Adams and Bruce Ellington - they went off to college dreaming of becoming basketball stars, not football players.

It turns out their dedication to the hardwood was time well spent.

All four college wide receivers are expected to be taken on either Day 1 or Day 2 of the draft this week, and their basketball experience is very much seen as a bonus. "Generally speaking, the guys with basketball in their background understand a key element of sport, which is spacing," said 49ers general manager Trent Baalke. "They understand how to keep space, and more important, create space. That's not easily learned. That's a natural instinct people have."

The 49ers' locker room already teems with players who insist that had they gotten a break or two - or grown an extra inch or two - they'd be sinking last-second three pointers in the NBA and exchanging barbs with Spike Lee on the sideline.

Michael Crabtree, for example, was a Top 50 basketball recruit in Texas whom then-Texas Tech coach Bobby Knight was gunning to land. When Nevada coaches first saw Colin Kaepernick, it was during a basketball game at Pitman High. His gritty play that evening convinced them he'd be a good fit at quarterback.

May 6, 2014
911 calls in Miami: Players could not get naked woman to leave hotel


The woman at the center of the police investigation in Miami involving 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick and two other NFL players referred to herself as "Jesus" and wouldn't leave Kaepernick's hotel room, according to two 911 calls released by Miami police this afternoon.

The calls were made after midnight on April 2. One of them is from hotel security at the Viceroy hotel where Kaepernick, friend Ricardo Lockette and teammate Quinton Patton were staying at the time. The other is from an unidentified man believed to be Lockette, a receiver for the Seahawks. Police previously have said their records show Lockette made two 911 calls at the time complaining of a woman who would not leave their hotel suite.

Both callers said that the woman was naked and inside a bedroom. The first caller, who identifies himself as being from hotel security, told the 911 operator, "She said her name was Jesus, and she don't have no clothes on." He said the woman was screaming and crying. All of the names and phone numbers mentioned in the calls are redacted. Together they last a little more than three minutes.

The other caller, believed to be Lockette, also called and in calm voice said that "there's a young lady in my friend's bed" and that she refused to leave until he returns. Asked if the woman is the friend's boyfriend, the caller said, "No, no, no. He's not her boyfriend. He's just someone she wants to sleep with. ... She says she's going to stay there until he gets back."

May 5, 2014
Crystal ball: seven-round stab at 49ers' draft

Ok, ok. The 49ers will not end the draft with the same amount of picks - 11 - with which they begin it. They will move up and down the draft board in a number of rounds, perhaps starting with the first. They'll turn a pick or two into additions selections next year. I understand that. But predicting when those myriad trades will occur is a fool's errand. Instead I'll whet your drafpetite with the types of players the team could select if it hung onto all of its picks.

You'll notice that this is a no-lineman draft. On the defensive line, the team's backups include Tank Carradine, Quinton Dial, Ian Williams, Demarcus Dobbs, Will Tukuafu and Lawrence Okoye. Offensive line depth isn't quite as vast, but it still includes Jonathan Martin, Adam Snyder, Joe Looney, Al Netter, Carter Bykowski and Luke Marquardt. That is, there doesn't seem to be room for additions at either spot.

1st; 30th overall: Cody Latimer, WR, Indiana
He's big, fast, tough and is an excellent leaper. Latimer could serve as the heir to either Michael Crabtree's or Anquan Boldin's starting role. Like A.J. Jenkins, he's an underclassman receiver from a Big 10 school (that starts with 'I'). Unlike Jenkins, Latimer's physique is NFL-ready, and at the bare-bones minimum he could serve as special teams coverage player during his rookie season.

2nd, 56th overall: Pierre Desir, CB, Lindenwood
Desir is tall, long-limbed and physical, and he could be the press cornerback Trent Baalke has been looking for in recent years. If Desir is unavailable, there are a slew of others will similar physical skills - Stanley Jean-Baptiste, Keith McGill, Bashaud Breeland to name a few - who likely will be around in the second round.

2nd, 61st overall: Marcus Smith, OLB, Louisville
Smith may not be as powerful as the two players, Aldon Smith and Corey Lemonier, Baalke has drafted at the position in the past. But he is very athletic and still is learning his position. Smith was brought to Louisville to play quarterback, which hints at his intelligence and leadership ability.

3rd, 77th overall: Jeremy Hill, RB, LSU
The 49ers could stand to add a short-yardage runner, and the 235-pound Hill fits the description. The 49ers had issues last season when fullback Bruce Miller was lost to injury. Hill has the size and attitude to be a lead blocker, and he has soft hands (18 catches for 181 yards in 2013) as well. He has character concerns that must be checked out.

May 2, 2014
49ers pick up fifth-year option for Aldon Smith


The 49ers went with pragmatism over principle today, opting to pick up the fifth-year option in Aldon Smith's contract that will pay the troubled linebacker nearly $10 million in 2015. The team deliberated until hours before the deadline on the decision because it wanted as much information as possible on Smith's ongoing court cases and perhaps as an attempt to send a message to Smith that they are uncertain about his future.

Smith, 24, is facing charges for a September DUI and for possessing illegal weapons. A hearing earlier this week did not bring a resolution - and with it an indication of how the NFL might punish Smith - and another court date was set for May 12. In addition, the Los Angeles City Attorney's office is considering whether to file misdemeanor charges against Smith after he allegedly made a bomb threat at Los Angeles International Airport last month. A spokesman said a decision may not come for another week. Smith also has been arrested in January 2012 for DUI, charges that were later reduced to reckless driving.

By picking up the so-called "fifth-year option" on Smith's contract, the 49ers will pay him $9.75 million if he is on their roster at the start of the new league year in March. That amount is only guaranteed for an injury that would keep Smith out of action for 2015, and the team can release him at any point until them.

Picking up the option was the practical outcome to the 49ers' dilemma because it gives the team control over Smith, who would have become a free agent in March, for another season. Every player taken ahead of Smith in the talent-laden 2011 draft has had his option picked up.
And while $9.75 million would make him one of the highest-paid players on the team, it's less than the nearly $12 million franchise tag that also was an option as far as retaining Smith for 2015.

May 1, 2014
Rank & file: How the draft's top WRs stack up


There are 13 wide receivers expected to be taken in the first two rounds of the draft. Here's a statistical breakdown in how they rank, followed by an admittedly incomplete tally at the end.

Receptions in 2013:
Davante Adams: 131 (13 games played)
Brandin Cooks: 128 (13)
Jordan Matthews: 112 (13)
Sammy Watkins: 101 (13)
Allen Robinson: 97 (12)
Jarvis Landry: 77 (13)
Cody Latimer: 72 (12)
Mike Evans: 69 (13)
Odell Beckham: 59 (13)
Donte Moncrief: 59 (13)
Marqise Lee: 57 (11)
Kelvin Benjamin: 54 (14)
Martavis Bryant: 42 (13)

Yards per game:
Cooks: 133.1
Adams: 132.2
Robinson: 119.3
Matthews: 113.6
Watkins: 112.6
Evans: 107.2
Landry: 91.8
Latimer: 91.3
Beckham: 88.6
Benjamin: 72.2
Moncrief: 72.2
Lee: 71.9
Bryant: 63.7

April 30, 2014
2014 draft crush: And the winner is ...

Host: May I first say that you look fantastic?

Me: Thanks. You know, drinking plenty of water, getting eight hours of sack time. Trying to hit the gym as much as possible.

Host: Whatever you're doing, it's working. Bravo. Am I right, ladies?

Studio audience enthusiastically applauds.

Host: Of course, we're here today for your annual draft crush. Carl Nicks, Percy Harvin, Von Miller, Tank Carradine - you've hit on some interesting names in the past. Who wins it this year? Who gets the rose?

Me: Well, picking at No. 30 is not easy, Oprah. There are no obvious choices that far down the draft. The player has to have enough question marks to slip 30 spots but must be special enough to warrant the selection. That player this year is ....

Host: ... drum roll, please ...

April 30, 2014
Target practice: Who would the 49ers be after in a trade-up scenario?

The 49ers and Ravens have a good working relationship. I think I read that somewhere. After all, these are the teams that agreed to a trade of Anquan Boldin last year. They're scrimmaging against one another following a preseason game in Baltimore in August. And, oh yeah, head coaches Jim and John Harbaugh are related in some way. I forget exactly how.

Which makes them potential trade partners next week in the first round of the draft. Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome today said he's already received calls from teams looking to trade into his No. 17 spot in the first round. While I'm sure that his counterpart with the 49ers, Trent Baalke, made one of those calls, I'm also sure that Baalke has made numerous calls exploring both trade-up and trade-down scenarios. That's what general managers do before any draft and they probably make more calls in a year in which the draft is two weeks later than normal.

But let's assume the 49ers did move up from pick No. 30 to pick No. 17, a very plausible scenario considering they jumped up 13 spots last year to get Eric Reid. My guess is that they'd be targeting, in order, one of these players:

1. WR Odell Beckham, Jr., LSU
2. CB Kyle Fuller, Virginia Tech
3. CB Justin Gilbert, Oklahoma State

Beckham seems to check all of the boxes when it comes to what the 49ers were seeking in free agency this offseason and what they need to round out their offense. He's a downfield receiver with very good, but not elite, speed. He's feisty and fights for the ball in the air. He's a very good route runner. He played in the toughest conference in the nation (and the 49ers moved up for an LSU product last year). And he also returns punts and kickoffs, and is especially good at the latter.

Fuller, meanwhile, has good toughness and experience and would be a fit both on the outside and in the slot cornerback role the 49ers must solve this offseason. Gilbert is perhaps the most athletically gifted of all the cornerbacks. It's doubtful, however, that he would be on the board at pick No. 17.

-- Matt Barrows

April 29, 2014
No resolution in Aldon Smith case; new court date set

The 49ers likely will have to decide on Aldon Smith's fifth-year option without a resolution in the DUI and gun-possession charges he is facing. The two sides did not reach a plea-bargain deal -- something the team thought was a possibility, albeit an unlikely one -- at a hearing today. A new hearing date is scheduled for May 12 in Santa Clara County Superior Court.

It's possible the case could be resolved at some point before then. But that probably won't occur before Saturday, the deadline for triggering the fifth-year option on Smith's contract. The team's single-season sack record holder is entering the final year of the contract he signed as a rookie in 2011, one that will pay him $2.336 this season.

The fifth-year option, which has been triggered for a number of players in Smith's talent-laden 2011 draft class, would give him $9.754 million in 2015. The 49ers, however, are looking into other options that would allow them to keep Smith for a lesser amount. The team also wants to send a signal to Smith that he must change his behavior, a message that could be undermined by giving him nearly $10 million next season.

Some of the 49ers' options regarding Smith can be read here.

-- Matt Barrows

April 29, 2014
49ers fits: Looking at pass rushers in the upcoming draft

The 49ers hope that Aldon Smith is with them for the long term. The short term? That's a lot fuzzier, and it may prompt them to look at a pass rusher early in the draft. Trent Baalke on Friday said that the team was ready to count on Corey Lemonier, who is expected to improve upon a promising rookie campaign, as well as veteran Dan Skuta. After all, the 49ers went 5-0 in the games that Smith missed last season.

But if they did look for a pass rusher, the following players would be intriguing. All of them are listed as defensive ends - as were Smith and Lemonier - but have the athleticism to play outside linebacker in the 49ers' scheme. All also are similar to Smith in that they are tall, long-armed prospects. They are expected to be drafted anywhere from the end of the first round through the third round.

Kony Ealy, Missouri. (6-4, 273) 34 ¼-inch arms, 9 ½-inch hands.
This should be an easy projection for the 49ers because Ealy essentially played the same spot in the Tigers defense that Smith did in 2010. Ealy is bigger and not quite as long as Smith. He mostly played with his hand on the ground but, like Smith at Missouri, also dropped into coverage from time to time. He had eight sacks and knocked down six passes. He also had an interception for a touchdown return. Most teams likely are looking at Ealy as 4-3 defensive end. That was the book on Smith when he was coming out in the draft, too.

Dee Ford, Auburn (6-2, 252, 32 7/8, 10 ¼).
Ford is not as long as the pass rushers Baalke has preferred in the past. But he was a relentless defender for Auburn who has the traits of a team leader, something the 49ers could use considering their spate of off-the-field issues. The 49ers likely got a long look at him when they were examining Lemonier last year. Ford last season had 14 ½ tackles for loss and 10 ½ sacks, including two in the national championship game. He also excelled against top competition at the Senior Bowl. He missed the first two games of his senior season with an MCL issue, and Ford has been nicked at various times in his career.

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

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


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 27, 2014
49ers spend 90 minutes with Indiana's Cody Latimer. What that means...


Wide receivers coach John Morton not only flew to Indiana to watch Cody Latimer's Friday workout, he spent an hour and half with Latimer diagramming plays and otherwise trying to figure out how the big-bodied wideout would adapt to an NFL film room, meeting room, locker room.

What does that mean? Well, in 2010 offensive line coach Mike Solari met with both Anthony Davis and Mike Iupati to chart plays on a white board and otherwise discuss the type of schemes they'd be expected to process with the 49ers. The 49ers took each in the first round that year. Last year, defensive line coach Jim Tomsula attended Tank Carradine's pre-draft workout and also spent time with him afterward. The 49ers took him in the second round, 40th overall.

So that means it's a slam dunk that the 49ers will take Latimer? No, not exactly. The only reason we know that Solari met with Davis and Iupati is because they ended up on the squad and Solari talked about their visit afterward. What we don't have is the list of players Solari, Tomsula, Morton, et. al. have met with in previous years that the 49ers ultimately passed over.

In 2012, for example, Solari met with, and went over plays with, offensive lineman Amini Silatolu (prompting me, in my mock draft that year, to project Silatolu to the 49ers at pick No. 30.). San Francisco instead took A.J. Jenkins - who visited Santa Clara before the draft and presumably charted plays - in the first round while the Panthers took Silatolu 10 picks later.

Did Solari have a bad session with Silatolu? Were the 49ers trying to throw a smoke screen? Did they really like Silatolu but just not as much as Jenkins? These are all unknowns. There are plenty of clues in the run-up to the draft. The trick is figuring out which clues are the most important. The 49ers also have met with receivers Martavis Bryant, Paul Richardson and, according to CSN Bay Area, Kelvin Benjamin this month, and they presumably charted plays them as well.

Do 49ers' first-round picks usually pay the team a pre-draft visit? Yes, but not always. Here's the list since Trent Baalke started running the draft in 2010.

Pre-draft visit?
2010: Anthony Davis - yes
2010: Mike Iupati - yes
2011: Aldon Smith - yes
2012: A.J. Jenkins - yes
2013: Eric Reid - no.

- Matt Barrows

April 26, 2014
Harbaugh calls San Jose State's Fales a Top 5 quarterback


The top 5 quarterbacks in next month's draft? Gather up all the rankings available and Johnny Manziel, Blake Bortles, Teddy Bridgewater, Derek Carr and Jimmy Garrapolo likely are on that list in one order or another.

But Jim Harbaugh, whose reputation for choosing and developing passers - some of them obscure at the time -- is well-earned, believes a local, less-heralded product deserves Top-5 ranking: San Jose State's David Fales. "I'm a big fan," Harbaugh said after watching Fales work out on Friday. "My personal evaluation of this (draft) class has David in the top five."

Fales completed 64 percent of his passes last season for nearly 4,200 yards. He had a memorable game in a shootout against Fresno State in which he completed 37 of 45 passes for 547 yards, six touchdowns and no interceptions. It turns out 49ers general manager Trent Baalke attended that game, which was held only 11 miles south of the 49ers headquarters and its new stadium.

"I like a lot of things about David," Baalke said Friday. "He's very composed. He's a very smart football player. You look at him statistically. He's won a lot of games. He won a shootout against Fresno, which I happened to be at. He's got good arm talent. He can make all the throws. He's very accurate, especially in the short to intermediate game. There's a lot to like about him."

The biggest question about Fales has been his athleticism and his ability to throw the deep ball. Harbaugh, however, did not seem to be concerned.

"You see a very compact throwing motion today, more compact than I saw during his career," he said. "But he was still throwing the ball 50, 55 yards down field, throwing the deep comebacks, the outside lanes like he threw in college, easily, accurately and on a line. We talked a little after the workout. I don't see any deficiencies that way."

Harbaugh famously graded little-known quarterbacks like Tony Romo and David Garrard higher than the consensus top picks at the position, such as Joey Harrington, when he was a low-level assistant with the Raiders. He has seen Eastern Illinois' Garrapolo - another quarterback with a compact throwing motion - in person this year and also attended the workout for Virginia Tech's Logan Thomas. Fales and Thomas are expected to be taken in the middle rounds of the draft, which is where the 49ers are most likely to pounce on one as well.

Fales wasn't the only quarterback at the 49ers' "local" pro day on Friday. Vanderbilt's Austyn Carta-Samuels (Saratoga) and Delaware State's Cory Murphy (Santa Clara) also took part.

-- Matt Barrows

April 25, 2014
Harbaugh on Kaepernick: 'The only victim is Colin's reputation'


Jim Harbaugh today said he's heard Colin Kaepernick's version of what happened in Miami earlier this month and that he's confident the ongoing case there will have a good resolution for the 49ers' quarterback. "The only victim in Colin's case is Colin's reputation," he said.

Harbaugh noted that until this point, the only side of the story that has made its way into the media is that of the 25-year-old woman who told police April 3 that she blacked out and wound up in a hospital after a night of drinking with Kaepernick, 49ers receiver Quinton Patton and Seahawks receiver Ricardo Lockette. The case has been handled by the Miami Police Department's special victims unit, which handles sex crimes.

No charges have been filed and the three players involved have not been interviewed. Police have since said that Lockette twice called police early on April 2 to try to get the woman in question out of their hotel suite.

The police told The Bee and The Miami Herald last week that Kaepernick was not at the suite when police arrived following those calls. According to a source, Kaepernick was on hand earlier in the evening but left shortly after the woman arrived. Police are reviewing hotel video to see when Kaepernick left. Police had said they planned to release two 911 calls -- one from Lockette and one from hotel security -- but they have not done so this week.

Said Harbaugh: "Remember this, there's sometimes two sides to the story and I often see the one side that's reported in the media and it gains speed and attention. The other side still remains to be told. Looking at the Colin Kaepernick situation, at some point there needs to be a resolution to some of this jump-the-gun, witch-hunt scenario that we're seeing."

He included a quote from his favorite historical figure, Winston Churchill: "A lie will get halfway around the world before the truth has a chance to put on its pants."*

* The quote, "A lie can travel half way around the world while the truth is putting on its shoes," usually is attributed to humorist and novelist Mark Twain.

Related stories:

Miami police don't believe Kaepernick was in hotel suite at time of 911 calls

Kaepernick says reports are 'completely wrong'

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


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.

April 25, 2014
Wideouts Davante Adams, Jerry Rice Jr. highlight 49ers' "local" pro day


A year ago, Nate Montana was one of the draft hopefuls who performed for 49ers coaches at the team's "local" pro day. This year, Jerry Rice Jr. will run routes and catch passes on the same practice field on which his famous father performed two decades ago.

Rice Jr. transferred to UNLV after four years with UCLA. He had 11 catches and one touchdown last year. While he might have a famous name, another wideout on hand today, Davante Adams of Fresno State, figures to be one of the first receivers drafted next month, perhaps in the first round. He led the nation with 131 catches last season, and the big-bodied leaper -- Adams also was a high school basketball star -- had 24 touchdowns.

Adams is from Palo Alto, which makes him eligible to attend today's event. In fact, he and Jim Harbaugh both played at Palo Alto High and had the same high school coach, Earl Hansen.

Others on hand either grew up in the Bay Area or went to one of the schools here. That list includes Stanford products like linebacker Shayne Skov and defensive end Ben Gardner, whom the 49ers likely would use as an outside linebacker. San Jose State's David Fales also will attend as will a couple of Sacramento State players, wideout Morris Norrisse and guard Tyler Worthley.

Local pro day participants

April 25, 2014
Swingers: Anthony Davis' injury will give backups more exposure


Anthony Davis' recent shoulder surgery likely will keep the 49ers' right tackle out of most or all of the team's spring drills. The silver lining? It will give coaches a better opportunity to evaluate the intriguing mix of players vying to be the team's so-called "swing" tackle this season.

In recent years, the top backup at the position has been the starting right guard, Alex Boone. If there was an injury to either left tackle Joe Staley or Davis, Boone was tapped to fill in, meaning that someone else had to step into his guard spot and that two positions were disrupted. This year, the 49ers will look at newcomer Jonathan Martin as the possible backup tackle with former seventh-round draft pick Carter Bykowski and undrafted Luke Marquardt also in the running.

At 6-8, 315, Marquardt is perhaps the most physically impressive member of the offense (Lawrence Okoye gets the nod on defense), and he got plenty of buzz before last year's draft. But he was recovering from a foot injury last season and did not get drafted. He never was placed on the active roster by the 49ers.

Martin, meanwhile, started 23 games over the last two seasons in Miami and has played both right and left tackle. Jim Harbaugh last month said there was some interest in seeing if Martin could play guard where in 2015 the 49ers may be without starter Mike Iupati, who is entering the final year of his contract.

Davis, meanwhile, said he suffered tears to his labrum and bicep in Week 3 last year and played through the pain. He has not missed a start since being drafted in the first round in 2010.

"I recently had surgery for the first time ever," Davis wrote on Instagram. "Played the majority of the season with a (messed) up shoulder ... Never made excuses just got the job done. This game has a way of seeing what you're really made of. One of the reasons I love it. Next season I get to use both arms. lol it's on."

Last year both Staley (knee) and Iupati (shoulder) had minor offseason surgery and missed the spring sessions. The list of injured players in the 2013 offseason included defensive end Justin Smith (arm) and outside linebacker Aldon Smith (shoulder).

-- Matt Barrows

April 24, 2014
49ers taking closer look at Indiana WR Cody Latimer

For the second straight season, the 49ers are sending a position coaches to check out a promising draft prospect who is coming off an injury. This time it's receivers coach John Morton, who will be among the contingent watching Indiana receiver Cody Latimer run and catch passes today in Indiana. A year ago, defensive line coach Jim Tomsula was on hand for Tank Carradine's workout. The 49ers ended up taking Carradine, who did not play any snaps last season, early in the second round, No. 40 overall.

Latimer's injury is not nearly as serious as the ACL tear Carradine suffered in November 2012. A broken bone in the receiver's foot prevented him from fully working at at the scouting combine in February, although he did lead all receivers with 23 reps of 225 pounds in the bench press. At Indiana's pro day a month ago, Latimer reportedly ran his 40-yard dash in 4.4 seconds, and he had a 39-inch vertical leap.

He is considered a raw talent, but his size (6-2, 215), speed, leaping ability (he's a former basketball standout) and rugged, physical style likely are intriguing to the 49ers, who traditionally have preferred big-bodied receivers in their power-running, ball-control offense. Latimer caught 72 passes for 1,096 yards last season while playing against some of the best cornerbacks in the nation - Michigan State's Darqueze Dennard and Ohio State's Bradley Roby, for example - and while playing on a less-than-stellar Indiana squad. He also played special teams. At least 23 teams are expected at Latimer's workout today.

April 21, 2014
Michael Wilhoite, a possible starter at linebacker, signs tender

Michael Wilhoite, who is perhaps the leading candidate to take NaVorro Bowman's spot in the 49ers defense at the start of the season, signed a one-year contract on Monday. Wilhoite was a so-called "exclusive rights free agent" which gave him little leeway to shop himself on the open market. The deal will pay him $570,000.

Wilhoite started two games last season while Patrick Willis was out with a groin injury This year, Bowman could miss the first half of the season while he contines to recover from the ACL tear he suffered in January.

Other candidates for the job include second-year player Nick Moody and Darius Fleming, who is coming off his own ACL injury. The 49ers also could draft an inside linebacker. Hard-hitting Louisville product Preston Brown visited the team last week.

-- Matt Barrows

April 17, 2014
Troubled client? Agent advises quick public apology

My colleague Ed Fletcher caught up with agent Leigh Steinberg, who spoke at UC Davis on Wednesday, and he asked Steinberg how he'd deal with a troubled client like Aldon Smith, who was arrested for the third time in two years on Sunday. Steinberg is making a comeback after dealing with alcohol abuse and has been open about his struggle.

-- Matt Barrows

April 17, 2014
Running story: 49ers bring in third tailback for pre-draft visit

Add one more running back to the list of college players the 49ers hosted this week. The team also met with Terrance Cobb, a 5-10, 218 tailback from the University of the Cumberlands (Ky) who ran for 1,991 yards and scored 26 touchdowns in 2012. Cobb was injured this past season, finishing with 540 yards and six touchdowns in three starts.

The 49ers have some insider information on Cobb. He is the younger brother of regional scout Reggie Cobb, who was a good running back in his own right and who played for the Buccaneers, Packers, Jaguars and Jets. The elder Cobb serves as the 49ers' Western region scout.

The 49ers also will bring in Towson tailback Terrance West and already met with Central Florida runner Storm Johnson, suggesting that they will take a running back in the mid to late rounds in the draft. All of the tailbacks above are big-bodied, every-down type of runners.

The team's long-time workhorse, Frank Gore, is entering the final year on his contract and his future is uncertain. Furthermore, the 49ers are trying to trade tailback/returner LaMichael James, who has been frustrated by his limited role in the team's offense.

Minutes after The Bee on Wednesday reported that the team is shopping James, the former Oregon star Tweeted out a seeming response: "When old news becomes new news."

49ers pre-draft visits
ILB/OLB Carl Bradford, Arizona State
ILB Preston Brown, Louisville
WR Martavis Bryant, Clemson
RB Terrance Cobb, University of the Cumberlands
TE C.J. Fiedorowicz, Iowa (National Football Post)
RB Storm Johnson, Central Florida
OLB Demarcus Lawrence, Boise State
OL Matt Patchan, Boston College
WR Paul Richardson, Colorado
RB Terrance West, Towson University
WR Albert Wilson, Georgia State

-- Matt Barrows

April 16, 2014
No Bowman? No Aldon? Is 3-4 still best defense for 49ers?


The 49ers are a 3-4 defensive team whose top two defensive players, NaVorro Bowman and Aldon Smith, may not be around when the season starts. Both are linebackers. Which raises the question: Is a three-lineman, four-linebacker defense still the best scheme for San Francisco?

One could argue that with Bowman's injury and Smith's troubles, the strength of the defense has switched from the linebacking corps to the defensive line. There, you have stalwarts Justin Smith and Ray McDonald. But there is also Glenn Dorsey and Ian Williams at nose tackle, as well as Tank Carradine, Quinton Dial, Demarcus Dobbs and everyone's favorite experiment, Lawrence Okoye.

Considering that the nose tackle currently comes off the field when the 49ers are in their nickel defense - more than 50 percent of the time - it's hard to imagine some of these players, especially Dorsey and Williams, getting significant playing time in the 49ers' current scheme.

If they switched to a 4-3 or otherwise tinkered with the scheme, the trick would be finding the right combination of linebackers. Patrick Willis, of course, played middle linebacker in a 4-3 scheme at Ole Miss and would be the natural "Mike" linebacker. Ahmad Brooks could line up at outside linebacker in a spot similar to the one Bruce Irvin plays in Seattle's 4-3 scheme. The 49ers would have to find a third linebacker from the remaining group of players.

Would the 49ers consider this? Probably not. For one, Bowman is making good progress from his ACL. And while he won't be on hand at the beginning of the season, the expectation is that he's back at the midpoint. And while Aldon Smith could miss all of the 2014 season, as The Merc's Tim Kawakami detailed Tuesday, the 49ers have interesting backups in Dan Skuta, Corey Lemonier and perhaps a draft pick. They are bringing in Boise State's Demarcus Lawrence, a possibility in the first round or early in the second round, next week.

Furthermore, defensive coordinator Vic Fangio prefers 3-4 defenses and has used that scheme for the bulk of his career. Fangio has said he likes the versatility of having an extra linebacker on the field and that the pass-rush angles are more favorable.

Still, in a scenario in which both Bowman and Smith are not available, you have to wonder if a 3-4 defense puts the 49ers' best defenders on the field.

One additional note. Skuta was the top backup at outside linebacker last season. He battled a foot injury for most of the year, and there was a possibility he could have surgery this offseason. It looks as if he will avoid that. Skuta saw the league's top foot and ankle specialist, Dr. Robert Anderson, earlier this year who diagnosed and treated him for plantar fasciitis in the foot.

-- Matt Barrows

April 15, 2014
49ers sign WR Brandon Lloyd to one-year deal


Veteran receiver Brandon Lloyd, who spent his first three seasons with the 49ers, is back after signing a one-year deal with the team today. Lloyd, 32, had 74 catches for 911 yards with New England in 2012 but sat out last season.

The 49ers took Lloyd with a fourth-round pick in the 2003 draft. He led the 49ers in receiving yards in 2005, but during the following offseason the new personnel chief, Scot McCloughan, eagerly traded Lloyd to the Redskins for a third-round pick in 2006 (the 49ers used it on WR Brandon Williams) and a fourth-round pick in 2007 (OLB Jay Moore).

Lloyd was brash as a young player, wanted to be a rap star and clashed with some of the veterans on the team. One of the players who disliked Lloyd was fullback Fred Beasley who famously complained that, following a grueling road loss, he had to listen to Lloyd talk about the length of his braids on the otherwise quiet plane ride back to San Jose.

The Redskins also grew weary of Lloyd, and he only spent two seasons there. He's been on six different teams over his career.

Still, he has proven to be a very smart and savvy player on the field, and he led the league in receiving yards while with the Broncos in 2010. While with the Patriots in 2012, he had a career-high 190 yards in a loss to the 49ers. In another loss to San Francisco -- this one in London when he was with Denver -- Lloyd caught seven passes for 169 yards.

The 11-year veteran, however, does not play special teams like another longtime veteran at the position, Kassim Osgood. And the 49ers are expected to draft a receiver - or perhaps two - next month.

That, plus the fact that Lloyd signed a one-year deal, suggests that a spot on the roster is not assured in 2014. The 49ers top three receivers currently are Anquan Boldin, Michael Crabtree and Quinton Patton. Lloyd joins a group that includes Jon Baldwin, Osgood, Chuck Jacobs, Devon Wylie, DeMarco Sampson and David Reed.

-- Matt Barrows

April 15, 2014
Charges dismissed in case against 49ers center Daniel Kilgore

The public intoxication case in Tennessee against 49ers center Daniel Kilgore has been dismissed, according to the Kingsport General Session clerk's office. Kilgore and a friend were stopped by an officer who saw them walking home from a Kingsport, Tenn. bar Jan. 25. They were arrested "for their safety and the welfare of the public," according to the police report.

Those charges were dismissed on Friday. The court clerk said Kilgore can file to have the charges expunged from his record.

A month after the incident, the 49ers extended Kilgore's contract by three years. He is the leading candidate to take over the starting center spot that Jonathan Goodwin manned the last three seasons. Adam Snyder, Joe Looney and Ryan Seymour also will compete at the spot.

-- Matt Barrows

April 15, 2014
Need for speed: 49ers meet with Colorado WR Paul Richardson

Speedy receivers definitely appear to be on the draft menu for the 49ers who are meeting with one of the fastest, Colorado's Paul Richardson, today. Richardson is one of 15 or so draft prospects in town to meet with coaches and take physicals this week. As far as receivers go, the list also includes Clemson's Martavis Bryant and Georgia State's Albert Wilson, both of whom stand out for their down-field ability.

Richardson seems to be similar in some ways to Redskins receiver DeSean Jackson, in whom the 49ers reportedly showed some interest earlier this offseason. The Colorado receiver is 6-0, 175 pounds with 32 5/8-inch arms. His 4.4-second time in the 40-yard dash in February was the third-fastest for a receiver this year. (Bryant was clocked at 4.42 seconds, Wilson at 4.43 seconds).

In 2013, Richardson stood out on a bad Colorado squad. He led the team with 83 catches, 1,343 receiving yards and 10 touchdown catches. He averaged 16.2 yards a catch one year after sitting out the 2012 season with a torn ACL. Significantly - in light of the 49ers' recent off-the-field troubles - he also was a team captain last season.

Richardson is considered a second- to early third-round pick. He has five other visits in addition to the 49ers.

The 49ers have not brought in Indiana wideout Cody Latimer for a visit, but a league source says they are looking closely at the receiver. Latimer, too, has good speed. Unlike the other receivers listed above, he also has excellent size at 6-2, 215 pounds. Some prognosticators think Latimer could go as high as the end of the first round.

-- Matt Barrows

April 14, 2014
Police report: Lockette called police to have woman removed from suite

Ricardo Lockette twice called 911 in Miami early in the morning of April 2 to report that a naked woman was on his friend's bed and refused to leave, according to incident reports, one of which was obtained today by radio station 940 A.M. That bed presumably was Colin Kaepernick's -- after all, it was his hotel suite -- who along with fellow NFL players Lockette and Quinton Patton was named in a "suspicious incident" investigation earlier this month. The first call was made at 12:03 a.m. from Lockette's cell phone. He called 911 again 17 minutes later.

In addition, a source familiar with the case said that Kaepernick was not at the suite during the disturbance or when police arrived. A police spokesman could not verify who was at the suite when police arrived.

That report fits what The Bee learned Friday - that it was one of the players who called authorities, who in turn called Miami Fire Rescue at 12:32 a.m. Paramedics transported the unidentified woman to Jackson Memorial Hospital in that city shortly thereafter.

Until now, the only document that had been released was the incident report the woman filed on April 3 that said she blacked out after drinking with Lockette, a former 49ers receiver who now plays for the Seaahwks, Kaepernick and Patton and woke up in the hospital.

The incident report obtained today says that a Crisis Intervention Team was summoned to the players' suite at the Viceroy Hotel. The unit's web site says that the Crisis Intervention Team "is an effective police response program designed for first responders who handle crisis calls involving people with mental illness including those with co-occurring substance use disorders."

On Friday, Kaepernick maintained his innocence via Twitter, slamming the initial report that claimed he was being investigated for sexual assault.

"The charges made in the TMZ story and other stories I've seen are completely wrong," Kaepernick wrote "They make things up about me that never happened. I take great pride in who I am and what I do, but I guess sometimes you have to deal with someone who makes things up .... I assure you that your faith is not misplaced."

No charges have been filed in the case and the players have not been interviewed. Kaepernick, in fact, is believed to be back in Santa Clara in advance of the 49ers' strength and conditioning program, which begins next week.

-- Matt Barrows

April 14, 2014
First-round pass-rush prospect Demarcus Lawrence to visit 49ers

One day after Aldon Smith was arrested at Los Angeles International Airport comes news that the team will host one of the more talented pass rushers in the upcoming draft. Boise State defensive end Demarcus Lawrence, who had 10 ½ sacks last season and is considered a late first-round pick, will visit next week.

A league source said the travel arrangements were made a week ago, before Smith was arrested at LAX for allegedly telling security personnel he had a bomb. Smith posted $20,000 bond and was released Sunday. Still, Smith's third arrest since 2012 must elevate pass rusher on the 49ers' list of draft needs. It's not known whether the NFL or the 49ers will suspend Smith and it's certainly possible that the team could release him.

Smith, who holds the franchise's single-season sack record, is entering the final year of his contract. The 49ers must decide by May 3 to pick up a fifth-year option on that deal. If they did, Smith would be in line to earn nearly $10 million in 2015 if he is still on the roster at the start of the new league year in early March.

In the last several years, the 49ers have felt that the strength of their locker room - led by hard-working players like Justin Smith and Patrick Willis - could accommodate younger players with so-called character concerns. However, that notion has been damaged by seven separate arrests since January 2012 when Aldon Smith was pulled over for DUI in Miami Beach. There have been additional police-blotter incidents involving three other players that have not led to arrests.

Lawrence then becomes an interesting prospect. The underclassman is 6-3, 251 pounds, and has the long arms (33 ¾ inches) and big hands (11 inches) that general manager Trent Baalke loves. He is a two-time first-team All-Mountain West selection who, in addition to his sack total last season, also had 20 ½ tackles behind the line of scrimmage.

However, he also was suspended on three different occasions for violation of team rules. That's likely a big reason why the 49ers want to meet him in person prior to the draft.

-- Matt Barrows

April 14, 2014
Linebacker Preston Brown among those visiting 49ers today

The 49ers and every other NFL are allowed to host up to 30 college players in the run-up to the draft. A big chunk of those visits are taking place today and Tuesday at the team's facility.

One of the visitors is Louisville inside linebacker Preston Brown, who led the Cardinals in tackles last season. At 6-1, 251 pounds, Brown is slightly bigger than the 49ers' starting inside linebackers, Patrick Willis and NaVorro Bowman, were coming out of college, but he's been highly productive and has the long arms - 33 ½ inches - and aggressive style general manager Trent Baalke likes to see in prospects.

Brown had 14 tackles for loss last season and five sacks. He also returned a fumble 48 yards for a touchdown against Memphis.

Bowman, of course, is not expected to be on the field for the first half of the season due to his Jan. 19 ACL injury. The 49ers are seeking a replacement. They could turn to veteran Michael Wilhoite, who started two games for Willis in 2013. They could tap Nick Moody, a sixth-round pick in 2013. Or they could find an understudy in the draft in which the 49ers have 11 picks. Brown is considered a third-day option.

The 49ers had wanted Oklahoma cornerback Aaron Colvin to visit today and tomorrow but he had a previous visit scheduled and will make the trip later this week.

Visiting today:
ILB Preston Brown
WR Martavis Bryant, Clemson
RB Storm Johnson, Central Florida
OLB Demarcus Lawrence, Boise State (next week)
OL Matt Patchan, Boston College
WR Albert Wilson, Georgia State

-- Matt Barrows

April 14, 2014
All ACL team: 49ers will host injured cornerback Aaron Colvin

The 49ers will host Aaron Colvin, an Oklahoma cornerback who tore his ACL in January and who spent the first part of the year in Florida rehabilitating alongside a slightly more famous ACL patient, NaVorro Bowman. Colvin tore his ACL Jan. 21 during a practice at the Senior Bowl. Bowman suffered his injury Jan. 19. The surgeries were performed by famed orthopedic surgeon James Andrews, and both players rehabilitated at Andrews' clinic in Pensacola, Fla.

The 49ers, of course, drafted two players with ACL injuries last year, defensive end Tank Carradine and running back Marcus Lattimore. Neither played in 2013. Because Lattimore never appeared on the 53-man roster, his contract tolled. That is, he still has four years on his initial contract.

In that way, adding injured players to a loaded roster has become a draft strategy for the 49ers. They are able to obtain a player in a lower round because he is injured and perhaps allow him to "redshirt" his initial year with the team.

Colvin's injury, however, is not nearly as severe as Lattimore's, which involved several ligament tears and a dislocated kneecap. Colvin's agent said Sunday that the rehabilitation has gone very well and that the 6-0, 186-pound, two-time All-Big 12 cornerback will start running later this month. Colvin's injured occurred in Mobile, Ala. The next morning, he was in Dr. Andrews' office - a short drive away - in Pensacola. The surgery occurred the following week.

Team ACL: Other draft prospects with ACL injuries

DL Dominique Easley, Fla.: Easley was a first-round talent before tearing his ACL in September. He also suffered an ACL injury as a sophomore. Easley will have a private workout on Thursday. The 49ers are expected to attend.

G Brandon Thomas, Clemson. He was considered one of the better interior linemen in the draft before tearing an ACL during a workout with the Saints earlier this month.

CB Antone Exum, Virginia Tech. Exum tore his ACL in January 2013 and missed seven games that season. He missed another three with an ankle injury. He is fully healed but the injuries could cause him to slip in the draft. At 6-0, 213 pounds, he has very good size and also experience at safety.

G Spencer Long, Nebraska. Big interior lineman suffered an ACL injury in October.

QB Zach Mettenberger, LSU. He suffered an ACL tear Nov. 29 but was able to throw at LSU's pro day last week. At 6-5, Mettenberger has good size but not the athleticism Jim Harbaugh typically likes in quarterbacks.

QB Aaron Murray, Georgia. He suffered an ACL tear Nov. 25. He is expected to throw at Georgia's pro day this week.

FB Trey Millard, Oklahoma. He suffered an ACL tear on Oct. 26. The 49ers just signed Bruce Miller to a contract extension, and fullback is not a priority. Still, Millard has excellent size (6-2, 247) and runs with power and could entice with a late-round pick.

S Vinnie Sunseri, Alabama. The strong safety prospect suffered an ACL tear on Oct. 19. He went through all of the drills at school's pro day earlier this month.

-- Matt Barrows

April 13, 2014
Police: Aldon Smith taken into custody after claiming to have bomb at LAX


This story was updated from an earlier version to show the charges on which Aldon Smith has been booked.

Troubled 49ers linebacker Aldon Smith was taken into custody Sunday at Los Angeles International Airport and booked on charges of making a false bomb threat. According to airport police, the incident occurred at 2 p.m. when Smith, 24, was going through security screening and said he had a bomb.

A statement from airport police reads: "At approximately 1400 hrs, a 24 year-old Aldon Jacarus Ramon Smith, a resident of San Jose, California, was going through Terminal 1 screening where he made a comment indicating that he was in possession of a bomb. Los Angeles Airport Police made contact with him in the gate area where he became uncooperative. After conducting their investigation, LA Airport Police took suspect into custody and transported him to LAPD-Pacific division where he was booked for California Penal Code 148.1(a) - False report of a bomb threat."

According to airport police Sgt. Karla Ortiz, it appeared that Smith had been drinking earlier in the day. Police, however, did not check Smith's blood-alcohol content, Ortiz said, because "it was not an issue that would affect the detention or the arrest." Still, whether Smith had been drinking is likely to be a major question for the 49ers. Smith is facing a DUI charge stemming from an incident in September. He had a hearing on Friday, and his next court date is April 29.

A witness told The Bee that trouble began brewing earlier at the Southwest Airlines ticket counter. Following an argument there, a ticket agent said that Smith would not be allowed on the plane. After going through security, the witness said Smith was approached by TSA personnel. He advanced toward his gate where he was taken into custody by five officers. A video of the incident shows an officer bringing a police dog into the vicinity of the gate as Smith is being led away in handcuffs.

The 49ers issued a statement from general manager Trent Baalke: "We are disappointed to learn of the incident today involving Aldon Smith. As this is a pending legal matter and we are still gathering the pertinent facts, we will have no further comment."

April 13, 2014
49ers to host Clemson WR Martavis Bryant on Monday

The 49ers, who are searching for a wide receiver who can make plays deep down field, will host one with those capabilities. Clemson's Martavis Bryant, who ran his 40-yard dash in 4.42 seconds in February, is among the players who will visit with coaches and personnel department officials on Monday.

Bryant is different than some of the other speedy receivers in this year's draft class in that he also has size. He stands 6-4, weighs 211 pounds, and he leaped 39 inches in the vertical jump. He also had 16 bench-press repetitions of 225 pounds at the combine, not bad for an underclassman with longish (32 5/8 inches) arms.

Bryant lined up opposite the draft's top wide receiver, Sammy Watkins, last season at Clemson, and he was definitely the team's deep threat. He averaged 19.7 yards a catch, finished with 828 yards overall and scored seven touchdowns. He caught two passes in the Orange Bowl against Ohio State, two of them for touchdowns.

A year earlier, he caught 10 passes and averaged 30.5 yards a reception, tops in the nation for a player with double-digit catches. Last year, however, was his first extensive season in the offense and he is entering the draft after his junior season. That's likely why the 49ers are interested in bringing him in - they want to learn more about him.

The 49ers also are hosting Georgia State wideout Albert Wilson, Central Florida running back Storm Johnson and Boston College offensive lineman Matt Patchan on Monday. Oklahoma cornerback Aaron Colvin will visit later in the week.

Bryant, meanwhile, has a busy pre-draft schedule. He's visiting 12 teams, including the Ravens this week, and has almost as many workouts scheduled. The 49ers have 11 picks overall and six in the first three rounds. They are expected to take at least one receiver early. Bryant is expected to be a second-day pick. San Francisco general manager Trent Baalke attended Clemson's pro day last month at which time he had dinner with Tigers cornerback Bashaud Breeland.

- Matt Barrows

April 12, 2014
Questions, clarifications in case involving NFL players


There has been no additional information today on the case involving Colin Kaepernick, Ricardo Lockette and Quinton Patton. Instead this post is meant to answer questions and to clarify other aspects of what is known so far.

* Is Kaepernick being investigated for sexual assault? That, after all, was the headline from TMZ on Thursday that started everything. The short answer: No. For one, no charges have been filed. In fact, neither he nor Lockette nor Patton has been interviewed by police. Instead, the case is being referred to as a "suspicious incident," one in which Lockette and Patton are mentioned just as equally as Kaepernick.

The longer answer is that the Miami Police Department is in the process of determining whether a crime of a sexual nature occurred. The case is being investigated by the department's Special Victims Unit, which handles sex crimes. The Miami Herald reported Friday that the unnamed woman underwent a rape test. The police also are waiting on toxicology tests that presumably will show if any drugs were in her system.

* If police were called to the players' suite at Viceroy hotel, which led to the woman being taken to the hospital, why is there no report of that incident or why hasn't it been released? Great question. Is it due to the sensitive nature of the case that some information can't be released? I asked Mary Anne Franks, an associate professor of law at the University of Miami School of Law, if there were rules or laws in Florida regarding the release of information that the department had to follow because it potentially is a sex crime. Said she was unaware of any specific protocol the police must follow when it comes to releasing information. "They know that any move they make is going to be met with a lot of scrutiny," she said. "My guess is that they want to err on the side of caution."

* The incident report, which was written April 3 when the unidentified woman went to police, is the only report released by the police thus far. It contains the woman's version of events and should not be taken as gospel. For instance, she told police that the incident began when she went to Lockette's apartment at the Viceroy hotel complex. Nearly every media account written about the incident has listed the location as Lockette's apartment.

In fact it's Kaepernick's hotel suite, at which he'd been staying since February. Lockette and Patton recently began staying there with Kaepernick. My understanding is that Lockette may have invited the woman in question up to the suite but that it's being paid for by Kaepernick. The bottom line: Even though the incident report is a document released by the police, it hasn't been vetted by the police or any other official source.

-- Matt Barrows

April 11, 2014
Kaepernick denies wrongdoing; details start to emerge in Miami investigation


This is the unedited version of the story set to appear in Saturday's Bee.

A day after he was linked to a police investigation in Miami, Colin Kaepernick on Friday tweeted that media reports linking him to sexual assault are "completely wrong" and that "sometimes you have to deal with someone who makes things up."

The last quote referred to the unnamed woman at the center of the investigation who told police she blacked out after a night of drinking with Kaepernick, 49ers receiver Quinton Patton and Seahawks receiver Ricardo Lockette and ended up in a hospital room the next day.

It turns out that Miami Fire Rescue personnel transported the 25-year-old woman from the players' suite at the Viceroy hotel to a downtown Miami hospital. Lt. Ignatius Carroll said emergency responders were dispatched at 12:32 a.m on April 2 and that they were summoned by police, who were already at the hotel suite.

Sources familiar with the incident said it was one of the players who placed the original calls - two of them - to hotel security or the police. When police arrived they became concerned with the woman's frame of mind, and they called Miami Fire Rescue, which handles EMT service in that city.

The police investigation began April 3 when the woman arrived at the Miami Police Department at 9:40 p.m. She told police that approximately 48 hours earlier she arrived at a suite at the upscale Viceroy hotel, made drinks for the players and that they told her in order to drink with them "she had to 'hit' the bong, which contained marijuana."

April 11, 2014
Police, emergency personnel were called to players' hotel suite

The woman at the center of an ongoing police investigation involving Colin Kaepernick and two other NFL players was taken from the players' hotel suite to the hospital by Miami Fire Rescue personnel, who were summoned to the suite by police. Multiple sources said it was one of the players who placed calls -- two of them -- to police.

"At 12:32 (a.m.), Miami Fire Rescue was dispatched to the Viceroy (hotel) and transported a 25-year-old female from the Viceroy to the Jackson Memorial Hospital emergency room," Miami Fire Lt. Ignatius Carroll told The Miami Herald. Carroll later told The Bee that the Miami Police Department summoned emergency responders to the hotel.

Kaepernick, 49ers receiver Quinton Patton and Seahawks receiver Ricardo Lockette are named in the incident report involving a 25-year-old, unnamed woman who claims to have blacked out and woken up in a hospital room after drinking with the men. Earlier today Kaepernick took to Twitter to say that media reports, specifically the original report by TMZ, linking him to sexual assault are "completely wrong" and that "sometimes you have to deal with someone who makes things up."

Kaepernick's agency, XAM Sports, also released a statement: "We stand by Colin 100% and are fully confident that the truth will be evident once the facts come to light regarding this matter."

Miami police are examining evidence and waiting on toxicology reports in the case, according to The Herald.

"We have to examine evidence and wait for some tests to come back, including toxicology reports," Police Chief Manuel Orosa told the newspaper on Friday. "We can present it to the state attorney and they can decide whether to continue." Orosa added: "It's too early to determine what the evidence indicates."

The case is being handled by the Miami Police Department's Special Victims Unit, which investigates sexual battery and other serious crimes. Citing sources, the Herald reported that the unidentified woman underwent a rape test but that the results are not public. Kaepernick, Patton and Lockette have not been interviewed by police.

The police department would not answer questions relating to the case, such as why the woman was admitted to a hospital and how she was transported there. Police have said the only item they are authorized to release is the incident report.

-- Matt Barrows

April 11, 2014
Running back Storm Johnson among prospects visiting 49ers Monday

The 49ers will host a number of draft prospects on Monday, including Central Florida running back Storm Johnson. The 6-0, 210-pound Johnson ran for 1,139 yards, averaged 5.3 yards a carry and scored 14 rushing touchdowns and another three receiving touchdowns for the Knights in 2013. He had 117 yards in the game against Penn State (below).

Johnson transferred from Miami in 2010 and he spent only one season as Central Florida's featured runner. He is entering the draft as a junior, which is likely why the 49ers wanted to use one of the 30 visits they are allotted on him. That is, they are looking for more information. Johnson is expected to be a third-day draft pick.

The 49ers also are hosting Georgia State wideout Albert Wilson on Monday as well as Boston College offensive lineman Matt Patchan, according to the Tampa Bay Times.

The 49ers waived former USC receiver Brandon Carswell. Carswell signed with the 49ers on June 12, 2013. He missed the entire 2013 season after being placed on injured reserve June 19 with an ACL tear.

-- Matt Barrows

April 11, 2014
Kaepernick: Stories about Miami investigation 'completely wrong'

A day after he was linked to a police investigation in Miami, Colin Kaepernick today tweeted that the stories written about him were "completely wrong." To followers that have written him messages of encouragement, the 49ers quarterback wrote, "I assure you your faith is not misplaced."

Kaepernick, 49ers receiver Quinton Patton and Seahawks receiver Ricardo Lockette - a close friend of Kaepernick's and a former 49ers receiver - are named in an incident report involving a woman who claims to have blacked out at their hotel suite April 1 and woken up in a hospital. No charges have been filed in the case and it's unclear whether any crimes have been committed.

Kaepernick's agent, Scott Smith of XAM Sports, also released a statement today: "We stand by Colin 100% and are fully confident that the truth will be evident once the facts come to light regarding this matter. Thank you for supporting Colin."

The first media outlet to write about the case, TMZ, said that Kaepernick was being investigated for possible sexual assault. The Miami Police Department has tried to distance itself from that report, however. A police spokeswoman on Thursday said it was incorrect.

Wrote Kaepernick in a three-part tweet:

One thing to keep in mind: The incident report released by police on Thursday contains only the woman's version of events. Her name has been redacted to protect her identity. Police have refused to provide further details from the night of April 1, including why the woman was in the hospital and how she got there. The police will not release that information, they said, because it's part of an ongoing investigation.

-- Matt Barrows

April 10, 2014
Kaepernick, two other players, investigated in "suspicious incident" in Miami


Miami police are looking into what they termed a "suspicious incident" in Miami involving 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, receiver Quinton Patton and Seahawks receiver Ricardo Lockette, who once played for the 49ers and is a close friend of Kaepernick's. Police cautioned that the investigation is in its early stages and that no charges have been filed. In fact, the incident report makes no mention that a crime has occurred.

According to the report, the incident occurred April 1 when a woman went to Lockette's apartment at 485 Brickell Ave. in Miami at 9 p.m. Lockette, Kaepernick and Patton were there, and the woman made drinks and served shots to the players. She was also told that in order "to drink the shots she had to 'hit' the bong which contained marijuana," the report said.

The group then watched a basketball game on television. The report continues to say that the woman felt light headed and went to a bedroom where she was later joined by Kaepernick, 26, with whom she had a sexual relationship in the past. Kaepernick then left the bedroom. The two did not have sex, she said in the report. The report says that Patton, 23, and Lockette, 27, peeked inside the bedroom and that the woman yelled, "What are you doing? Where is Colin? Get out!"

According to the report, the woman does not remember anything about the night after that. She woke up in a hospital bed the following morning not knowing how she got there. The woman, whose name is redacted, reported the incident to police on April 3.

The 49ers released a statement from general manager Trent Baalke: "The 49ers organization is aware of the recent media report regarding Colin Kaepernick and is in the process of gathering the pertinent facts."

Kaepernick last year trained with Lockette in the Atlanta area and they lived together in Santa Clara until Lockette was released. They are training in South Florida this year. The 49ers and Kaepernick currently are negotiating a multi-year contract extension that, if completed, will make Kaepernick the highest-paid 49er and one of the highest paid players in the league.

Kaepernick and Patton were scheduled to be part of a large contingent of 49ers on hand for teammate Anquan Boldin's "Q Fest" festivities in South Florida this weekend that benefit his home town of Pahokee, Fla. Head coach Jim Harbaugh also is scheduled to attend. Also scheduled to attend -- receiver Michael Crabtree, who was interviewed in connection to an alleged sexual assault in San Francisco early in 2013. Charges never were filed in that case.

-- Matt Barrows

April 9, 2014
Chris Culliver faces three charges; threatening witness isn't one of them


Cornerback Chris Culliver is facing one felony charge and two misdemeanor charges after last month's hit-and-run incident involving a bicyclist in San Jose.

Culliver, 25, was charged with felony possession of metal knuckles, which carries up to a three-year prison sentence. He also was charged with misdemeanor hit and run with injury as well as misdemeanor hit and run, which have one-year maximum sentences.

The Santa Clara District Attorney's office today said it was unaware of any criminal activity in Culliver's past, which likely means he will not serve a maximum sentence and could avoid jail time altogether. The bicyclist, who was knocked down while crossing an intersection on March 28, was treated and released on the day of the incident.

Notably, Culliver was not charged for threatening the witness who followed Culliver in his vehicle after the encounter with the bicyclist. The initial media reports said that after the witness tried to block Culliver's white Ford Mustang to prevent him from leaving, Culliver got out of his car, threatened the witness with brass knuckles and then got back in the car and fled. A situation like that typically would result in a charge of "criminal threats," but that did not happen in this case.

Brass knuckles later were discovered in Culliver's car by San Jose Police. Deputy District Attorney Jaron Shipp said that the district attorney's office will continue to investigate the case.

If the NFL decides to punish the fourth-year cornerback, it likely would not do so until the legal process runs its course. Culliver is due to appear in court for an arraignment hearing on Friday.

He and Tramaine Brock are the frontrunners to start at cornerback in 2014. General manager Trent Baalke also said that Culliver - as well as Brock, Eric Wright and Perrish Cox - is a candidate to slip inside to slot cornerback when opponents bring out three or more receivers. The 49ers also are expected to draft a cornerback next month, perhaps in the first round.

- Matt Barrows

April 8, 2014
Snap count: 49ers will have options, competition at center


The 49ers' have exactly one unrestricted free agent who has yet to sign with any team - center Jonathan Goodwin, who has handled virtually every snap for the team for the last three season. The frontrunner to replace him, of course, is fourth-year player Daniel Kilgore, who was Goodwin's backup last season and who recently signed a three-year contract extension.

The bigger question is, who will compete with and push Kilgore during the offseason and who will serve as his backup during the regular season?

The 49ers have options. Adam Snyder has started three games at center and was the team's backup there in 2011. Joe Looney has been taking practice snaps at center beginning with the draft process in 2010. Ryan Seymour, acquired off the Seahawks' practice squad last season, played some center his senior season at Vanderbilt.

"I feel good about that group competing for that spot," general manager Trent Baalke said when asked about the team's prospects at center last month.

And if he doesn't feel good, the team always can bring back Goodwin or perhaps draft a center. The 49ers have shown interest in one of the top players at the position, Colorado State's Weston Richburg, according to a league source. Richburg is either considered the top or second-best center (to Arkansas' Travis Swanson) in the draft, depending on which publication you read. He is expected to be taken in the second round.

-- Matt Barrows

April 7, 2014
Single high? New CB Cook suggests changes in store for 49ers defense

Last month Jim Harbaugh hinted about changes to the 49ers offense. Could the team's defense also be in for a tweak or two?

Newly-signed cornerback Chris Cook suggested as much when he spoke about being used in a "single-high" defensive scheme. That's the formation with which the Seahawks have had so much success, one that often uses a single safety, Earl Thomas, in coverage so that the other safety, Kam Chancellor is free to crowd the line of scrimmage. It also is used in conjunction with Seattle's big, physical cornerbacks playing press coverage.

"They want me to be the press guy," the 6-2, 212-pound Cook said last month of the 49ers' plans for him. "And that's what I like to do. I feel like I'll fit in well with the one-high (safety) scheme that they like to run. I came from a two-high scheme. And I feel like a one-high scheme and a man-to-man scheme fits me well."

The Seahawks' style of defense, of course, is all the rage after a 2013 season in which they finished first in total defense, first in pass defense and annihilated Denver's offense in the Super Bowl. Chancellor in particular has been effective against the 49ers' only true down-field threat, tight end Vernon Davis. His receiving statistics in three meetings last season: 3 catches for 20 yards, 2 catches for 21 yards and 2 catches for 16 yards.

The 49ers' interest in tall, press cornerbacks also makes a one-high scheme seem like a possibility. In addition to signing Cook, the team has looked closely at Clemson cornerback Bashaud Breeland, one of several press-style cornerbacks who could be taken in the second round of this year's draft. (More on that below).

April 1, 2014
49ers show interest in DeSean Jackson, will proceed cautiously


****UPDATE**** The 49ers reportedly made a late push for DeSean Jackson, but he ultimately signed a three-year deal with the Redskins.

Trent Baalke last week adamantly denied contacting the Eagles about wide receiver DeSean Jackson. But he never denied having an interest in Jackson, who is now a free agent. Instead the 49ers general manager chose his words carefully: "As of this moment, there's been no discussions between us and the Philadelphia Eagles whatsoever," Baalke said at the owners' meeting in Orlando.

Now it seems as if reports linking the 49ers and Jackson, the former Cal star, have been accurate all along. Both NBC news in Washington, D.C. and ESPN's Adam Schefter report the 49ers are one of the teams interested in Jackson, who recently wrapped up a two-day visit with the Redskins. Other teams with interest include the Raiders, who can perhaps offer him more money than any other squad, the Browns and the Bills.

One thing to keep in mind when it comes to Jackson and San Francisco is the 49ers' strategy when it comes to free agents. If they have a high grade on a player, they'll typically show interest early only to back off later if the price tag does not fit their parameters. For example, they were one of the teams that inquired early about then-Vikings free agent Jared Allen but quickly fell out of the running when Allen made it known he wanted a top-dollar contract.

Their message seems to be: 'If you want to play for a winning team, this would be a great spot. But we're not going to break the bank for you.' In that way, the 49ers could offer Jackson a better chance at making it to a Super Bowl than his other suitors. But the other teams -- especially the Raiders and Browns -- could offer more money and realistically offer him more playing time.

March 28, 2014
Report: 49ers' Chris Culliver arrested after hit-and-run incident


Chris Culliver, whom the 49ers have been eying for one of their starting cornerback spots this season, was arrested Friday for felony hit-and-run and weapon charges, according to a report by KTVU.

The report said Culliver, 25, was arrested after his vehicle struck a bicyclist in San Jose this morning. A witness followed Culliver and blocked him with his own car, at which point Culliver allegedly threatened him with brass knuckles. Culliver fled again, this time striking the witness' car. The bicyclist suffered minor injuries in the incident.

When San Jose Police arrived, they found brass knuckles in Culliver's vehicle.

The 49ers issued a statement: "The 49ers organization is aware of the recent matter involving Chris Culliver. We will remain in contact with Chris and the local authorities as we continue to gather the facts regarding this situation. As this is an ongoing legal matter, we will reserve further comment at this time."

Culliver drew unwanted attention to the 49ers last year when he said, during Super Bowl media day, he didn't want gays in the team's locker room. At the time, team owner Jed York said he was upset by Culliver's comments and that he "hopes and prays that it affects him in a positive way going forward."

The third-year player has worked to repair his image since then, reaching out to the LGBT community and recently didicating himself to improving the treatment of animals.

He tore his ACL early in training camp in July and spent the last eight months rehabilitating. He is expected to make a full recovery. With starting cornerbacks Carlos Rogers and Tarell Brown no longer on the team, Culliver had been expected to fill one of those roles along with Tramaine Brock.

-- Matt Barrows

March 26, 2014
Harbaugh hints at changes to 49ers' offense


ORLANDO, Fla. - The 49ers are seeking wide receivers this offseason and, Jim Harbaugh hinted, perhaps some tweaks to their power-based offense.

"A real good scheme evaluation, I think, is what's next for us as coaches," the 49ers coach said today at a media breakfast. "Now that we've had Colin (Kaepernick) here for a year and half and understand what we all do well, what we could do better. I think that's something that's a priority right now that we'll attack."

Will they be big changes? "No, not big changes," he said. "But always be an evolution, always strive to make it better."

As is his custom, Harbaugh lavished praise on his starting quarterback and defended him against criticism, including accusations that he's a one-read passer.

"Some of the time there was just one guy to go to," Harbaugh said. "There were times we had Anquan (Boldin) and Vernon (Davis). And they were literally doubling Anquan and Vernon. And he had one other option to go to. ... There was tough sledding. It's up to all of us to get better."

One of the ways to improve, Harbaugh said more than once during the hour-long sessions, is to supply Kaepernick with more weapons. When receiver Michael Crabtree was injured last season, the 49ers' passing game revolved around two players - Boldin and Davis, who caught all but one of Kaepernick's 24 touchdown passes during the regular season and playoffs.

The situation improved when Crabtree returned to the field in December, but Harbaugh indicated that more firepower is needed. He and general manager Trent Baalke like Quinton Patton, a fourth-round pick in 2013 who was injured for half of his rookie season. This year's draft, however, is especially rich in wideouts, and the 49ers are likely to give Patton competition for the No. 3 spot.

March 26, 2014
Harbaugh notes: Coach to scout QBs Fales, Carr; says 49ers seeking No. 3 WR


ORLANDO, Fla. -- Hotcakes with Harbaugh went well this morning. Like the other NFC coaches, Jim Harbaugh spent about an hour at a breakfast table with members of the media and, as you might expect, covered a lot of ground. Here are my notes from the session:

*As he had in the past, Harbaugh spoke highly of receiver Quinton Patton and noted that the then rookie made an impact last season despite dealing with a broken finger in training camp and then a broken foot that cost him eight games during the season. But Harbaugh also made it clear that the team is looking to augment the position and give Colin Kaepernick a better No. 3 option. He said Kaepernick's inability to spread the ball around, especially early last season, was largely due to his receiving corps.

What's he looking for? "A No. 3 receiver, a third guy that can get open, make plays, another option for the quarterback to go to. A chance to attack all areas of the field. A playmaker. That's what we're looking for."

* Harbaugh already has taken a look at Eastern Illinois' quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo and Virginia Tech's Logan Thomas. He said he wants to check out a couple of California products next - San Jose State's David Fales and Fresno State's Derek Carr. He said this year will be similar to 2011 when he scouted "five or six" quarterbacks, including Blaine Gabbert and Kaepernick.

* Asked specifically about Johnny Manziel, Harbaugh said, "He sees the field like no one who's seen the field in college football." That's a bit like the lavish quote he gave about Cam Newton - he called him "plutonium-grade raw material" -- in 2011. It turns out the 49ers had no intention of drafting a quarterback in the first round that year. They are very unlikely to have a shot at Manziel this year.

* Frank Gore is entering the final year of his contract and, at age 30, what many believe will be his final season with the 49ers. Harbaugh, however, said, "I really think Frank has three more good years. I truly believe that." Then he paused. "But we're in a game of taking it one year at a time, so ..."

March 25, 2014
DeSean Jackson? 49ers typically don't spend big on outside players


Sure, the 49ers signed Justin Smith to a big-money free-agent contract in 2008. And they traded for a high-profile receiver - Anquan Boldin - and paid him $6 million last year. But the team typically doesn't bring in high-priced players from the outside and pay them more than their locker room leaders.

And if the team were to trade for Eagles receiver DeSean Jackson - and inherit his $10.5 million salary in 2014 - Jackson's allotment would outstrip that of Smith, Boldin, Patrick Willis, Frank Gore and every other long-time 49er.

"Never say never, but history usually repeats itself, right?" general manager Trent Baalke said of bringing in an outsider and giving him a team-high deal. "So historically the answer to that would be no. But we always reserve the right to do what's in the best interest of the 49ers."

Baalke today reiterated that the 49ers have not made any contact with the Eagles, who are reportedly shopping Jackson and who could cut him if they can't find a trade partner. Jackson led the Eagles with 82 receptions, 1,332 receiving yards and nine receiving touchdowns last year. He theoretically would be desirable for a 49ers offense in need of a speedy, downfield receiver.

But Baalke said the question of how Jackson or any newcomer would affect the chemistry of the 49ers' locker room - from a salary and personalty standpoint - would be paramount.

"There's a lot of thought that goes into every decision," he said. "One key thing we focus on is, 'What is this decision going to do to our locker room?' That's a big part of the decision-making process. We spend a lot of time looking at that, talking through it, thinking about it and making sure that the move we make isn't counter productive to winning. Because that's the ultimate goal - is to win."

- Matt Barrows

March 25, 2014
Baalke: 49ers hoping to extend Kaepernick by training camp


The 49ers want to extend Colin Kaepernick's contract by the start of training camp, and general manager Trent Baalke said today that negotiations soon will enter a new, more specific phase.

The two sides sat down for the first time last month at the scouting combine. Baalke said "generalities" were discussed then and in conversations since, but that there will be more face-to-face meetings in coming months. "Now we're ready to present a formal proposal," he said.

Kaepernick is entering the final year of his original contract, one that will pay him just over $1 million. By comparison, backup quarterback Blaine Gabbert will earn $2 million. The going rate for franchise quarterbacks is far greater -- $18 million a year, a benchmark established by recent deals for Jay Cutler of the Bears and Tony Romo of the Cowboys.

The 49ers' challenge -- indeed, the challenge of any team that has paid top dollar for a quarterback -- will be making Kaepernick happy while still being able to field a competitive team in the future. John Harbaugh, whose Ravens team completed a big-money deal with quarterback Joe Flacco last year, conceded today that it's not an easy balance.

"It boils down to math," Harbaugh said. "Because that's a big chunk out of your bookkeeping. And it's really going to hit us this year and next year and going forward. ... So we've got to make tough decisions like (linebacker) Jameel McClain (signed by the Giants), and you've got to determine where you're going to spend your money."

If no deal is struck this summer, the 49ers still could retain Kaepernick for 2015 by giving him the franchise tag. The 49ers gave safety Dashon Goldson the franchise tag in 2012, but it's generally been something the team has avoided using in recent years. Could Baalke apply it to Kaepernick?

"I've said this before - the franchise tag is a tool we can use. It's not something we like to do," Baalke said. " ... We're going to use all resources to keep our football team together. Will we use it in this scenario? It's really too early to go into that type of discussion."

For now the team will work in earnest to get a long-term deal completed. "We're going to work extremely hard, very diligently in trying to get something done prior to training camp," he said. "That's the objective right now, as it stands."

-- Matt Barrows

March 24, 2014
49ers to re-sign WR Kassim Osgood


ORLANDO -- As expected, the 49ers will bring back special teams standout Kassim Osgood for 2014, according to a league source at the owner's meeting in Orlando. He is set to earn the league minimum for an 11-year veteran, $955,000. The 49ers signed Osgood, 33, as a free agent last season, and along with fellow veteran Ray Ventrone, he solidified a special teams coverage unit that had lapsed in 2012.

A three-time Pro Bowl selection, Osgood finished with 12 tackles on special teams to go along with one reception for 17 yards that came in the Candlestick Park finale against Atlanta on Dec. 23. The 49ers tied for third in the NFL in kickoff coverage. They finished 13th in punt coverage.

Osgood joins a wide-receiving corps on which Anquan Boldin and Michael Crabtree will be the starters and that also includes Quinton Patton, Jon Baldwin, Devin Wylie, Brandon Carswell, Chuck Jacobs, David Reed and DeMarco Sampson. The 49ers also are expected to use an early draft pick on a receiver.

Also today, general manager Trent Baalke reiterated his stance that the 49ers have not contacted the Eagles about receiver DeSean Jackson. Reports have consistently linked the 49ers to the former Cal star for the last week.

-- Matt Barrows

March 24, 2014
Harbaugh calls Kaepernick's extension a "high priority;" why 49ers never considered Gabbert in first round


ORLANDO -- The 49ers began discussing a contract extension for quarterback Colin Kaepernick last month, and Jim Harbaugh on Monday said it was "a high priority" to have that completed this offseason.

"The priority is that Colin Kaepernick is a San Francisco 49er for however long we can have him be a San Francisco 49er," Harbaugh said at the league's annual meeting. "So it's definitely a high priority. He's an amazing individual, an amazing player."

Harbaugh then explained why he thought Kaepernick was deserving of a deal.

"He shows up at work all the time," he said. "There's really no one that competes with him in a workout situation. He will bury everybody. And then when somebody tries to compete with him, he ramps his competitiveness up, and somebody's over their knee throwing up. He's unbelievable. So you can tell I feel he's a great player, a high priority."

The price tag for a starting quarterback begins at $18 million a season, which is what the Cowboys' Tony Romo and the Bears' Jay Cutler received in deals struck within the last two years. Kaepernick is scheduled to earn $1.073 million in 2014, the final year in his original four-year contract. Backup quarterback Blaine Gabbert, by comparison, is scheduled to earn $2.011 million this season.

March 24, 2014
Harbaugh sloughs off "mini-controversy," talks Jonathan Martin

ORLANDO -- Jim Harbaugh likened the 49ers' acquisition of Jonathan Martin to Glenn Dorsey's addition a year earlier. San Francisco signed Dorsey, the former fifth overall pick in the draft, to a two-year deal after he spent five mostly quiet years with the Chiefs. Dorsey started 13 games at nose tackle last season.

The 49ers traded for Martin after the offensive lineman left the Dolphins in October amid allegations of hazing and bullying inside Miami's locker room. Harbaugh, appearing on the NFL Network, was asked if he and Martin have talked about what happened in Miami. "No, didn't ask him anything," he said. "Told him I don't want to know anything."

Harbaugh called Martin's addition "a great opportunity and a powerful motivator. I hope it works out for Jonathan Martin just the way it did for Glenn Dorsey."

The 49ers have made a habit of signing players who have failed to live up to lofty draft positions. In addition to Martin, a former second-round pick, the 49ers recently traded for one-time first-round pick Blaine Gabbert and also signed cornerback Chris Cook, a former second-round pick, to a one-year deal. Last year they added Dorsey and cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha, both of whom were first-round picks, and in 2011 they brought in Carlos Rogers and Donte Whitner, who also were former first rounders.

Meanwhile, Harbaugh reiterated that "there was zero chance of me leaving the San Francisco 49ers." In January, the Cleveland Browns approached the 49ers about trading their head coach. According to team owner Jed York, the Browns were quickly rebuffed.

"I love coaching my team too much," Harbaugh said. "It's a joy to coach my players. Love 'em. Love our coaches. And I love the organization I serve. That story hasn't been reported."

Harbaugh called it a "mini-controversy." "I treat mini-controversies and give them the respect they're due," he said.

-- Matt Barrows

March 23, 2014
Report: 49ers have not called about DeSean Jackson

Trent Baalke said the 49ers have not called the Eagles to inquire about receiver DeSean Jackson, according to CSN Bay Area. The 49ers have been one of the teams linked to Jackson, who played at Cal and whom Philadelphia reportedly is shopping to other teams.

"We've not made any contact with the Eagles relative to a trade for DeSean Jackson," Baalke said. "... As of this moment, those reports are totally misleading and false."

The 49ers have considered several free-agent receivers with speed and with punt-return abilities, which fits Jackson's description as well. But Jackson will earn $10.5 million next season, a price any team that trades for him will inherit. San Francisco currently has less than $4 million salary-cap space. Additionally, the 49ers have used three-wide receivers alignments less than any other team over the last three seasons, suggesting that on a team with Anquan Boldin and Michael Crabtree, Jackson may not be worth a high price tag.

Perhaps tellingly, Jackson used his Instagram account over the weekend to presumably flirt with possible employers -- a picture of him with Carolina quarterback Cam Newton and another with Seahawks coach Pete Carroll, for example. The teams he listed included the Seahawks, Jets, Panthers and Raiders. The 49ers were not part of his array of pictures.

-- Matt Barrows

March 23, 2014
Phil Dawson has a point: 49ers kicker leery of possible rule changes


ORLANDO -- Extra points have become far too easy in the NFL. But don't tell that to the guys who kick them for a living.

"I wouldn't call anything out there easy," 49ers kicker Phil Dawson said last week. "I mean, anybody's that's ever played golf knows the three-foot putt is the most stressful."

Still, Dawson, a 15-year veteran, avoided the extra-point yips last season, converting all 44 of his attempts. In fact, the NFL had only five misses in 1,267 attempts in 2013, a 99.6 percent success rate that some officials consider so efficient it has become the most boring play in sports.

The league's owners are meeting in Orlando this week to decide whether to add more spice to the one-point play, including a proposal to move extra-point kicks from the 2-yard line to the 25-yard line. The league is unlikely to alter extra points for the 2014 season but it could experiment with longer attempts and other ideas in the preseason.

Dawson has mixed feelings. He's been one of the top long-range kickers in recent seasons, and he said he's all for highlighting the kicker's skills. But he certainly doesn't want to see the position diminished.

The league already is toying with the idea of eliminating kickoffs, which produce some of the biggest collisions and most serious injuries, including concussions, in the game. A longer extra-point attempt also might keep the kicker on the sideline.

March 21, 2014
49ers notes: Hester was on SF's radar; team checks out cornerback


The 49ers' desire to at least check out speedy receivers included another name - ex-Bears wideout and returner Devin Hester, who was signed by the Falcons this week. On a conference call with Atlanta-area reporters, Hester said San Francisco, Seattle, Miami and Tampa Bay were on his list of possible destinations.

The speedy Hester, 31, has been used as a down-field threat in the Bears offense. But he's had perhaps a bigger impact as a punt and kick returner. He has 13 touchdowns on punt returns in eight seasons. San Francisco used a second-round pick in 2012 on LaMichael James, and he served as the primary return man last season.

The 49ers also showed interest in receivers Julian Edelman, Emmanuel Sanders, Hakeem Nicks, Golden Tate and Dexter McCluster during the free-agency period. Edelman, Tate and McCluster all have handled punt returns at some point in their careers.

They also have been linked to Eagles receiver DeSean Jackson, whom Philadelphia reportedly has considered trading. Acquiring Jackson - another receiver with punt-return ability - would mean a $10.5 million salary-cap hit. The 49ers currently have about $3.8 million in salary-cap space, according to NFLPA records.

* The 49ers had a scout at Stanford's pro day Thursday where safety Ed Reynolds and defensive end/outside linebacker Ben Gardner stood out. Inside linebacker Shayne Skov did not do any on-field drills after straining his hamstring.

* The sharp eyes of reader Franco Mazzoli noticed that the 49ers' top college scout, Matt Malaspina, attended Middle Tennessee State's Pro Day. The main attraction there was a cornerback, Sammy Seamster, who ran the 40 in 4.47 and 4.44 seconds, had a 35-inch vertical jump and an impressive 10-4 broad jump. Seamster has good size at 6-0 1/2, 200. His arm length? That critical piece of information has been unavailable heretofore. The 49ers like to use a late-round pick on a cornerback.

- Matt Barrows

March 20, 2014
49ers sign FB Bruce Miller to three-year contract extension


Three years ago, Bruce Miller was an undersized defensive end at Central Florida who was wondering if he'd even get drafted. On the eve of the draft, he got a phone call from 49ers assistant coach Tom Rathman. The good news: The 49ers were interested in selecting him. The odd news: They also were interested in switching him to fullback.

"I didn't care if it was offense, defense, special teams or any of that," said Miller, who ended up being taken in the seventh round. "It was exciting to know that I was on their radar and that I had the possibility of moving out to California and being a Niner."

That open-minded attitude has served him well since, and on Thursday he was rewarded with a three-year contract extension through the 2017 season. Few teams in the pass-heavy NFL use a fullback as much as the 49ers, and Miller will be among the highest paid at his position with his new deal.

Miller also is the latest member of the 49ers' successful 2011 draft class to receive an extension. The team previously extended the deal of offensive lineman Daniel Kilgore, a fifth-round pick that year, and is working on a longer contract for quarterback Colin Kaepernick, a second rounder in 2011. Kaepernick's is expected to be the highest on the team and one of the most lucrative in the NFL.

"Bruce is a hard-working, dedicated young player that has done an outstanding job for us, both on and off the field," general manager Trent Baalke said in a statement. "He is one of those players that contributes a lot more to the team and to the community than he gets credit for, yet wouldn't have it any other way. We are pleased that Bruce has chosen to extend his stay with the 49ers."

Miller, 26, has played in 45 games (34 starts), and has 48 receptions for 410 yards and one touchdown and 16 carries for 39 yards. In 2013, Miller set career-highs in receptions (25) and receiving yards (243) despite breaking his scapula in a Dec. 15 game in Tampa Bay and missing the last two games of the season and the postseason. Miller said he has completely recovered from the injury and will be full-go for the team's offseason strength and conditioning program that begins April 21.

-- Matt Barrows

March 20, 2014
49ers look at big-legged kicking prospect

Wide receiver, cornerback, quarterback ... kicker?

It doesn't appear to be a big offseason need for the 49ers after they signed Phil Dawson to a two-year deal earlier this month. But the team worked out a big-legged prospect, Old Dominion University's Jarod Brown, at the school's pro day on Tuesday.

At 5-11, 235 pounds, Brown has a Janikowskian physique. He also has shown the ability to hit from long range. Brown made four kicks of 50 yards or more while at ODU, including a 54-yarder against Pitt last season that is the longest field goal ever at Heinz Field, both in college football and the NFL. Brown also was known as a touchback specialist on kickoffs and had 14 successful on-side kicks at ODU.

A rookie certainly isn't expected to take over for Dawson, who kicked 27 consecutive field goals for the 49ers last season. But they likely are looking for someone to help kick during OTAs, minicamps and training camp. And with Dawson turning 40 in January it certainly doesn't hurt to start looking at younger prospects.

- Matt Barrows

March 20, 2014
Fine catch: Anquan Boldin wins community service award


The NFL Players Association announced today that Anquan Boldin is the winner of its annual Byron "Whizzer" White Award given for community service. Boldin is the first 49er to win the award, which has been given out since 1967 and is named for the late Supreme Court Justice who played halfback for the Pittsburgh Pirates (now the Steelers) and Detroit Lions. The award includes a $100,000 donation to Boldin's foundation.

Boldin won for his "Q81"Foundation, which has set up charities in Phoenix, Baltimore, the Bay Area as well as his hometown of Pahokee, Fla. Boldin has also been involved with Oxfam America, Wounded Warriors and the United Way campaigns. He traveled to Africa a year ago to learn more about mining abuses in West Africa and is planning another trip this spring. Boldin signed a two-year extension with the 49ers earlier this month.

All 32 teams voted for nominees during the regular season. The judges, Domonique Foxworth, Kevin Mawae, Charlie Batch, Mike Kenn and Trace Armstrong, narrowed the applicants down to five finalists. The other finalists were: Davin Joseph (Tampa Bay Buccaneers), Stephen Tulloch (Detroit Lions), Matthew Slater (New England Patriots) and Vonta Leach (Baltimore Ravens).

Previous Justice Byron R. "Whizzer" White Award Winners
2013 Charlie Batch, Pittsburgh Steelers
2012 Drew Brees, New Orleans Saints
2011 Tony Richardson, New York Jets
2010 Nnamdi Asomugha, Oakland Raiders

March 19, 2014
Epic Fales: San Jose State QB performs for NFL scouts


SAN JOSE -- One of David Fales' deep passes got away from him today. His other 52, however, were on target, bolstering the assessment that Fales is one of the more accurate quarterbacks in the draft and is a worthy mid-round addition for teams who skip a passer early on. Fales had a completion percentage of 72.5 in 2012 and 64.1 last season.

Representatives from more than 20 teams watched the San Jose State quarterback and the other Spartan prospects, including Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie and 49ers quarterbacks coach Geep Chryst. The 49ers had three other scouts in attendance.

Also watching were a couple of ex-49ers quarterbacks, Alex Smith, who trains at San Jose State, and Trent Dilfer, an analyst with ESPN. Dilfer tweeted that he thought Fales resembled former Redskins, Rams and Chief quarterback Trent Green, who spent 15 years in the league.

Smith's wife's family lives in the area, and he spends parts of his offseasons here despite playing for the Chiefs. He and Fales trained together last offseason and the two will work with San Jose State strength and conditioning coach Gary Uribe over the next two months. "So I'm going to be really looking forward to that," Fales said. "You get to train with someone whose been around the league for a while and knows it - it's awesome. He's a great guy, too."

March 18, 2014
Cold War over? Baalke, Harbaugh appear to be working together


Jim Harbaugh and Trent Baalke at each others' throat? Sending snippy emails back and forth? Staring straight ahead when they pass each other in the hallway? Both men are careful not to allow even the slightest peek into their inner sanctum, so it's impossible to say for sure whether any cold war between them has thawed or rages on. But the free-agency period has offered some significant clues that they have been working hand in hand in recent weeks.

* Trading for Jonathan Martin. Baalke is the one who pulls off trades, indeed he's the one that handles any additions or subtractions to the 49ers' roster. But it was obviously Harbaugh who was pushing to add his former Stanford pupil. Harbaugh spoke highly and confidently of Martin when he left the Dolphins in October. He did the same in the independent Ted Wells' report that looked at allegations of bullying and hazing inside Miami's locker room. In short, Harbaugh has been Martin most vocal defender and champion, and his addition to the 49ers' roster has Harbaugh's fingerprints all over it.

* Trading for Blaine Gabbert. As general manager, Baalke is the team's top talent evaluator. But he gives Harbaugh more license when it comes to quarterbacks. Harbaugh took a long look at Gabbert during the 2011 draft. And while we don't know whether Harbaugh lobbied to trade for Gabbert, it's reasonable to assume that Harbaugh had plenty of input before Baalke pulled the trigger on this deal. Quarterback likely was a sore point between the two in the past. In the last three years, the 49ers' backups at the position went from McLeod Bethel-Thompson to Scott Tolzien to B.J. Daniels to John Skelton to McLeod Bethel-Thompson. Baalke would prefer to be less impulsive when it comes to roster maneuvers. That they agreed on adding Gabbert is a positive sign.

March 17, 2014
Sub-par secondary? Don't judge yet, 49ers fans


The 49ers have blown up the secondary they built in 2011 and that ranked in the top 10 in pass defense the past two seasons. But if you thought that unit was going to be great when it was assembled back then, you are either clairvoyant or -- more likely - a big, fat liar.

One of the starting cornerbacks in 2011, Tarell Brown, had started five games in his previous four seasons in the league and none in 2010. He only got the job because Shawntae Spencer pulled his hamstring in training camp. The other, Carlos Rogers, was considered a first-round bust in Washington and was best known for dropping would-be interceptions at inopportune times. Rogers was so lightly regarded that he lasted more than a week in free agency before the 49ers signed him to a one-year deal.

Rogers finished the season with six interceptions and started in the Pro Bowl. Brown started all 18 games and finished with five interceptions, including one in the playoffs.

At safety, the 49ers brought in one experienced starter in Donte Whitner. But there was not a big demand for the undersized, over-drafted Whitner on the free-agent market and he, too, lasted several days before being signed. On other side, Madieu Williams (yes, Madieu Williams; I double-checked it) started the first two games before Dashon Goldson took over. Whitner would go on to have the most iconic defensive play of the 49ers' playoff run when he knocked Saints running back Pierre Thomas out of the game on New Orleans' opening drive. Goldson tied with Rogers for the team lead with six interceptions and, like Rogers, made his first Pro Bowl. The 49ers tied for the league lead in takeaways.

March 16, 2014
Cornerback Walter Thurmond to sign with Giants


Walter Thurmond has left the building. According to a number of reports, the former Seahawks cornerback will sign a one-year deal with the Giants. The contract, for $3.5 million, is similar to the one Tarell Brown signed with the Raiders last week, which makes sense because they are represented by the same agent.

Thurmond was attractive to the 49ers because he had played the nickel cornerback position with the Seahawks. The only two players who manned that spot in San Francisco for the last three years, Carlos Rogers and Perrish Cox, are both free agents. Thurmond visited Jacksonville and the 49ers before agreeing with the Giants.

Meanwhile, wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders never showed up for his Saturday meeting with the 49ers. He instead will sign a deal with the Broncos, ESPN's Adam Schefter first reporter. Three other wideouts the 49ers were interested in also will sign elsewhere: Golden Tate with the Lions, Hakeem Nicks with the Colts and Julian Edelman with the Patriots.

The common thread for the cornerbacks and wide receivers the 49ers have considered so far? They're either 26 or 27 years old. Who else fits that description? Here's a list:

March 15, 2014
Update: Edelman retained by Patriots; Thurmond mulling options

It probably should come as no surprise that receiver Julian Edelman, who visited the 49ers Friday, reached a deal with the Patriots Saturday. Edelman was Tom Brady's favorite target last season, catching 105 passes for 1,056 yards. He simply had more value to New England than he did the 49ers, who will start Michael Crabtree and Anquan Boldin at wideout and who only use three wide receivers about 20 percent of the time.

Edelman, who is from the Bay Area, took to Twitter to confirm the deal.

Meanwhile, another receiver who drew the interest of the 49ers, Hakeem Nicks, signed with the Colts on Friday. A third receiver, Steelers free agent Emmanuel Sanders, is visiting the 49ers today. Sanders has multiple suitors, including Kansas City and Jacksonville.

Seattle cornerback Walter Thurmond is weighing his options after visiting with the 49ers Friday. He would be a good fit on the 49ers because he plays the nickel cornerback position and because his loss would hurt their division rivals. Thurmond, however, also has multiple suitors, including Jacksonville, where former Seattle defensive coordinator Gus Bradley is now the head coach.

-- Matt Barrows

March 14, 2014
Pressing matter: Chris Cook clear about his role with 49ers


As Tarell Brown was signing his one-year deal in Oakland today, cornerback Chris Cook was signing a one-year contract on the other end of the bay

Like Jonathan Martin and Blaine Gabbert before him, Cook - who spent four, often rocky seasons in Minnesota - said he was looking forward to "revamping my career" with San Francisco. "I feel rejuvenated now that I've signed my contract," he said.

Cook, who is 6-2, 212 pounds, said the 49ers didn't mince words about how they saw him fitting into the defense. "They want me to be the press guy," he said. "And that's what I like to do. I feel like I'll fit in well with the one-high (safety) scheme that they like to run. I came from a two-high scheme. And I feel like a one-high scheme and a man-to-man scheme fits me well."

The arch-rival Seahawks, of course, specialize in that one-high-safety concept. Asked if he felt he bore any similarities to Seattle's tall, long-limbed man-to-man specialist, Richard Sherman, Cook said, "He's a great player, and I respect his game a lot. We have similar body types and stuff like that. But other than that, I don't really compare myself to him."

Said Cook: "I'm just coming in to do my job to the best of my ability and help the team continue on a winning path."

-- Matt Barrows

March 14, 2014
Right around the corner: Raiders snag Tarell Brown


Tarell Brown is leaving the 49ers but won't have to go far.

The 49ers' starting cornerback for the last three seasons signed a one-year, $3.5 million deal with the Raiders, who will host their Bay Area rivals in Oakland later this year. The 49ers remained in contact with Brown's agent, Joel Segal, over the week, but the two sides never could settle on a deal. Segal also represents Seattle free-agent cornerback Walter Thurmond, who visited San Francisco today.

Brown's departure means that the entire secondary the 49ers assembled in 2011 is likely gone. One safety, Dashon Goldson, signed with the Buccaneers last year while the other, Donte Whitner, is now in Cleveland. The 49ers cut cornerback Carlos Rogers Tuesday. He remains un-signed.

Brown follows the path of Shawntae Spencer, a cornerback who played eight seasons in San Francisco before joining the Raiders in 2012. Spencer did not play last season.

Brown was fifth-round pick in 2007. He was the team's starter at right cornerback the last three seasons, although a rib injury caused him to miss the last six games of the regular season. That allowed Tramaine Brock to take over as a starter. The 49ers gave Brock a four-year contract extension soon thereafter and Brock promises to be one of the cornerback starters in September. Chris Culliver, who is on schedule to fully recover from an ACL injury, is the frontrunner at the other spot.

As Brown was signing his one-year deal with Oakland, Chris Cook was signing a one-year contract for the 49ers. Like Jonathan Martin and Blaine Gabbert before him, Cook - who spent four, often rocky seasons in Minnesota - said he was looking forward to "revamping my career" with the 49ers. "I feel rejuvenated now that I've signed my contract," he said.

March 14, 2014
Seeking stability: Gabbert hoping to follow Alex Smith's footsteps


The similarities are abundant, right down to the shoulder injury that washed out Blaine Gabbert's second season. The newest 49ers quarterback today said he is seeking stability after a shaky start to his career, and he figures the best landing spot is where another high-profile 49ers passer who had been knocked around a bit finally found his footing.

"You always hear the comparisons," Gabbert said of Alex Smith. "Alex is a great quarterback, and he's done extremely well in Kansas City. And he's a guy that you look and you like to emulate yourself after - seeing the struggles he went through early on his career with all the changes that were going on around him and the way he's persevered through injuries, through all those changes to put himself in the position he's in now and take their team to the playoffs."

Smith, of course, was a former No. 1 overall pick who dealt with two season-ending shoulder injuries and a revolving door at offensive coordinator before Jim Harbaugh and his staff gave him some consistency in 2011. His passer rating - 67.3 to that point - jumped to 90.7 that season, and Smith led the 49ers to within overtime of going to the Super Bowl.

Like Smith, Gabbert was a high draft pick, having gone 10th overall to Jacksonville in 2011. He and Smith are the same height (6-4), they are mobile and they played in read-option offenses in college. They both wear No. 11 (although 49ers receiver Quinton Patton has it now), and they even trained together in San Diego last summer. Kansas City backup Chase Daniel preceded Gabbert at the University of Missouri and suggested he train alongside him, Smith and Saints quarterback Drew Brees.

March 14, 2014
Emmanuel Sanders next WR to visit 49ers


If you still don't think wide receiver and cornerback top the list of 49ers' offseason needs, consider the parade of free agents heading through team headquarters this week. The latest is another wideout, Emmanuel Sanders, who had 67 catches, 740 yards and six touchdowns in 10 starts for the Steelers last season. He's already visited the Jaguars and Buccaneers and was in Kansas City today.

Of the group of receivers linked to San Francisco - it includes Julian Edelman and Hakeem Nicks - Sanders has the best deep speed, something the team could use against defenses that stack the line of scrimmage against their running game. Sanders ran his 40 in 4.41 seconds in 2010.

Still, as with the other free-agent wideouts, it's hard to see how the 49ers would fit Sanders into an offense that will start Michael Crabtree and Anquan Boldin in 2014. While three- and four-receiver sets are all the rage in the NFL, the 49ers have gone retro with their alignments, preferring instead two-tight end sets or a fullback. Three wide receivers? Including playoff games, the 49ers used that formation 21.8 percent of the time in 2011, 18.8 percent of the time in 2012 and 22.8 percent of the time last season, according to stats from Pro Football Focus.

The league average for three-receivers sets is 54 percent.

The 49ers like 2013 draft pick Quinton Patton and are expected to add at least one wideout in a May draft that is deep at the position. A good free-agent receiver could expect to be part of a rotation just as Randy Moss, Ted Ginn, Mario Manningham and Kyle Williams were during 2012. This led to frustration from Moss and Ginn following the season. Ginn notably had 556 yards and five touchdowns as Carolina's third receiver last season, and he signed a three-year deal with Arizona yesterday.

If the 49ers don't have a big role in mind for a free-agent receiver, it also raises the question of how much they will pay that receiver. As of today, the team is a little less than $4 million under the salary cap.

- Matt Barrows

March 14, 2014
49ers free-agent tracker: CBs, WRs top the list


Here's a run-down of where things stand for the 49ers in free agency.

Persons of interest

CB Chris Cook: UPDATE -- SIGNED with 49ers. The ex-Vikings cornerback flew to the Bay Area Thursday and is visiting today. A second-round pick in 2010, Cook has been a disappointment on and off the field for Minnesota. However, he has the size and athleticism GM Trent Baalke is seeking in a cornerback, and his past transgressions may make him more affordable than other options. The 49ers also have perhaps the best defensive backs coach in the league in Ed Donatell.

CB Walter Thurmond: UPDATE -- SIGNED with the Giants. The ex-Seahawk can play both outside and the nickel position, a real asset considering that Carlos Rogers is unlikely to be back. Thurmond is from California. But he also wants to return to Seattle and is hoping the Seahawks increase their offer. He already has visited Jacksonville, where ex-Seahawks defensive coordinator Gus Bradley is the head coach, and he has other suitors, including the Redskins.

WR Julian Edelman: UPDATE -- SIGNED with the Patriots. He's a Bay Area native the 49ers have had their eye on since he was preparing for the draft in 2009. He's become Tom Brady's top target and the Patriots want to re-sign him. However, their offer to date has been unsatisfactory. Can the 49ers give him more? And can they promise him a big role in an offense that has Michael Crabtree and Anquan Boldin and which uses three wide receivers only 20 percent of the time?

WR Emmanuel Sanders: UPDATE -- multiple reports say he will SIGN with Denver. He had plans to be in town Saturday. He has the kind of deep speed to stretch defenses, which the 49ers sorely lacked at wide receiver last year. Still, you have to wonder why the Steelers -- who use that type of receiver as well as any team in the league -- haven't made a bigger effort to retain him.

March 13, 2014
49ers to host Edelman; reportedly interested in Nicks


The 49ers will get another crack at Julian Edelman.

The team worked out the Redwood City product at their facility before the 2009 draft. He ended up being drafted by the Patriots in the seventh round that year, converting from quarterback to receiver and becoming a very good pass catcher out of the slot for Tom Brady as well as New England's return man.

On Friday, he'll pay a free-agent visit to the 49ers, a league source confirmed Friday. The team also has interest in Giants free-agent receiver Hakeem Nicks, ESPN reported. The team showed interest in one-time Seattle receiver Golden Tate early in free agency.

Edelman, 27, is interesting because he's local - he began his college career at San Mateo College before moving to Kent State - and because he could fill a number of roles for San Francisco. He had a career-high 105 catches for 1,056 yards last year for New England. He also has handled 107 punts over the last five seasons and has averaged 12.3 yards a return with three touchdowns. The team's return man last year, LaMichael James, averaged 10.9 yards a return.

Given his original draft slot, Edelman has been underpaid so far in his career and is looking for a big contract. The 49ers certainly could create some room under their salary cap by restructuring contracts. However, there's not a lot of space right now after adding Antoine Bethea, Phil Dawson, Jonathan Martin, Blaine Gabbert and Eric Wright in recent days. Meanwhile, the Patriots are pressing to retain Edelman, who has become Brady's favorite target. The Browns also have shown interest, the source said.

Nicks, 26, is a five-year veteran who caught 56 passes for 896 yards last season. However, his production tailed off over the last two seasons as he battled foot and knee injuries, and he was a trade option last season.

-- Matt Barrows

March 13, 2014
Jonathan Martin's odyssey: I feel like I'm back home


Jonathan Martin said he's exchanged texts with one new linemate, Joe Staley, and had a Twitter conversation with another, Anthony Davis. "I can tell already that I'm going to get along just great with those guys," said Martin, whose trade from the Dolphins to the 49ers became official this afternoon. "I felt a warm welcome from the entire 49ers community, fanbase, coaching staff, everybody."

That warmth, of course, is in stark contrast to the messy ordeal Martin went through with the Dolphins, the team that drafted him in the second round two years ago. Martin left the squad in October amid allegations of hazing inside the locker room, especially from his fellow linemen. The details - often salacious, vulgar and ugly - were recently laid out in a 144-page, independent report commissioned by the NFL.

In a conference call with reporters today, Martin was determined not to wade into the past. Asked if he felt any regrets about what happened last year, he said, "You can say, 'This or that could have gone differently,' but hindsight is 20-20," he said. "My focus is 100 percent on the future and moving forward." Asked what he would say to those who think he broke a locker-room code and should have toughed it out, he said, "I'm not worried about that. All that's in the past at this point."

Instead he said he was looking forward to joining his new team. Ever since he left the Dolphins, the 49ers seemed like a probable landing spot. Jim Harbaugh, who recruited Martin out of North Hollywood, Calif. when Harbaugh was coaching Stanford, called Martin a "personal friend" when news of Martin's absence first broke five months ago. Harbaugh also spoke highly and confidently of Martin in the independent report.

March 13, 2014
49ers on hand to watch speedy Wyoming wideout

We step away from FA Watch to note that the 49ers had a scout at Wyoming's pro day today. The featured attraction was a wide receiver, Robert Herron, who reportedly ran his 40-yard dash in the 4.3-second range. That's an improvement from the combine when he was clocked at 4.48 seconds.

Herron also had a good showing at the Senior Bowl. He's seen as a mid-round draft pick who has drawn comparisons to Colts receiver T.Y. Hilton, a third-round pick in 2012. Hilton's name should raise the ears of 49ers fans considering he is one of the few wideouts last year to have a big day against Seattle's secondary.

Wyoming quarterback Brett Smith also was impressive today, according to reports. The 49ers traded for Blaine Gabbert this week but still could add a quarterback in the draft.


-- Matt Barrows

March 12, 2014
Cornerback Chris Cook to visit 49ers Thursday


The 49ers will host free-agent cornerback Chris Cook, who has the tall, long-limbed profile they covet at the position, on Thursday, a league source said tonight. The 6-2 Cook was a second-round pick by the Vikings in 2010. And while he doesn't have elite stats -- no interceptions in four seasons -- he does have the long arms (32 1/2 inches) general manager Trent Baalke likes and he figures to fit under the 49ers' quickly contracting salary cap.

The 49ers are light at cornerback after cutting three-year starter Carlos Rogers on Tuesday. Another starter, Tarell Brown, is testing the free-agent market. It's not known which teams have shown interest in Brown, but he indicated on Monday that he had suitors on the east coast.

The 49ers also have asked about Dolphins free-agent cornerback Nolan Carroll. He visited the Bills today, but Buffalo ended up signing another player at the position, Corey Graham. UPDATE, 7:00 a.m.: Today Carroll signed a two-year, $5.2 million deal with the Eagles, according to Fox Sports.

The 49ers have five cornerbacks under contract: Tramaine Brock, Chris Culliver, Eric Wright, Darryl Morris and Dax Swanson.

-- Matt Barrows

March 12, 2014
Clean hitter: Antoine Bethea adjusted to new rules


Antoine Bethea came clean today during a radio interview with KNBR. After he was signed Tuesday, a number of reporters noted that he played 99 percent of the Colts' defensive snaps last season but finished without a single penalty.

Well, that's not exactly true, Bethea said. The new 49ers safety said he was penalized once - during his team's divisional playoff loss to the Patriots. (A check of the official game book, however, shows no such penalty and he's not listed as having any penalties on the NFL's official stat site.)

Whether it's one penalty or no penalties, it's still a remarkable achievement in a league that has become very sensitive about big hits on pass catchers and ball carriers. The man Bethea is replacing, Donte Whitner, struggled to adjust to the new rules throughout the 2013 season. He had six personal-foul type penalties (including four unnecessary roughness calls) in the regular season and one more in the championship game against the Seahawks.

Bethea agreed that adjusting to those rules isn't easy.

"It's most definitely tough - don't get me wrong," he said. "I most definitely understand the argument that DBs have with the rules. But at the end of the day, they are the new rules and we all understand why they install the rules. But you've got to go go with the flow, and if they change it you've got to do your best to change as well."

Bethea's penalty count
2013: 0
2012: 2, 25 yards
2011: 3, 24 yards
2010: 1, 15 yards
2009: 1, 15 yards
2008: 2, 10 yards
2007: 3, 34 yards
2006: 1, 2 yards

Bethea said he had dinner Tuesday night with defensive coordinator Vic Fangio. He also said that winning a Super Bowl, which he did with the Colts his rookie year, was a big reason he signed with the 49ers. "Of course, sitting here, I wish I had two Super Bowl rings instead of one," he said. "It's one reason I'm here in San Fran. A great opportunity to get another ring. That's what I'm here to do."

-- Matt Barrows

March 12, 2014
Wednesday morning QB: Analyzing 49ers' busy start to free agency


Here are some thoughts on Tuesday's additions to the 49ers' roster. All of the transactions - free-agent signings, trades - are contingent on the players passing physicals. There is no reason to believe that any of the players below have any conditions that may scuttle a deal.

Safety Antoine Bethea. The 49ers wanted to retain Donte Whitner but felt that $7 million a year outstripped his value. So they acquired a Whitner-like player at a slightly lower price, between $5 and $6 million a year. As was the case last year when Eric Reid replaced Dashon Goldson, the new safety starter's skills and physical profile are eerily similar to the old starter's. The bottom line is that the 49ers needed a smart and steady veteran at safety as a counterbalance the youth at other positions in the secondary. That's what they had in Whitner but also what they get in Bethea.

Quarterback Blaine Gabbert. You have to assume that Jim Harbaugh, who once attended Gabbert's pro day alongside GM Trent Baalke, had input on this trade. And if Harbaugh had input, you have to assume that he believes he can work his magic with Gabbert. Sure, everything from Gabbert's arm strength to his leadership to his moxy has been questioned since he was drafted 10th overall in 2010. But he has size and physical gifts. And given Harbaugh's track record with quarterbacks, including some (See: Smith, Alexander D.) who had been all but heaped on the trash pile, you have to give Harbaugh and the 49ers the benefit of the doubt at this point. Remember, they did not use a 10th overall pick on Gabbert. They used the 200th pick (or thereabouts) to get him.

Tackle Jonathan Martin. This is another example of parlaying a late-round pick - a conditional 7th rounder in 2015 - on a promising reclamation project. Martin has played both right and left tackle for the Dolphins, which makes him a good candidate to take over the "swing tackle" role for the 49ers. It also will be interesting if they give Martin a look at guard. Mike Iupati is entering the final year of his contract and his price tag promises to be steep if he hits the open market in a year in which the salary cap is north of $140 million. The 49ers must have options. Joe Looney is one. Martin could be another. It must be noted that Martin didn't play well for the Dolphins. Like Gabbert, however, he's someone who showed potential as a college athlete and you can only assume he's motivated to prove his doubters wrong. Harbaugh loves that kind of player. Martin's addition is not-so-great news for a couple of 2013 rookies, Carter Bykowski and Luke Marquardt, who were looking to stick on the roster as swing tackles.

March 12, 2014
Tall order: 49ers interested in Vikings FA cornerback Chris Cook


It's official. For the second straight year, the 49ers are in the market for tall, long-armed cornerbacks.

They've shown interest in 6-1 Dolphins free-agent Nolan Carroll, who is visiting the Bills today, as well as Vikings free agent Chris Cook. Cook, 27, stands 6-2 and weighs 212 pounds. He was a second-round pick by the Vikings in 2010, and he's started 21 games over the last two seasons. He does not have an interception in the four years he's been in the league. Last year, the team initially was in the running for then-free agent Sean Smith and ultimately signed Nnamdi Asomugha. Both are tall for their position.

Cook had a trouble-filled stint with the Vikings. In 2012 he was acquitted of charges that he assaulted his girlfriend the year prior. He was arrested after that incident and suspended 10 games by the Vikings. Earlier in 2011, he was accused of pulling a gun on a neighbor, but was ultimately found not guilty in the incident. Cook also was ejected from a game Dec. 1 after pushing an official.

On Tuesday, the 49ers cut one of their starters, Carlos Rogers, and watched another, Tarell Brown, hit free agency. The team signed Eric Wright to a one-year deal. Wright, Tramaine Brock and Chris Culliver currently are their top players at the position with 2013 undrafted rookies Darryl Morris and Dax Swanson supplying depth.

The 49ers have shown interest in re-signing Brown. They also are expected to use one of their top picks in the May draft on a cornerback.

-- Matt Barrows

March 11, 2014
49ers sign cornerback Eric Wright; Dixon visiting Titans


The 49ers bulked up their secondary a little more today by signing cornerback Eric Wright, whom they acquired last season after he was released by the Buccaneers. Wright is a favorite of general manager Trent Baalke, who believes Wright can play both on the outside and at nickel cornerback. The 49ers will need a nickel corner if, as expected, they lose Carlos Rogers in free agency. Wright signed a one-year deal.

Another veteran cornerback, Tarell Brown, also is a free agent, as is Perrish Cox. When Rogers was hurt early in the playoffs, defensive coordinator Vic Fangio tapped Cox, not Wright, to play the nickel position. Wright, however, currently is the only cornerback on the roster with any meaningful snaps at the critical nickel position.

Wright, a San Francisco native, had several run-ins at Tampa Bay, which prompted his release. Here's a story I wrote about him during the season.

Meanwhile, running back Anthony Dixon, tweeted that he will visit the Titans and his former coach at Mississippi State, Sylvester Croom. Croom is now Tennessee's running backs coach. The Titans, of course, signed Dixon's former 49ers teammate, Delanie Walker, last year.

-- Matt Barrows

March 11, 2014
There's been a trade: 49ers deal for QB Blaine Gabbert


The 49ers, who three years ago took a look at the eventual 10th pick in the draft, Blaine Gabbert, have acquired him from Jacksonville for a sixth-round selection, according to ESPN's Adam Schefter. Gabbert presumably will take the place of free agent Colt McCoy as Colin Kaepernick's main backup.

"We thought highly of Blaine as an early entry into the 2011 NFL draft," said general manager Trent Baalke, who chose Aldon Smith seventh overall that year. "He is a high-character individual that will be given every opportunity to develop within our system and we are looking forward to working with him."

Jim Harbaugh attended Gabbert's pro day workout at Missouri in 2011. He's said on several occasions that he likes big, athletic and mobile quarterbacks. That's the case with Gabbert (6-4, 235). Harbaugh reputation as a quarterback whisperer will be put to the test by Gabbert, however. His accuracy dipped below 50 percent last season before he tore his labrum in his non-throwing shoulder and was replaced by Chad Henne. He's thrown more interceptions -- 24 to 22 -- in two and half seasons in Jacksonville, and both his average per completion -- 5.6 yards -- and his passer rating -- 66.4 -- are low. Jacksonville was 5-22 in his starts.

It's notable that Kaepernick, a second-round pick in 2011, has said that he keeps track of the quarterbacks taken ahead of him. Gabbert not only is on that list, he's now on Kaepernick's team. The only other quarterback on the roster is McLeod Bethel-Thompson. The 49ers are now expected to have 11 picks in the upcoming draft. The deal also includes a conditional draft pick next year that is contingent on how much Gabbert plays in 2014.

Gabbert has one year remaining on his original deal with the Jaguars. However, the 49ers are expected to restructure it.

-- Matt Barrows

March 11, 2014
Safety dance: 49ers to replace Whitner with Bethea


The 49ers are replacing a steady presence at safety with perhaps an even steadier one. The team has agreed to a deal with long-time Colts free agent Antoine Bethea, who has started every game for Indianapolis since 2008. The deal is for four years for $21 million, according to a league source.

Bethea, 29, is a year older than Donte Whitner, who will sign a four-year deal with Cleveland reportedly worth $28 million over four years. Whitner averaged $4 million a year for the last three years. It was the second straight season the 49ers lost a starting safety to a big-money deal elsewhere. Dashon Goldson left for Tampa Bay last year on a five-year deal that averages more than $8 million a season.

While the 49ers replaced Goldson with a draft pick, Eric Reid, the 49ers wanted to pair Reid with a veteran. Like Whitner, Bethea (5-11, 205) is an eight-year veteran, and he promises to bring experience to what could be an otherwise very young 49ers secondary. A sixth-round pick out of Howard in 2006, Bethea started 13 games his rookie season and hasn't left the lineup since. He's averaged more than 100 tackles in each of the last four seasons. He made the Pro Bowl following the 2007 and 2009 seasons and was on the Colts' Super Bowl-winning 2006 squad.

One interesting note: While Goldson and Whitner were know for hard hits and personal-foul penalties, neither Bethea nor Reid -- the team's new safety tandem -- was penalized in 2013.

-- Matt Barrows

March 11, 2014
Here's the kicker: Phil Dawson returning to the 49ers

Phil Dawson, who set a 49ers record with 27 straight field goals in 2013, is returning to the team this season after agreeing to a two-year deal. Dawson, 39, broke the news himself on Twitter: "Very excited & grateful for the opportunity to return to my team & be a part of chasing the quest for six! Go niners! #itsgood."

Dawson has been particularly steady from long range in recent years, hitting four of six tries from 50 yards and beyond last season. One of his misses was a 71-yard free-kick field goal attempt at the end of the half in St. Louis last year. Dawson also hit game-winning field goals in the regular-season finale in Arizona and in the first round of the playoffs in Green Bay.

Meanwhile, the 49ers, as expected, offered tenders to restricted free agent Demarcus Dobbs and exclusive rights free agent Michael Wilhoite. Dobbs' one-year offer would pay him $1.4 million. He can shop himself on the open market, but the 49ers can match any offers he receives. Because he went undrafted in 2011, the 49ers would not get any compensation should he sign elsewhere.

Wilhoite, meanwhile, has no bargaining ability. He will compete to fill in for NaVorro Bowman, who is expected to miss some of the season as he recovers from an ACL injury suffered in the NFC Championship game.

-- Matt Barrows

March 11, 2014
Report: Whitner to sign with hometown Browns

Donte Whitner will sign with his home-town Cleveland Browns shortly after the 1 p.m. start to free agency, according to Cleveland.com. Citing a source close to Whitner, the web site said that Whitner, who played at Cleveland's Glenville High under coach Ted Ginn, Sr., is eager to join the Browns and help turn the city around.

Whitner, 28, has been a veteran leader for the 49ers for the last three seasons. He's missed one of a possible 56 starts in that span and was instrumental in mentoring first-round pick Eric Reid last season. He's finished with more than 100 tackles in the last two seasons and has built a reputation as one of the league's most ferocious hitters.

Whitner wanted to re-sign with the 49ers and San Francisco wanted him back. However, the team has been rigid when it comes to assessing and evaluating free agents - including their own - and they evidently would not match Cleveland's offer. The Browns are more than $50 million below the salary cap; the 49ers are now a little more than $15 million after tendering Demarcus Dobbs a one-year, $1.4 million contract.

Should Whitner indeed sign with Cleveland, the 49ers would then turn their attention to signing cornerback Tarell Brown. They also have been in contact with veteran safety Mike Mitchell, who has played for both the Raiders and Panthers.

-- Matt Barrows

March 11, 2014
If Whitner goes? 49ers looking at replacements, including Mitchell


The 49ers remain in the running to retain Donte Whitner, their starting strong safety for the last three seasons, but they are looking at alternatives in case they lose him. One of the players they have called about, according to a league source, is ex-Raiders safety Mike Mitchell, who spent last season with the Panthers.

Behind Carolina's formidable defensive front, Mitchell, 26, had a career high four interceptions to go along with eight pass breakups. Mitchell played free safety while Quintin Mikell played strong safety for the Panthers. But at 6 feet, 210 pounds, Mitchell is big enough to help in run support and finished with more tackles -- 66 - than Mikell last season. He also played strong safety with the Raiders and would make a good interchangeable tandem with like-sized Eric Reid in the 49ers' secondary.

The Browns, Jets and Bears have shown interest in Whitner, 28. There were more reports this morning that Cleveland, Whitner's home town, would make a strong push to add him to its secondary. The 49ers continue to hold out hope that they will retain Whitner.

-- Matt Barrows

March 10, 2014
49ers to release Rogers with post-June 1 designation

That the 49ers did not release cornerback Carlos Rogers today means they have the option of making him a so-called "post-June 1" transaction, which would create more savings on this year's salary cap. To do that, the team must release Rogers, who is due to count a team-high $8.1 million against the salary cap, after 1 p.m. Tuesday, the start of the new league year.

Doing so would mean a salary-cap savings of $6.6 million in 2014, according to calculations by CSN Bay Area. That would put the 49ers about $16.5 million under the salary cap and give them more room to try to sign free agents, including safety Donte Whitner, as well as their 2013 draft class. The post-June 1 designation, however, would mean that Rogers would count $1.5 million against the 2015 salary cap. Next year's salary cap is expected to be in excess of $140 million, up from this year's $133 million figure.

Releasing him at 1 p.m. also allows Rogers, one of the veteran leaders of the defense the last three years, the benefit of the full free agency period.

-- Matt Barrows

March 10, 2014
Report: 49ers to release cornerback Carlos Rogers


The 49ers plan to release cornerback Carlos Rogers, according to a report by ESPN, raising the chances they could lose in free agency both players who have started the last three seasons at cornerback. Rogers' release is not a surprise. He is due to make $6.3 million in base salary alone and to count a team-high $8 million against the salary cap. The 49ers asked him to reduce his salary last year or risk being cut. He called their bluff and ended up making $5.5 million in base salary.

Rogers started at left cornerback the last three seasons and also moved to the increasingly critical nickel cornerback position in passing situations. Perrish Cox filled the nickel cornerback role when Rogers was injured during the team's most recent playoff run. Cox is a restricted free agent who will not be tendered. The 49ers also could lose right cornerback Tarell Brown, who becomes a free agent at 1 p.m. Tuesday.

The only sure-thing at cornerback for the 49ers in 2014 is Tramaine Brock, who signed a four-year deal during the season. Chris Culliver is returning from an ACL tear suffered in training camp. The only other cornerbacks currently on the roster are Darryl Morris and Dax Swanson. Morris was an undrafted rookie in 2013 who spent his rookie season on the team's special teams coverage units. Swanson spent part of the 2013 season on San Francisco's practice squad. The team is looking at pending free-agent cornerbacks, including Miami's Nolan Carroll.

Rogers, 32, started all 16 regular-season games for the three seasons he was with the 49ers and tied with a team-high six interceptions in 2011. Along with safety Donte Whitner, he was the veteran leader of the secondary and helped mentor Culliver and Brock among others. His release will create more than $5 million under the team's salary cap.

-- Matt Barrows

March 10, 2014
Tarell Brown drawing interest; 49ers checking out alternatives at cornerback


Cornerback Tarell Brown said today that the 49ers have remained in contact with his agent over the last few days and that he'd be more than happy to return in 2014. "I'd love to stay in the Bay," he said after just finishing a track workout Monday in his native Texas. "That's where my heart is."

Still, that won't stop Brown from checking out what seems like a robust market for cornerbacks. And it won't stop the 49ers from investigating other, perhaps less expensive alternatives on the free-agency market. For instance, a source said the team had called about Dolphins cornerback Nolan Carroll. He was a fifth-round pick for Miami in 2010. At 6-1, 205 pounds, the 27-year-old Carroll also fits the mold of the bigger, physical cornerback the 49ers and other teams are seeking.

Meanwhile, there appears to be a strong market for 49ers strong safety Donte Whitner. The Chronicle today reported that three other teams - the Browns, Jets and Bears - have called about Whitner, whom the 49ers would like to retain. Cleveland may be particularly intriguing because it is Whitner's home town and because the Browns have a lot of salary-cap room.

As with Brown, the 49ers are looking at alternatives at safety should Whitner depart. Brown would not say which teams have called but said there has been "a lot" of interest over the weekend. Teams are permitted to contact the agents of soon-to-be free agents. Visits, however, cannot be set up until 1 p.m. Tuesday, which is the official start of free agency.

- Matt Barrows

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 3, 2014
Boldin says he's heard nary a gripe about Jim Harbaugh


Instability at the top of the organization? A rift in the locker room? Unhappiness with Jim Harbaugh? Anquan Boldin acknowledged he doesn't pay much attention to offseason NFL news - "At this time of year, people grab at whatever," he said - but he did laugh yesterday when he read about the recent drama involving Harbaugh and the 49ers.

"I don't think anybody in our locker room has an issue with coach Harbaugh," he said. "The way our locker room is built - I mean, we have an open-door policy. If anybody has a concern or wants to voice their opinion, they're more than welcome to. There has been times when we have voiced our concerns as players, and coach Harbaugh has listened to us and taken into consideration how we felt as players. So I don't think there's any rift between players and coaches, particularly coach Harbaugh. Like I said, he has a great rapport with all the guys I know of. I heard of no griping in the locker room when it comes to coach Harbaugh. Like I said, he's a guy that wants to win. Everybody in the locker room wants to do the same thing."

Boldin didn't sound like he expected Harbaugh, who wants to re-do his contract with the 49ers, to leave anytime soon, either. In fact, he said Harbaugh had a big role in his decision to re-sign with the 49ers. Boldin agreed to a two-year, $12 million deal earlier today.

"He's a guy I had a real good relationship with," he said. "Me and him were able to talk about anything. And I just like his demeanor, the way he approaches the game. He's a guy that wants to win. I'm the exact same way. So I think we mesh pretty good."

Boldin said he and his family felt embraced by the fans, his teammates and even the media, which is why he felt comfortable in signing with San Francisco and not testing the free-agency market next week. Boldin, 33, said he felt he could play until he's 38.

"Physically, I feel fine," he said. "I feel as if I can play five more years. So that's not a problem for me. I feel great. But we'll see how it goes."

-- Matt Barrows

March 3, 2014
Lesson from 2013: 49ers offense needs two high-quality wideouts


The lesson from the 49ers' 2013 season: Colin Kaepernick and the team's offense function a lot better when he has two, high-quality wide receivers to target.

Kaepernick promises to have that dynamic for the upcoming campaign after the team on Monday agreed to a two-year deal with Anquan Boldin, who was scheduled to hit the free-agent market next week.

Boldin, 33, led the 49ers with 1,179 receiving yards last season - the team's best mark since Terrell Owens in 2002 and Boldin's highest total since 2006 - and the 49ers' coaches voted him the team's MVP. General manager Trent Baalke called Boldin the "consummate professional" in October and echoed those words on Monday.

"He is a consummate professional whose love and respect for the game provide a tremendous example for all players," Baalke said in a statement. "Anquan has been a very productive player throughout his career, and we look forward to his future contributions to our team and community."

Boldin will earn $6 million a season, precisely the salary the Baltimore Ravens determined they could not afford last year when they traded him to San Francisco for a sixth-round pick. The transaction proved crucial for the 49ers after Michael Crabtree went down with a torn Achilles' tendon in May. The injury forced Crabtree, the team's top receiver in 2012, to miss two-thirds of the season.

Boldin, however, had a near-instantaneous rapport with Kaepernick. The two looked as if they had been decade-long teammates during May practices in Santa Clara, and that chemistry was evident in their Week 1 game against the Packers as well.Boldin caught 13 passes for 208 yards, the second highest total of his 11-year career. The 49ers leaned on him heavily during the first half of the season, and he ended up catching all but one of the touchdown passes Kaepernick threw to a wideout in 2013. Crabtree caught the other.

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 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 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 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 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
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.