49ers Blog and Q&A

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

January 29, 2007
The draft

Question: The 49ers have a lot of draft picks and the 11th overall, and Nolan has expressed interest in Calvin Johnson the wide receiver from Georgia Tech. He is projeted to go in the top 5 or so, so is there any chance the 49ers will trade up to get him? They have also projected that LaRon Landry from LSU will be their 1st pick. What are your thoughts on this?

- Jose, Rancho Cordova

Answer: Trading up certainly is not out of the question, especially since the 49ers have multiple draft picks in the third and fourth rounds. Trading up for Johnson, however, might be difficult. If, for example, the 49ers beleive Johnson is going to be picked third overall, they would have give up their first-, second- and third-round choices to garner interest, according to the unofficial draft pick value chart. That's probably too much for a team that still has a lot of holes to fill. As far as Landry or other possible picks, it's way too early to speculate at this point. Ask me again after the combine.

- Matt Barrows

January 29, 2007
Wither Norv

Question: How worried should we be about Norv Turner leaving to the Cowboys? It seems like his position now is a better job than being a temporary head coach for two years before being replaced, not to mention having to deal with Owens.

- Alex, Shingle Springs

Answer: I would tend to agree with you. If Norv is trying to recapture his glory days in Dallas, what better place to do it than in SF? All the stars are aligned like they were in Dallas in the early 1990s - the young, improving quarterback, the dominant running back, a team on the verge of the playoffs. And you're right, if you think being president ages a man immeasurably - try coaching T.O. for a couple of years. Still, Norv always has bristled at the notion than he is better suited for running an offense than for running an entire team. As that weird kid said in "American Beauty": Never underestimate the power of denial.

- Matt Barrows

January 24, 2007

Question: Hey Matt. Why havenít I heard anyone mention Lance Briggs as a LB the Niners would look at during free agency? It appears that his time in Chicago is coming to an end in the next couple weeks, he seemed to make it clear he is going to test the market when he turned down the contract from them last year, and he is from Elk Grove. Wouldnít he be a good fit? Thanks.
-- Roger, Sacramento

Answer: Well, you might start hearing his name more and more now that it appears the Ravens will franchise linebacker Adalius Thomas. One reason Briggs hasnít been mentioned as much as Thomas is because Briggs plays a 4-3 defense while Thomas is adept at a 3-4. If Mike Nolan had his druthers, he would run a 3-4 defense next season. The top priority, however, is finding high-caliber players. Briggs certainly fits that description, and considering that heís from Elk Grove, the 49ers likely would have an edge in luring him to their squad. One other thing to consider: Briggs is represented by Drew Rosenhaus. The 49ers will be quite chummy with Rosenhaus this spring as they work on a deal with one of his other clients, running back Frank Gore.
-- Matt Barrows

Question: I believe that we should just pay top dollar for someone like Drew Bennett (proven WR) and that the 49ers should consider trading up and snatching up 2 D lineman. Also are there any notable CBs in the 2nd that could eventually supplant Walt Harris? What do you think of the chances of us landing Adalius Thomas? If we do fail on gettin him, who are some good LBs with whom the 49ers could draft in either the 2nd or 3rd that could start at the strong side?
-- James, Mobile, Ala.

Answer: Gee, these are good questions but a little premature. Iím heading to the scouting combine next month, after which I will be teeming with draft answers. As far as Bennett, he could be a guy who piques the 49ersí interest -- good size -- but they certainly wouldnít want to get in a bidding war over him. The fact that heís from nearby Orinda could help their cause. And as for Thomas, it looks like the Ravens will retain him by making him their franchise player. That, by the way, is a possibility for nearly all the potential free agents out there.
-- Matt Barrows

Question: Agreed, D and receivers are needed in the free agency and draft, but the offensive line which did a great job this year seems fragile. Whatís the real need here, do the Niners have the depth, skill, and weight they need on the O-line, or should they also think of picking up here if the opportunity presents itself?
-- Blase, Elk Grove

Answer: Thatís a good question. O-line certainly isnít a must-fill position for the 49ers, but Nolan has said time and again that he feels the most important position on a team is the offensive line. Iíd be surprised if they used one of their first two picks on a lineman, but the third and fourth rounds are not far fetched.
-- Matt Barrows

Question: What are the chances the 49ers will upgrade at the right tackle position? Kwame Harris has had his ups and downs over the years. What is your opinion about the offensive line, possible free agent upgrade? is it even a concern with Adam Snyder in waiting?
-- Scott, Sacramento

Answer: The 49ers feel they have a perfectly capable right tackle in Adam Snyder. The problem is that their left tackle, Jonas Jennings, has been injury prone and Snyder has had to shuffle between the right and left spots. I donít think the 49ers will make a major upgrade there, but like I wrote in the previous answer, if Nolan believes thereís a way to improve the all-important line, he will do it.
-- Matt Barrows

Question: I know the niners need help on defense. But what would you think if they opt for excitement in the draft by snagging Tedd Ginn Jr.? I would love to see him returning kicks while sporting the red and gold. What do you think?
-- George Soto, National City

Answer: Iím skeptical. Itís not that I donít think that Ginn is a rare talent. Anyone with that kind of speed stands out. He just doesnít seem like the kind of player the 49ers are after. Their concept of the perfect receiver is Anquan Boldin -- someone who will smash through opposing defensive backs and block well down field. Ginn just doesnít seem to fit that mold. Just my gut reaction; could be wrong.
-- Matt Barrows

Question: I have been hearing lately that the Niners might be interested in Asante Samuel. How likely do you think it is that the Patriots donít re-sign him? Do you think he would be a good fit for the Niners?
-- Matt, Folsom

Answer: I think Samuel would be a great fit for the 49ers. There are some positions the team would like to fill through the draft and some they would rather get in free agency. Cornerback falls into the latter category. I believe that Samuel and Nate Clements are high on their wish list.
-- Matt Barrows

January 16, 2007
How do you spell cornerback?

Question: Do you think 49ers will be interested in Cal cornerback Daymeion Hughes if he falls to second round? Or may be Jeff Samardzija from Notre Dame?

- Harsh, Berkeley

Answer: Hello Harsh. Well, you picked two of the hardest-to-spell names in college football. The 49ers certainly are interested in cornerbacks and Daymeion Hughes is one of the best out there. However, I believe they would rather fill that position in free agency than through the draft. Still, if Hughes fell to the second round, they might not be able to resist. As far as Samardzija, every time I watched Notre Dame this season he had a great game. His size might make him attractive to the 49ers in the second round, but the fact that he also is interested in playing baseball might scare some teams away. Personally, I have mixed feelings about both players because I don't want to have to spell their names for the next 10 years. Just kidding.

- Matt Barrows

January 11, 2007
Wanted: Assistant coaches

Question: Yo Matt! Give us the scoop on these open positions on the Niners staff: D Coord, Special Teams, D Line. Does Nolan have any interviews set up? Any coaches he is targeting? Capes, Bates, McGinnis (Here's my vote for any of those three), etc., etc.? Paying fans want to know. I'm afraid once these other head coach openings are filled, top assistant coaches will be snatched up. Keep up the great work my friend.

- Lebowski, Los Angeles

Answer: I know only one for sure - Al Everest is interviewing tomorrow (Friday) for the special teams job. Everest spent last season with USC, but before that he had long tenures coaching soecial teams with the Saints and Cardinals. After Everest, it's all conjecture. When Nolan dismissed Davis, everyone thought he'd pounce on former Ravens assistant Donnie Henderson. Henderson's certainly available, as is Bates and McGinnis, and yet there's been no pouncing. One might surmise that the lack of action means Nolan is interested in a candidate who is currently being considered for one of the open head coaching gigs. And that would seem to point to Capers. But like I said - it's all guesswork at this point. I would assume Nolan would want to have his staff in order by the time they head to Mobile, Ala. later this month to coach the Senior Bowl.

- Matt Barrows

January 11, 2007
Believing in receiving

Question: Hey Matt, I love your work. I know we need help on D, and we should grab top-tier free agents on D, no matter what position they play. We need help everywhere. But I think we need help at the receiver position also. Battle is a great number three guy, and Bryant is better at number two. Who is a big-time receiver we could realistically get this offseason, either via trade or free agency?

- Ross, Sacramento

Answer: Hi, Ross. The 49ers love Calvin Johnson, the Georgia Tech receiver who recently declared himself eligible for the draft. He's huge, fast and has fantastic hands. The only problem - he'll be gone by the time the 49ers are on the clock, possibly to the Raiders with the No. 1 pick. After Johnson, there's USC's Dwayne Jarrett, who had a great game in the Rose Bowl. Scouts, however, are skeptical as to whether he will be able to separate from defensive backs on the next level. His 40 time at next month's combine will play a big part in Jarrett's draft slot. Another intriguing possibility is Jerry Porter, who stagnated on the Raiders sideline last season. A Porter-Bryant combination could be dazzling on the field; destructive off it.

- Matt Barrows

January 11, 2007
Winning ways ahead?

Question: How long do you think until the 49ers start making it in the winning streak again?

- Paul Aguilar, Shingle Springs

Answer: Well, if they make the same strides this year that they did lest year, the 49ers ought to finish with a winning record - 9-7? - for the first time since 2002.

- Matt Barrows

January 11, 2007
Picks and possibilities

Question: How many and what picks do the 49ers have in the 2007 NFL draft?

- Michael, Frederick, Md.

Answer: The 49ers currently have eight picks in the draft. However, there's a strong chance they will be awarded two more as compensation for losing free agents Julian Peterson and Andre Carter in the offseason. These would be at the end of the third and fourth rounds, respectively. They also have their own pick, the 11th overall, in rounds one through six, as well as two more in the fourth after trading Brandon Lloyd and Kevan Barlow. They lost their seventh rounder in the Trent Dilfer-for-Ken Dorsey trade.

- Matt Barrows

January 4, 2007
Who will run the defense?

Question: Now that we fired Billy Davis as defensive coordinator, who are the possibilities for replacing him? Also, Mike Nolan was talking about signing some big-name players. Do you know who they might be?

- Moe, Fremont

Answer: I would put Donnie Henderson at the top of the defensive coordinator list, followed by a few veterans in the business: Dom Capers, Jim Bates and Dave McGinnis. As for big-name players, Adalius Thomas seems to embody everything the 49ers are looking for in a free agent.

- Matt Barrows

January 3, 2007
The draft and free agency

Question: Matt, who do you think the 49ers are leaning on in the draft and what free agent pass rushers will we being looking at? By the way, what ever happened to Matt Hazeltine?

- Latitude 38, San Jose

Answer: I think Don, in the previous e-mail, was on the right track when he mentioned Adalius Thomas, who had 11 sacks this year for the Ravens. If the 49ers stick with a 4-3 defense, Patrick Kerney of the Falcons is just the sort of effort player Mike Nolan likes. Justin Smith of the Bengals also might be attractive. It should be noted, however, that there is still two months before the start of free agency and that all the players discussed could be re-signed by their teams or slapped with the franchise tag. In other words, don't get your hopes up yet.

As for Hazeltine, he played 13 years for the 49ers, the longest tenure of any 49ers linebacker. He died in 1987 of ALS (Lou Gehrig's disease) and shortly afterward Bill Walsh named the team's Iron Man Award in his honor.

- Matt Barrows

January 3, 2007
What to do on defense

Question: On the defense, what do you think the chances of picking up Adalius Thomas next year would be, and who do you suppose he would replace? I like Ulbrich and Smith but don't they seem to be slowing down somewhat? On the defensive line, they need a new "beast" (maybe two) as BY is the only one who seems to have the horsepower to disrupt things. Who's available, or do you think R. Fields will develop into a solid nose tackle next season? Do I hear a call in for Dwight Freeney or similar clone?

- Don, Citrus Heights

Answer: Hi Don. If Thomas indeed becomes a free agent, my guess is that he would be at the tippity top of the 49ers' wish list. He's big, productive and, best of all, familiar to Mike Nolan because he's a Raven. He seems like an ideal fit as the designated pass rusher in a 3-4 defense. If Thomas were signed, I'm not sure whether he or Manny Lawson would play on the weak side. Brandon Moore certainly would be one of the inside backers and Derek Smith likely would be the other. Don't forget - Smith's vision was askew this season, which tends to cut down on one's aggressiveness. Look for him to play better next season. As for Freeney, I don't think he's the type of big-bodied lineman the 49ers are after this offseason, and they won't get in a bidding war to acquire him.


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

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