Michael Crabtree continues to be the most prominent 49ers free agent without a home. General manager Trent Baalke said Tuesday it's still possible that the former first-round pick returns to the team that drafted him.
"As long as Michael’s out there, he’s just like any other (unrestricted free agent),” Baalke said. “You never say never. Michael did a heck of a job with us for six years.”
Crabtree has had just one known visit during free agency -- last week to the Dolphins. Miami head coach Joe Philbin declined to comment on the team's interest today.
The 49ers appear to be a long shot to retain him. Crabtree complained last year about being used as a third option in the passing game, and he would find himself behind Anquan Boldin and Torrey Smith -- signed to a five-year, $40 million contract this month -- if he came back.
Baalke said several teams contacted the 49ers about trading for linebacker Michael Wilhoite when the offseason began but claimed it never got to point at which compensation was discussed.
"Certainly there was an interest, and there should have been," Baalke said citing the 49ers' once impressive depth at inside linebacker. "People are going to look at that depth and say, 'Look, maybe there's a chance that we can step in and get one of those guys, and who's the most likely to be expendable?'"
Dealing Wilhoite is no longer an option after Patrick Willis' and Chris Borland's back-to-back retirements, and the 49ers are weighing whether to make an addition at the position. Baalke said he is doing his "due diligence" on several free-agent linebackers, including Lance Briggs, Brandon Spikes and Erin Henderson. He said a visit with Henderson has not yet been set up.
"I think the plan is you look at all options available," Baalke said. "You look at the guys that are currently on the street -- UFAs -- you look at the draft ... and you look at potential trade options. Everything's in play."
Baalke also noted that Wilhoite played 16 games last season on a Top 5-ranked defense and that Nick Moody also received some valuable playing time a year ago. "So it's not like the cupboard's bare, either," he said.
Baalke said free-agent acquisition Erik Pears will be one of several players competing at left guard, which became vacant when Mike Iupati signed with the Cardinals. Brandon Thomas likely will be Pears' top competition, but Baalke also mentioned Daniel Kilgore, Marcus Martin and Joe Looney as possibilities at that spot.
"If they're on the roster, they're in the mix," Baalke said. "Especially when you have a new coaching staff coming in that's going to employ maybe a little bit different system."
Baalke said that Kilgore probably was the frontrunner to play center, which would put Martin in the competition to start at guard. He said Pears also would compete to be the top backup at tackle.
Baalke said new cornerback Shareece Wright would compete for one of the starting spots and also is in the mix at nickel cornerback. Jimmie Ward and Dontae Johnson also have experience at the nickel spot, and Baalke suggested that who plays nickel could be based on specific matchups.
"You get (Seahawks tight end) Jimmy Graham in there -- and I'm just throwing this out; it's for the coaches to decide -- maybe they look at it and say, 'Maybe Dontae's a better matchup because he's 6-2, good arm length and can match up maybe a little bit better than Jimmie (Ward).'"
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