SANTA CLARA -- Three weeks ago when he was asked about a possible contract extension for receiver Michael Crabtree, the best face Trent Baalke could put on the matter was that the 49ers were “going to try.”
“But at some point you’ve got to stop negotiating deals and let these guys concentrate on football,” the team's general manager said.
Today there appears to be decidedly more optimism. NFL Network's Ian Rapoport reports progress on an extension and that the two sides hope to get a deal done before the start of the season. If not, he writes, the talks would be tabled until the end of the season.
Crabtree has wanted to be paid like a top receiver. The recent breakthrough is that Crabtree now appears willing to reach that level through incentives rather than large guarantees, which, as recent deals out of Santa Clara illustrate, the 49ers try to avoid.
Asked if the optimism over a new deal was warranted, a figure in Crabtree's camp said, “the ball is in their court, so we'll see.”
Crabtree has been very good when on the field, especially on third downs, and he has been Colin Kaepernick's favorite target. But he also has suffered three major lower-leg injuries since the team drafted him 10th overall in 2009. He missed the first 11 games last season with an Achilles' tear.
He appears to be 100 percent recovered from that injury. "I’m trying to be one of the best out here,” Crabtree said last week. “I see a lot of people talking this and that, but when you turn that film on, you see football players. You see guys with heart. You see guys who aren’t scared of nobody. That’s what I bring to the game."
The 49ers recently worked out extensions with quarterback Colin Kaepernick, left tackle Joe Staley and nose tackle Glenn Dorsey. The 49ers are believed to be $9.1 million below the salary cap after Dorsey's deal.
That does not include the salary guard Alex Boone is scheduled to make. Boone's holdout – since the start of training camp – reached its 29th day today. He does not count on the team's 90-man roster while he is holding out.