49ers Blog and Q&A

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

March 30, 2007
Deal with the Redskins?

Question: Do you think that the 49ers would trade draft positions, say with the Redskins to go after a "difference maker" at DT/DE? or trade down to get more picks 'cause it seems like they have a lot of spots to fill?

Zamir, Honolulu

Answer: That's a good question, Zamir, especially since the 49ers have capitalized off Redskins' personnel blunders in recent years (see: Harris, Walt and Lloyd, Brandon) and would be oh-so-willing to do business with them again. If, for example, Alan Branch is still available when the Redskins are on the clock, the 49ers conceivably could make a call. However, I think if the 'Skins make a move, it will be to trade up. Owner Dan Snyder's ego needs periodic inflating, and the way he does this is by making flashy trades and maneuvers that attract attention on SportsCenter but don't necessarily make his team better. (In fact, they make his team much worse). Washington also has rejected the notion of building through the draft. That is, Snyder might not see the value in trading first rounders with the 49ers and accumulating a few more picks in the process. I can't tell from your question whether you're a 49ers or Redskins fans. If it's the latter, well, you might have to hit the mai tais pretty hard this fall.

- Matt Barrows

March 29, 2007
Harris' changing role

Question: With the signing of Nate Clements, will Walt Harris move back to safety and play along with Michael Lewis? Lewis is great in run support, however, coverage is lacking. Harris would bring that to the table.

Second -- the LB corps for the Niners was a strength for so many years that now it seems suspect. I really like Patrick Willis out of Old Miss. I feel he can come in and be a main stay for year to come. Will the Niners take him or pursue a WR?
-- Scott, Sacramento

Answer: Harris was the best cornerback on the team last season. One can only assume that with the addition of Clements, Harris will be, at worst, second best. That is, you gotta think that he will be a starter at cornerback this season. As for Willis, heís definitely a possibility at pick No. 11. But as Iíve written before, teams can find high-impact inside linebackers throughout the draft.
-- Matt Barrows

Question: What do you think the Niners will do with the 11th pick? Some say Ted Ginn, Dwayne Jarrett, Pat Willis, Adam Carriker and Alan Branch. What do you think?
-- Andrew, San Francisco

Answer: OK, with one month to go before the draft, hereís my guess for the top three possible scenarios. (if Iím wrong, well, tough.)

Scenario 1: The 49ers package their first-round pick with a few additional picks to trade up and grab Alan Branch.

Scenario 2: The 49ers stay put and draft Adam Carriker. Then they trade back into the first round for a receiver.

Scenario 3. The 49ers trade down in the first round and grab one of two WRs, Dwayne Bowe or Robert Meachem.
-- Matt Barrows

Question: By no means am I an expert talent evaluator, but I am not impressed with Adam Carriker at all. I looked at his stats in three of Nebraska's big games this year -- USC, Texas and Auburn -- and he only had one sack! I went back and watched the USC game on Tivo and he was not even a factor. I know he had an impressive combine, but so did Mike Mamula. Wouldn't the Niners be better served to trade up? I know later round picks are valuable but the Niners have not used them wisely in the past that well either.
-- Roni, Stockton

Answer: I agree Ė that USC game was not Carrikerís best. He looked mediocre at best against the Trojans. However, he did play well at the Senior Bowl against high-caliber competition and he is the type of high-character guy the 49ers covet. Heís not a flashy pick; merely a safe pick. And like I said, if Branch slips a bit in the Top 10, the 49ers have plenty of ammo to grab him.
-- Matt Barrows

Question: Who, if any, in the upcoming draft that could be the next T.O., Andre Johnson or Colston ... falling because of their small college but potentially outperforming the top-tier WRs?
-- Ryan, Stockton

Answer: Another Q from the 209. The guy the scouts are looking at is Jacoby Jones from Lane College. Also, since when is Miami -- Andre's Johnson's alma mater -- considered a small school?
-- Matt Barrows

Question: So tell me again - what is the logic behind activating only a certain number of players on game day? They get paid - let'em play!!
-- Sammy Moore, Jr., Sacramento

Answer: I consulted the oracle Ė Matt Maiocco Ė for this one. The logic behind a 45-man active roster is that it maintains a competitive balance by mitigating injuries. Say, for instance, the Bears are playing the Dolphins. The Bears have eight injured players, the Dolphins have no injured players. If every player on the team were allowed to suit up, the Dolphins would have a competitive edge because they would have 53 healthy players vs. 45 for the Bears. Plus it saves guys like John York from having to pay for eight extra hotel rooms on the road.
-- Matt Barrows

Question: Great work, Matt! This section is about the only place where the 49er faithful can get updates and insider info. Now that the 49ers have locked up Gore to a long-term deal, what is their current cap number? Do they still have enough for the rookie pool as well as some reserve in case there are some surprise cuts on June 1? Keep up the good work!
-- Joey L., Northridge

Answer: Thanks for the good word, Joey. Remember that Gore was still under contract for 2007 at the ultra affordable price of $435,000. His signing bonus is spread over five years. So the cap hit for this season is insignificant. Theyíre still about $12 million below.
-- Matt Barrows

March 26, 2007
The draft: questions and more questions

Question: I've come up with this week's perfect first three picks, subject to change as the draft gets closer. With the first pick, I would take Adam Carriker. With the 2nd pick I want the 49ers receiver of choice. Personally, I like Steve Smith. He's fast, always open, has great hands, and blocks well. Good chance he'll be gone. Third, take Paul Soliai, NT from Utah. He's huge. What would your personal scenario be?
-- Berger, Reno

Answer: Thatís a nice first day, Berger, and to be honest, my draft wouldnít differ very much from yours. I would go: Carriker, Jason Hill, Washington State, and Anthony Spencer, a defensive end-turned linebacker from Purdue. Maybe Soliai would still be around for the 49ersí compensatory pick at the end of the third round. One scenario that is growing on me is a first-round swap with the Broncos, who, if you remember, dealt with the 49ers last year. I think Denver and Buffalo, at pick No. 12, are looking for a running back and the Broncos would love to slip ahead of them in the drafting order. This would allow the 49ers to draft Dwayne Bowe or Robert Meachem at their more realistic draft positions. Then with the extra picks they get, they could load up on defensive linemen and linebackers.
-- Matt Barrows

Question: I am a little concerned with the Ninersí WR corps going into the season. Obviously they will take 1 or 2 in the draft, but they are sorely missing a veteran WR. I would think someone like Eric Moulds or Keenan McCardell would come fairly cheap on a one-year deal at this point - any rumblings of interest in either? P.S. - great piece on Nolan's pass interference proposal that the 'story pirate' Len P at ESPN tried to rip off from you. Love the Q & A - keep up the great work!
-- Lebowski, Los Angeles

Answer: No rumblings on either of those guys yet, Lebowski, but they could garner more interest after the draft. If the 49ers, as expected, select a receiver on the first day, I donít think they would need to add a veteran. After all, they would have Ashley Lelie, Arnaz Battle, Brandon Williams and Player X on the roster. Add Bryan Gilmore, a solid special teamer, to the mix and thatís a full stable of wideouts. And please donít pick on Len P like that. He and his minions work damn hard to pirate those stories!
-- Matt Barrows

Question: If Alan Branch or Amobi (I can't even spell his last name) fall to the 49ers at #11, who do they take and why? Do you see the 49ers trading up in this draft for Alan Branch?
-- Justin, Palo Alto

Answer: I believe you mean Amobi Okoye, who, by the way, is no relation to former Chiefs running back Christian Okoye. Even though a lot of people are buzzing about Okoye - and for good reason - I still think the 49ers take Branch just because his size and athleticism are so rare. Okoye is a great prospect, but he fits better in a 4-3 defense than a 3-4 scheme. I can see the 49ers trading up for Branch, but only if it isnít a dramatic leap forward. That is, I think theyíd like to find a starting defensive player and a starting receiver on the first day of the draft and wouldnít give away the farm solely to get Branch.
-- Matt Barrows

Question: I have watched Kwame Harris play the right tackle position for the 49ers for several seasons and it seems obvious to me that he just won't ever be able to handle the speed rushers. It seems like it is just a matter of time before Alex Smith gets knocked out! Do you think Adam Snyder will beat out Harris this season or will the 49ers draft a 2nd or 3rd round OT who could compete for the job.
-- Jack, Penryn

Answer: Well, thereís a third variable in that equation, and thatís left tackle Jonas Jennings. Heís played very well when healthy, but it always seems like heís getting nicked. When that happens, it forces Snyder to play on the left side. The 49ers like having Snyder at the ready as an insurance policy. The 49ers could go for an OT in the third round, just as they did with Snyder.
-- Matt Barrows

:Question: I think we should take a WR with our first pick on draft day. I don't know which receiver though. Calvin Johnson will be gone by the 11th pick and Jarret and Meachem are a stretch with our first rounder. Any ideas?
-- Tyler, Rocklin

Answer: Yeah, as Iíve been saying for months, the 49ers either can trade back into the first round and grab Meachem or Dwayne Bowe, or they can stand pat in the second and take someone like Jason Hill of Washington State or Craig Davis of LSU.
-- Matt Barrows

Question: I was wondering, with the signings the 49ers have made, do you see them drafting Dwayne Jarrett or maybe trading some 2nd & 3rd round picks for late 1st round draft pick and getting Steve Smith from USC? Also what do you thing about Adam Carriker of Nebraska?
-- Jose, Rancho Cordova

Answer: Steve Smith would be a nice pick-up, but I donít think theyíll have to trade into the first round to get him. In fact, my guess is that heíll still be available in the second or even the third round. As far as Carriker, heís at the top of my list as far as whom I think the 49ers will draft. A very safe pick.
-- Matt Barrows

Question: Alan Branch has fallen in many mock drafts- to the point that the Niners pass him for Ginn jr, or Jarrett. Would the Niners really pass on Branch and Adam Carriker for a small injury prone receiver (Ginn), or a cocky USC receiver who should have gotten numerous taunting penalties in college (Jarrett)?
-- Alex, Shingle Springs

Answer: Short answer: no.
-- Matt Barrows

March 21, 2007
The running back question

Question: On some mock drafts I have been seeing Adrian Peterson dropping if Brady Quinn goes to Cleveland at pick three. If for some reason he does fall do you see the Niners passing him up if he falls in their lap?
-- Roni, Stockton

Answer: If Adrian Peterson falls into the 49ersí lap, you can bet there will be several teams stepping forward - nay, leaping forward - with trade offers so they can get ahead of the running back-needy Buffalo Bills at pick No. 12. The 49ers would relish that scenario. However, I do believe San Francisco will take a running back fairly high, especially since the Frank Gore negotiations havenít gotten off to a very promising start. I like two guys who had Gore-like injury issues in college, Dwayne Wright of Fresno State and Michael Bush of Louisville. They would seem to the profile Nolan and co. are seeking.
-- Matt Barrows

Question: What do you think of Brandon Moore's future in SF? I can see the underrated Moore becoming a future defensive leader. He really emerged this past season and I think a Moore-Smith tandem in the middle of a 3-4 defensive scheme would be awesome.
-- Austin, Yreka

Answer: Itíll be interesting to see what happens with Moore. He plays essentially the same position - Ted linebacker - as Derek Smith and depending on the 49ersí draft, the two could be duking it out for a starting spot in training camp. In my opinion, Mooreís versatility has been his downfall. Because he can play any linebacker position and rush the passer, heís been moved around so many times he hasnít had an opportunity to settle in at one spot. Moore played very well last season, but Derek Smith is a coachesí favorite. Should be fun to see how that turns out.
-- Matt Barrows

Question: If wide receivers Dwyane Jarrett and Ted Ginn Jr. were both available to the Niners at their 11th position in the first round, do you think they would take Ginn for his speed and return abilities or Jarrett for his great hands and length?
-- Steve Hubbard, Penryn

Answer: Is there an option C? I could be wrong, but I donít see the 49ers nabbing either of those guys. If I had to choose, I would say Jarrett, simply for the fact that he is a big target and the 49ers love big receivers. Ginn seems too raw and injury-prone for their liking. And besides, their need for a burner diminished when they signed Ashley Lelie.
-- Matt Barrows

Question: What are the chances of the 49ers getting, say ... Jerry Porter? Doesn't that sound perfect for our offense? I donít remember him being hated in his locker room, just by the coach.
-- James, Mobile, Ala.

Answer: I think the 49ers would love to have someone as fast and physical as Jerry Porter. However, the Raidersí new coaching staff has extended an olive branch to Porter and it seems like he is happy (for now) in Oakland. He even changed his jersey number - to No. 81 - to symbolize his fresh start. Note to Jerry: That number didnít work out so well for Terrell Owens, Rashaun Woods and Antonio Bryant.
-- Matt Barrows

March 19, 2007
Locking up Gore

Question: I haven't heard anything lately about progress with Frank Gore's contract extension? Is the 'cap' money recently spent on free agents affecting Gore's extension, or is Gore's extension likely to impact the cap money available?
-- Jim, Vacaville

Answer: The 49ers certainly had Gore in mind when they went free-agent shopping this month. The two sides are posturing right now - sizing each other up like a couple of bull moose (mooses?) Agent Drew Rosenhaus is arguing that Gore accounted for a huge percentage of the teamís offense this year. And heís right. The 49ers are arguing that Gore has had several serious injuries, making him a risk for a giant long-term contract. And theyíre right. The 49ers want something done before training camp, but nothing is imminent at the moment.
-- Matt Barrows

Question: How can an offensive line be so good in run protection, but suck in pass protection?
-- Harsh, Berkeley

Answer: I prefer ďstruggle at timesĒ in pass protection. It requires less athleticism to fire off the line and engage the guy across from you than it does to slide and mirror against a 255-pound linebacker. A really talented running back (hint, hint) also tends to make a line look pretty good in run blocking.
-- Matt Barrows

Question: If the 49ers stay at pick 11, I see them taking Pat Wills because Nolan found out the importance of LB at Baltimore. Who do you compare Wills to? Singletary? Ray Lewis? The second question is Washington wants to trade down because they traded all their 2-3-4 picks. I say trade pick 11 and a third rounder to get up to pick 6 and get the franchise DE you really need. What do you think?
-- Al Curry, Roseville

Answer: I wish I could speak intelligently about Willis, but I canít. All I know is that the 49ers really liked him at the Senior Bowl. I also know, however, is that itís easier to find a quality inside linebacker after Round 1 than it is other positions. As far as a Redskins-49ers trade, it might be possible if San Francisco falls in love with Alan Branch. However, it would take more than the No. 11 pick packaged with a third rounder to move up. Also, Branch looked rather soft in the middle at his recent workout and his luster may be wearing off.
-- Matt Barrows

Question: The more I see of Tennessee WR Robert Meachem, the more I am convinced that he is going to be that big-target wide receiver that isn't afraid to go over the middle, fight for the ball and get yards after the catch. Plus he is fast for his size. I realize that if would be a stretch to get him with the eleventh overall pick, but do you see the 49ers possibly getting him?
-- DeeKay, Antelope

Answer: Sure itís possible - mainly for the qualities you mentioned. The 49ers would love a big, fast, aggressive wideout who was productive in college and Meachem fits that criteria. The problem is that he may not quite be No. 11-good enough, if you know what I mean. The key may be the team picking right after the 49ers. The Buffalo Bills recently traded Willis McGahee and are in the market for a running back. Say the Denver Broncos, who also need a running back, fall in love with Marshawn Lynch but are afraid the Bills are going to snatch him up. Maybe Denver, which has dealt with San Francisco in the past, deals for the No. 11 pick. The 49ers are now at pick No. 21 and suddenly Meachem doesnít seem like such a stretch. .. Thatís pie-in-the-sky reasoning, I know, but you asked Ö
-- Matt Barrows

March 17, 2007
Don't expect Briggs in S.F.

Question: Lance Briggs? First of all would he be a good fit at weak outside LB in our 3-4, or maybe at one of the two inside spots? I know we have multiple third and fourth round picks, what would be a fair price? Would such an offer entice the Bears to move him? Are the Niners even interested? If so it would make sense as to why they didn't pursue the older A.Thomas as much. Any rumors?
-- Jason, Sacramento

Answer: London Fletcher-Baker recently fetched a five-year, $25 million deal (more than $10 million of it guaranteed) from the Redskins. Fletcher-Baker is about to turn 32. Lance Briggs is 26 and is very much in the prime of his career. Heíll want a lot more than Fletcher-Baker got, and the 49ers say they arenít throwing any more big money at free agents. Besides, they probably would have to pry him from the Bearsí grasp with a high draft pick, and thatís not something theyíre willing to do.
-- Matt Barrows

Question: What second day WR would best suit the offense? I hear a lot about David Ball? Any others worth noting?
-- Scott, Sacramento

Answer: David Ball certainly would be appropriate considering he was the most prolific 1-AA receiver since Jerry Rice. He seems like an overachiever, a la Wayne Chrebet, which isnít a bad thing at all. However, heís not that strong and not very fast. A Day 2 guy that could catch the 49ersí eye is James Jones out of San Jose State. He followed up a good combine with a solid pro-day workout that included 21 reps of 225 lbs - not too shabby for a wideout. Heís certainly not blazing fast (4.59 40) but heís a big body with soft hands.
-- Matt Barrows

March 15, 2007
Who can they catch?

Question: I love what the Niners have done in free agency: They filled holes and enabled themselves to draft the best player available. Adam Carriker and Alan Branch have the ideal size for a 3-4, aren't the other top D-linemen too small? Please list the top 5 WR.
-- Jason, Sacramento

Answer: Yes, I think the other defensive ends at the top of the draft are not your prototypical 3-4 defensive ends. Even Amobi Okoye, whom everyone seems to be gaga about, is a much better fit for a 4-3 defense. As far as listing the top five receivers, Iíll list the top five receivers I believe the 49ers are considering. They tend to steer away from smaller guys and because of the Ashley Lelie signing, they donít have as a great a need for a burner like Ted Ginn Jr. or David Clowney from Va. Tech. After the Antonio Bryant saga, they also might keep away from guys with even a whiff of attitude issues such as South Carolinaís Sydney Rice. That being said, I have to think that Dwayne Bowe and Robert Meachem are at the top of their list and that Dwayne Jarrett could be a possibility if he slips on draft day. Some later-round prospects who seem like good fits are Lane Collegeís Jacoby Jones, whom many believe is this yearís version of Marques Colston, Washington Stateís Jason Hill, who is racing up teamsí draft charts, and San Jose Stateís James Jones, who had a very nice combine.
-- Matt Barrows

Question: The Niners have addressed some needs on defense through free agency. With their surplus of picks early in this draft, is there any chance they package some of them and try to move up to get Calvin Johnson, whom many believe is a franchise-type receiver? Put a guy like that with the potential Vernon Davis showed and their high caliber running game and the offense could instantly make the defense better by keeping them off of the field.
-- Phil, Elk Grove

Answer: You make a very good point, Phil. An offense with Vernon Davis, Frank Gore and Calvin Johnson would cover up a lot of holes elsewhere and would make for a lot of sleepless nights for opposing defenses. But I donít see it happening. Despite promises of a playoff appearance in 2007, the team is still in rebuilding mode, albeit in the latter stages of rebuilding mode. To grab Johnson, they would have to forfeit all of their Day 1 draft picks, and probably a couple of their fourth rounders as well. Maybe a team that feels like it is one piece away from the Super Bowl would make that move, but not a team like the 49ers that builds from the draft. Another point to consider is that the Raiders hold the key to Calvin Johnson. Would the 49ers want to deal with Oakland and risk having their cross-bay rivals grow fat off their draft picks? Theyíd be skewered in the Bay Area press for years.
-- Matt Barrows

Question: Hey Matt, if both Alan Branch and Adam Carriker are available by the time the Niners pick, who do you think we will pick? And who do you think we should pick of those two? Do you see the Niners going in a different direction, maybe LaRon Landry despite signing Lewis?
-- Tabrez, Elk Grove

Answer: I think you go with Branch, just because finding a nose tackle in this league is harder than finding a 3-4 defensive end. Branch also could play right defensive end in the 49ersí defensive scheme. As for safety, I really donít see the 49ers going after Landry anymore unless they believe he has Ronnie Lott/Ed Reed-like ability. They seem to be set at safety.
-- Matt Barrows

Question: Who do you feel our the top five WRs in the draft that fit the 49ers system and you do think will be available at pick No. 11?
-- Johnny Blaze, Cameron Park

Answer: I think Dwayne Bowe, Robert Meachem and Dwayne Jarrett will be around at pick No. 11. These are all big, physical guys who would be nice red-zone targets and who would compliment the receivers already on the 49ersí roster. The question is whether the 49ers think those guys are worth the No. 11 pick. If not, they could draft a defensive player at No. 11 and then try to reach back into the first round to grab one of those three. If that doesnít happen, there are other options in the second and third rounds, such as Washington Stateís Jason Hill and Lane Collegeís Jacoby Jones. Ohio Stateís Anthony Gonzales also could be a possibility in the second round, although to me he seems like an Arnaz Battle clone with not as much strength.
-- Matt Barrows

March 13, 2007
Making the grade ... or not

Question: How does a team with the most spending money in free agency sign one big name, and the Pats pretty much signed every good name in free agency with much less money to spend? I give the 49ers a D in this yearís free-agent pool. How do you compare the two teams in this years free agency signings?
-- Mike D, Sacramento

Answer: Man, Iím glad I never had you as a teacher. The bottom line is that we really wonít know how any team did in free agency until those players step onto the field. That being said, the 49ers brought in five guys who are either 26 or 27 years old. They are in the primes of their careers, and that in itself makes it a good free-agency haul. If you want me to be critical, I would say this: The team spent big bucks on safety Michael Lewis, a hard-hitting run stuffer who is wobbly in pass coverage. The problem: They already have essentially the same player in Keith Lewis.
-- Matt Barrows

Question: Now that the 49ers have used their under-the-cap money on the players they did, and the "D" seems to be loads better, do you think we will see the real Alex Smith?
-- Al Nelson, Sacramento

Answer: Iíve written this before and Iíll write it again (and again, and again): If Smith makes the same leap between years two and three that he did between one and two, every 49ers fan should be happy. One concern is that he will have his third No. 1 receiver in as many years. First came Brandon Lloyd, then came Antonio Bryant and now he has Ashley Lelie. That wonít help.
-- Matt Barrows

Question: It seems like the 49ers are really focusing on improving their defense in the upcoming draft and free agency, but what about the offensive line? For past few years the offensive line has been unable to really protect its quarterback from mobile defensive linemen and linebacker blitzes. Last year key injuries to the offensive line made the line sub par at times. Will the 49ers seek any big, fast, young, mobile offensive linemen from the draft or free agency this year?
-- Willie Thompson Sr., Rancho Cordova

Answer: Yes, youíre right. The 49ers Ė and Kwame Harris in particular Ė seem to have trouble with fast pass rushers. I donít think they will target an o-lineman in the first two rounds, but Round 3 definitely is a possibility. After all, they found Adam Snyder at the end of Round 3 in 2005 and heís turned into one of their most valuable linemen.
-- Matt Barrows

Question: If the 49ers are going to switch to a 3-4 defense, why didn't they go after Adalius Thomas or Joey Porter a lot harder? Since that type of defense you need a pass rushing linebacker.
-- Robert, Elk Grove

Answer: Well, they did go after Adalius Thomas. The problem is that Thomas and his wife decided they wanted to remain on the east coast. As far as Porter is concerned, I think the 49ers (as well as the Steelers) believe that Porter has lost a step. The 49ers also are reluctant to invest heavily in older players, and both Thomas and Porter turn 30 this year.
-- Matt Barrows

Question: Is there a chance that the 49ers will get a another receiver in free agency?
-- Chinedu Mbara, Elk Grove

Answer: Sure there is. But it might not be a big-name receiver. It might be someone of the Bryan Gilmore/Johnny Morton/Curtis Conway variety. They also could trade for another wideout, although donít hold your breath waiting for Randy Moss.
-- Matt Barrows

Question: As far as our need for a pass rusher, I know most experts are pushing Alan Branch as the Ninersí first pick, but I'm wondering if you've heard any mention at all by Niner people of LaMarr Woodley, the 6-2, 274-pound linebacker/pass rusher out of Michigan. To me, he grades out better than this kid, Gaines Adams, that everyone calls "all-world" pass rusher. What d'ya think?
-- Sammy Moore Jr., Sacramento.

Answer: I havenít heard any of the 49ersí brass talking about Woodley, but he definitely fits all the criteria the 49ers are seeking Ė a leader on the field and in the locker-room who happens to be adept at getting to the quarterback. I definitely can see them nabbing Woodley if he is still around in Round 2. Another guy who fits that description is Purdueís Anthony Spencer. The guy had 10 1/2 sacks last year and is reminiscent of another defensive end-turned-linebacker from Purdue, Shaun Phillips. There are several Ďtweeners the 49ers could grab somewhere between Rounds 2 and 4.
-- Matt Barrows

Question: The D is starting to look promising, but do you see a negative impact on offense from losing Norv Turner? The offense was fun to watch for the first time in years; he had much to do with it.
-- Mike, Sacramento

Answer: Considering that Jim Hostler is a first-time NFL offensive coordinator, sure, there could be some drop off this year. But any drop off likely will be offset from Alex Smith having one more season under his belt. If thereís anything to worry about on offense, itís depth at receiver. A couple of injuries, and the 49ers are starting Bryan Gilmore and Brandon Williams.
-- Matt Barrows

March 12, 2007
Can 49ers afford an expensive rookie?

Question: With all these free agent signings, are we going to have enough cap room to sign an expensive rookie or two? We're not setting ourselves up for another so-long to Jeff Garcia/Terrell Owens/Charlie Garner disaster again are we?

Austin S., Yreka

Answer: Don't worry, Austin. The 49ers have a separate pool with which to sign their rookies. And besides, they still have a $12 million cap cushion, which is pretty healthy.

- Matt Barrows

March 12, 2007
Vernon Davis ready to be No. 1?

Question: Do you think Vernon Davis can become our No. 1 receiver? He was picked pretty high.

Harsh, Berkeley

Answer: Sure. The 49ers are looking an awful lot like the Chiefs and Chargers at this point - teams with strong running games and great tight ends but with weak receiving corps. Davis could become what Tony Gonzales and Antonio Gates are to those teams.

- Matt Barrows

March 12, 2007
Those short-yardage situations

Question: Do the 49ers have on their to-do list a heavyweight running back that can move the pile on short yardage situations? We were woefully lacking in that category last year.

Jim, Vacaville

Answer: Good question. Look for the 49ers to draft a running back in either the third or fourth rounds this year to compete with Maurice Hicks for a roster spot. However, there is a sense in the organization that they over-thought the short-yardage issue last season and that they simply should use Frank Gore in those situations. If they draft a running back, it could be a quick, change-of-pace type runner.

- Matt Barrows

March 12, 2007
Niners need another receiver

Question: We need a No. 1 receiver I feel or at least another solid receiver to back Lelie and Alex up and hopefully help us get to that next level as an offense. Is there any word out there that the 49ers are going for anyone hard like a Stallworth, Jackson or Bennett, or are they content with Lelie?

Ryan, Long Beach

Answer: Bennett signed with the Rams. The rumors that the 49ers are interested in Stallworth are untrue at this point. Jackson might pique their interest, but only if the Seahawks lower their asking price.

- Matt Barrows

March 12, 2007
Uh, Bryant is gone, dude

Question: I am a big fan of Lelie. How do you think he will do as a 49er and where does that leave Bryant? Would we possibly run Bryant, Lelie, and Gilmore? Lastly, Lance Briggs wants out of Chicago and now that Adalius Thomas is off the market, what are our chances? Man I love Nolan, I love where this team is going. Go 49ers.

Sean, Sacramento

Answer: Sean must have been out of the country recently. Worried about Bryant's off-field issues, the 49ers cut ties with him last month. As of now Lelie is the No. 1 option and it likely will remain that way unless the 49ers pull off a surprise trade. I don't think the 49ers are interested in Briggs, who is more of a 4-3 linebacker and who wants more money than the 49ers are willing to spend at this point in free agency.

- Matt Barrows

March 12, 2007
Oliver in a 3-4 or 4-3 defense

Question: How does Melvin Oliver fit in, if the 49ers actually pull off the long awaited switch to a 3-4 defense? Considering the fact that Oliver had one sack while playing defensive end in a 4-3 front, should I care?

Nick, Sacramento

Answer: Oliver will be one of several players competing for one the defensive end positions. As you astutely noted, Nick, Oliver's not much of a pass-rush threat. But he is big enough to hold up well against the run and occupy blockers, which are the primary responsibilities of a 3-4 end. Let's say the 49ers draft Nebraska's Adam Carriker with the No. 11 pick. It would seem like he and Bryant Young would split time at left defensive end, while Ronnie Fields, Marques Douglas and Oliver would compete for time at the right end spot.

- Matt Barrows

March 12, 2007
Salary-cap hell

Question: Hey Matt, do you think it is possible for us to sign Jerry Porter? I think he would be great. Do you think we could have gotten Clements for less, maybe somewhere around the $6 million range a year or so? It seems like we overpaid and are back on the track to salary-cap hell.

Tabrez, Elk Grove.

Answer: I think Jerry Porter is just the type of big, physical receiver the 49ers would love to have, but I don't think the Raiders want to trade him. As far as descending back into salary-cap hell, the 49ers have learned their lesson. Remember that they went into free agency with almost $38 million in cap space. They took advantage of that cushion by signing players to big contracts that pay the players up front. That is, if those players get cut or get injured years down the road, the 49ers won't have any massive roster bonuses hanging over their heads.

- Matt Barrows

March 12, 2007
Pros and cons of free agent signings

Question: Matt, give us your rundown on the latest free agent signings. Pros and cons. Do any of the signings change priorities in the April draft?

Dan M., Concord

Answer: Well, the biggest pro was the signing of Nate Clements. Not only does he give the 49ers good depth at cornerback, they're hoping his presence allows them to be more creative on defense. That is, if they can count on him to lock down the opponent's top receiver, they can move safety Michael Lewis into the box where he could be another potential blitzer. At nose tackle, Aubrayo Franklin is a bit of an unknown, but at the very least he provides depth.

The biggest con in my opinion is Ashley Lelie. For all his foibles, Antonio Bryant was a receiver who not only could stretch the defense, but fight for the football and block downfield. In other words, he personified the gritty, blue-collar mentality Nolan is trying to create in San Francisco. It seems to me that Lelie is more a "white collar" receiver. You can argue that the defense improved drastically over the last couple of weeks but that the offense weakened a bit. I have to believe that the wide receiver position is now either No. 1 or No. 2 on their draft priority list.

- Matt Barrows

March 8, 2007
Finding a receiver

Question: If Calvin Johnson is going to be the first wideout to go and we have no No. 1 on the roster, who in the draft might be able to fill that role? What about Meachem out of Tennessee or Bowe out of LSU. Other possibilities: Jackson out of Cal. Honestly I would take any of the Michigan or Cal guys coming out this year.

Answer: The problem with Meachem and Bowe is that they would be reaches with the No. 11 pick but probably won't be around when it's the 49ers turn to pick in Round Two. One possibility is that the 49ers go defense at No. 11 -- say, DE Adam Carriker or LB Patrick Willis -- then package their second rounder with a third- and/or fourth-round pick to nab a receiver at the end of the first round. Cal's Jackson, by the way, was a sophomore last season and is not in the draft.
-- Matt Barrows

Question: Has Nolan ever considered Robinson or Battle as quarterbacks as back-ups to Smith? I can't see Smith as a No. 1 QB. He just doesn't have it.
-- George Watson, Lincoln

Answer: Michael Robinson would be the emergency back-up. But it would take an awful lot of bad luck -- injuries to Smith, Dilfer and Hill -- before you see him under center. It way be a wee bit early to kick Smith to the curb.
-- Matt Barrows

Question: How did we not get Adalius Thomas?
-- Andrew, San Francisco.

Answer: He was No. 2 on the hit list. When the 49ers struck gold with their No. 1 target, Nate Clements, Thomas fell off their list. At the risk of sounding like a fawning Mike Nolanite, I think it was the right move. Clements is younger than Thomas -- 27 vs. 29 -- and plays a position that's hard to project when it comes to college players. That is, it's easier to tell if a college linebacker is going to be productive on the NFL level than it is a college cornerback. Thomas certainly would have been a sexier addition, but Clements should pay big dividends. He adds an element of toughness to the secondary and the 49ers basically can put him on the opponent's best receiver. That will allow Nolan to get a lot more creative as far as defensive schemes.
-- Matt Barrows

March 1, 2007

Question: What are the chances of signing Adalius Thomas and re-signing Eric Johnson?
-- Andrew, San Francisco

Answer: All signs point to Thomas becoming a very well-paid 49er. If he does get signed, it will be interesting to see where he plays. He's a natural pass rusher, but the 49ers' natural pass-rushing spot is already manned by Manny Lawson. As for Johnson, he'll shop around and see if he can find a starting role somewhere. One possible landing spot is with the Panthers, who recently cut their tight end. If he can't, he'll be back with the 49ers.
--Matt Barrows

Question: Hey Matt -- good call on Jim Hostler. You're the only guy I've seen that got it right. Here's another test. Who do you see the Niners picking up in free agency?
-- Kuharsky, Sacramento

Answer: When I look into my crystal ball, I see Adalius Thomas and a cornerback in the 49ers' future. Who is this cornerback? Too murky to tell. Check back later.
-- Matt Barrows

Question: Is it possible we can trade up for Calvin Johnson in this year's draft?
Gordon, B-town.

Answer: Possible, not probable. The 49ers would have to trade their first-, second-, third- and fourth-round picks just for a shot at Johnson, and that's figuring he drops to the Bucs at pick No. 4. My bet is he ends up a Raider at pick No. 1. That's way too expensive for a 49ers team that still has plenty of needs.
-- Matt Barrows

Question: Regardless of what the Niners do in free agency, and keeping in mind that we desparately need quality depth "everywhere" - here, in order, is my draft wish list on which I would appreciate your opinion (positions, not specific players): Two D-linemen, two linebackers, a wideout, safety, two corners, a running back and offensive tackle. This is 10. I know we have 11 picks, but I can't put a finger on that last position. What do you feel?
-- Sammy Moore, Jr., Sacramento

Answer: Nice list, but I would put wideout and cornerback right after defensive line. A giant hook might appear to snatch Antonio Bryant off the stage at any moment. If that's the case, the team's no. 2 wideout would be Bryan Gilmore, who had eight -- count 'em, eight -- catches last season. And at cornerback, Walt Harris is playing the last year of his contract. Who knows if he'll be back in 2008. The three positions in which the draft is the deepest are defensive end, wideout and guard. Maybe the 49ers will take two of each. Or maybe they'll use some of those extra third- and fourth-rounders to trade up and get two first rounders again.
-- Matt Barrows


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

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