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49ers get playmaker, then look to next year

Posted by davefowkes on 04/25/2009

Day one treated the San Francisco 49ers at the draft. They were first surprised to see a play maker fall to them in the first round, then acquired a first round pick in next year’s draft. 49er brass sounds happy.

The 49ers and their fans were quite surprised to see WR Michael Crabtree fall to them in the #10 spot of the first round. Crabtree is recovering from a broken foot but he is a two time Biletnikoff winner for best college wide receiver at Texas Tech. When the Raiders past on him at #7 he just kept dropping. Despite quality at OT and DE still on the board the 49ers selected Crabtree.

He is a play maker. He has a lot of potential and could be a star wide receiver in the NFL. 49er fans should be happy to finally have a play maker in the fold. That said, all of the emails/texts/social webpage response was nearly identical: Great pick by the 49ers but who is going to throw to him? I was against the 49ers picking a wide receiver other than Crabtree because it seems clear the Mike Singletary approach is to run, run and then run some more. With Shawn Hill at quarterback I don’t expect a very wide open offense. But most receivers dont turn into stars year one. So 49er fans should be patient and hope that in year two or three when Crabtree is ready to be a star, they have a quarterback or offensive game plan that is ready to take advantage of his ability. For now, just be happy they have a play maker at wide receiver.

The 49ers next move was surprising. With pass rusher Everette Brown still on the board, they traded their second round pick to Carolina for a first round pick next year.

My initial response is that anytime you can turn a second round pick into a first round pick it is a great trade. That said, the 49ers need players now, not in the future. Brown is a pass rusher which is always a need position. And Brown was selected by Carolina. If he turns into a star, you can be sure this trade will be second guessed again and again. Next year’s draft should be fun, but will that improve their 7-9 record this year?

In day 2 the 49ers need to find a decent safety, a backup running back for Frank Gore, and add some depth on OL, DL and a late round sleeper quarterback would not hurt. How about Graham Harrel of Texas Tech?

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Cutler to the Bears

Posted by davefowkes on 04/02/2009

Sorry Niner fan, the dream is officially over! It is being widely reported that the Denver Broncos have traded Jay Cutler to the Chicago Bears for two first round picks, a third round pick and Kyle Orton! The Bears will also get a 5th round pick from the Broncos! A pretty impressive trade across the board!

I was a proponent of the 49ers picking up Cutler, but when you look at the cost, it was probably better they did not pull the trigger on the trade.

From the Bears perspective: They gave up a lot but how long have they been looking for a franchise quarterback? Orton was acceptable at best but certainly nothing special. The Bears could have drafted quarterbacks in the first round the next three years and may not have found one as good as Cutler. Looking around the NFC North, having Cutler at QB should put them in the mix for the top spot. They have a good defense, Matt Forte is a solid running back, all they could use is a bit of an upgrade at wide receiver and why can’t the Bears contend for a Super Bowl? It comes at a price, but a Super Bowl trip would certainly justify the cost!

From the Broncos perspective: Normally when a team is forced into trading a player, the value on return is not very good. But when you have a 25-year old pro bowl quarterback on the market, it sounds like the bidding was competitive. The Broncos would look better to me lining Cutler up at quarterback, but since they made the decision they could not work together, getting two first round picks a third round pick and an “starting” quarterback in return is a pretty good deal. Now the pressure is on the new management team to make those draft picks good ones!

The unraveling of the Broncos the last few months has been amazing to witness. For now the drama comes to an end with one of the big NFL trades in recent years. The Broncos can now concentrate on the draft and rebuilding a fallen team and franchise. The Bears can narrow their focus on competing for a Super Bowl!

A good trade for both teams in a really bizarre NFL world!

UPDATE:  The Bears announced the are signing tackle Orlando Pace. Pace was a salary cap casualty in St. Louis. The future hall of famer has injury issues but if healthy he will be a great protector of Cutler!

UPDATE AGAIN:  Watching some reaction on ESPN. Former players are focused on Cutler’s head and his new crybaby status. But local Bear reaction is concentrating on how long it has been since Chicago has had a real quarterback! It is an interesting comparison!

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Bruce To Return For 16th Season

Posted by davefowkes on 04/01/2009

As reported by just about everyone now, wide receiver Isaac Bruce has decided to return to the 49ers for his 16th season. Bruce had spent the entire off season debating retirement, apparently a conversation today with head coach Mike Singletary ended with Bruce saying he is dedicated to another season and ready to play!

Not huge news to me either way. Obviously Bruce’s best years are behind him. But he was a pleasant surprise last year and still has some legs left. With the hope that youngsters Josh Morgan and Jason Hill are ready to breakout for the 49ers and an unproven free agent signing in Brandon Jones on board, Bruce could be a great asset in the locker room, and on the field!

This definitely counts as a low risk maneuver to bring him back since he does not cost much against the salary cap. In the end, I don’t think he wins the 49ers anymore games, but he certainly won’t hurt the club! Probably good news for 49er fans that Bruce will give it one last go.

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Signing Smith Changes Everything

Posted by davefowkes on 03/27/2009

Matt Maiocco is reporting that the San Francisco 49ers have officially signed Tackle Marvel Smith. The former ASU standout and long time Pittsburgh Steeler gets a two year deal. In a related move, the 49ers released tackle Jonas Jennings.

I look at this signing like they replaced one Jonas Jennings with another. I’ll keep the brief since I discussed it earlier in the week, but the 49ers big issue with their big free agent splash with Jennings was he could not stay on the field because of injury. So now they bring in Smith who has missed good portions of the last two seasons with a back injury! Now it sounds like the contract is a smart one, it reportedly pays Smith upt $10-million if he plays and reaches his potential but if his back flares up, it costs the 49ers little.

With the quality of tackle in the NFL draft I really thought the 49ers should use the 10th pick on a tackle and pair him with Joe Staley for the next 10 years. I guess that dream is over! So now as we turn our gaze toward next month’s draft, it seems pretty clear the 49ers will go in a different direction.

I am very hopeful they will NOT pull the trigger on a quarterback. They have already done that and with a stagnant offense ready to take the field, why waste the money at the position? So where do the 49ers go? They could hope one of the two wide receivers drop to them. Anyone looking for excitement would love to see Michael Crabtree or Jeremy Maclin drop to the 49ers at #10. My hunch is they are both gone by the 49ers pick, but I’d like to see either with the 49ers next year.

More likely the 49ers will turn their attention to defense. They need help at safety but I don’t see a safety ready to go at #10.  So I am thinking that barring a trade, the 49ers end up going with a defensive lineman. Not a bad play. The 49ers certainly could use help there. It won’t be a flashy name but maybe it can be somebody to play opposite Justin Smith.

One wildcard for a former linebacker like Mike Singletary: How about drafting Ray Maualuga out of USC?  He could replace Takeo Spikes in a year or two and match with Patrick Willis for the next 10 years? It certainly sounds good. But as of today my money still goes to one of the many defensive linemen ranked high in the draft.

Marvel Smith is a nice player and if healthy it will turn into a good signing, but the health is a big question mark. I would have gone a different way, but now that Smith is a 49er, it is the 49ers who will be going a different direction. I hope it works out for them!

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49ers Should Pass On Smith, Draft A Tackle!

Posted by davefowkes on 03/25/2009

The 49ers should draft a right tackle in the first round of the NFL draft rather then spend a lot of money on Marvel Smith. Nothing against Smith who has been a good tackle for the Steelers, but does this signing not sound like replacing one Jonas Jennings with another?

Matt Maiocco is reporting that talks between Smith and the 49ers are heating up. Smith has put in some good service but he has played just 17

Marvel Smith

Marvel Smith

games the last two seasons because of a back injury. We are not talking about a pulled muscle, or twisted leg, we are talking about a back injury on a lineman! Does that say red flag to someone in Ninerland?

The 49ers first big free agent purchase in the Nolan/York era was a left tackle Jonas Jennings from Buffalo. When healthy he was adequate at best, but he was never healthy which eventually led to his undoing.

If there were no other options I would argue signing Smith is a good idea, but if you look to the NFL draft, the first round is heavy with solid tackle prospects. In fact many have Jason Smith out of Baylor going to Detroit with the number one overall pick. Michael Oher, Eugene Monroe and Andre Smith are all first round prospects the 49ers should be looking at with the #10 overall pick. The likelihood is that two of them could still be on the board. How would the line look with Joe Staley on the left side and one of these rookies on the right side for the next 10-years?

Joe Staley

Joe Staley

Bringing in the 31-year old Smith is just replacing one injury risk with another in my opinion. If healthy, Smith is a very good tackle that will help. But why take the chance when you have such potential for the first round pick?

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49ers Quarterback Situation

Posted by davefowkes on 03/10/2009

The 49ers officially restructured the contract of quarterback Alex Smith. The new deal is reported to be a two year contract at a much smaller number than the $10-million he was supposed to make. The return of the former number one overall pick mean the 49ers have three quarterbacks under contract for the upcoming mini-camp and then the NFL draft. Bringing Smith back was wise, but the 49ers should not be done!

Shaun Hill is finally the man! Okay so maybe not, but heading into camp he certainly has to be favored to be the starting quarterback opening day. The career third stringer has had a pretty good run as a quarterback in November and December. Unfortunately because the 49ers are always out of it, his next meaningful game will be his first. Hill appears solid but certainly not flashy. He just seems to get the job done in an unspectacular manner. Of course that could be perfect for the new 49er offense which will be anything if spectacular.

Alex Smith still brings that big “p” word with him: Potential! I know the Niner nation is down on him for being a bust and a waste. You won’t get too much argument from me on that. But remember, at the end of his second year with Norv Turner as the offensive coordinator Alex Smith actual won some games for the 49ers. Remember the road win in Seattle? The undoing of Smith came first at the hands  head coach Mike Nolan and then with injury. He really hasn’t had an opportunity the last couple of years. It has been all classroom work and maybe, just maybe, that is what Smith needed the entire time.

Smith is saying all the right things today. He is talking about how this is a fresh start, and how he felt he has unfinished business. That is all well and good but the reality is Smith has very little value on the open free agent market and in San Francisco there is far from an established quarterback to compete with. This deal makes perfect sense for both the 49ers and Alex Smith. And if he can stay healthy, I would be willing to bet that he ends up starting some games for San Francisco this year!

That brings us to the number 3 quarterback. As previously stated in my blog, I think having Damon Huard on the roster is a waste of space. I stand by that. Sure Huard bring experience and is a nice guy. But the 49ers need to upgrade their quarterbacks in the short term and long term. And that can happen in the draft. The 49ers are set with Hill and Smith. Sure, they are not barn burners by any means but at least they will get themthrough this season. Now they need to start drafting mid-round quarterbacks in the draft until either Smith proves he is the real deal, or they find the right draft pick that does work out for them.  There are plenty of good quarterbacks in the middle rounds. Just keep drafting one until he works out. They might get lucky this year, it might take them a couple of years. But they have to start trying. Having Huard on the roster makes it much more difficult for a youngster to break in on the squad.

If Smith gets injured before the season starts, there will always be other Damon Huards of the world to sign to back up Hill. So, with that 3rd quarterback position the 49ers must look to the future. Because while the current team will survive with Hill, and may get a boost for Smith, the future of the 49er quarterbacking situation is very unclear! It is never too early to address it, and that should happen at some point in the 3rd, 4th, 5th or even 6th rounds of this year’s draft! Not doing that would be a major mistake.

OTHER NOTES:

Here is a great little post by Kevin Curtis of the Chronicle remembering the days of Eddie Debartolo and Bill Walsh. It will bring a tear to the eye of us old timers who remember the greatness of years gone past!

http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/blogs/ninerinsider/detail?blogid=45&entry_id=36668

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Huard Is Wasted Roster Space

Posted by davefowkes on 03/05/2009

The more I think about the 49ers signing of Damon Huard, the more aggravated I get. In true 49er fashion what may be worse than the signing itself is the timing of it all.

Lets start with the timing first. The 49ers bring in Kurt Warner and do the full on dog and pony show with the veteran QB. Whether a contract was offered – potentially much larger than what Warner settled for in Arizona – or not we will probably never know. But for a few days it got discussion going and gave fans time to dream. Then the day Warner re-signs with Arizona, the 49ers announce a 1-year deal with Huard. Talk about pulling the rug out from the fan base.

As for Huard himself, he is a career backup QB that landed in the starting role for a couple of years in Kansas City with a mixed amount of success. So what are the 49ers expectations for him as he comes west?

Do they want Huard to be a starter? They pretty much have a QB with the same skill set on the roster that is five years younger in Shaun Hill.

Do they want him to be a backup? Why not go with Alex Smith as the backup, at least he still has that big “P” word called potential if he ever gets healthy enough to play.

Do they want him to be a camp arm and third stringer? Why not draft someone in the mid rounds that can at least hold a clipboard and maybe even develop into a good QB someday?

I would hope the cost of having Huard is minimal and I am probably making too big a deal of this signing, but right now it just offers no excitement at all, the timing was really bad, and it may just be a waste of roster space down the road.

UPDATE: Here is a great piece from SI.com on how the 49ers really blew the Warner negotiations and how the struggles of the “organization” continue!  http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/2009/writers/jim_trotter/03/04/49ers/index.html

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Where Do The 49ers Turn Next?

Posted by davefowkes on 03/04/2009

Kurt Warner has signed with the Arizona Cardinals. The 49er nation can now either take a deep sigh of relief or bust out your tissues. The Warner dream is over. But what next?

The 49ers have Shaun Hill and Alex Smith on the roster and that is it. It is presumed that Alex Smith will renegotiate his contract and stick with the club, but that is far from a guaranty. Today there are reports that Damon Huard, formerly of Kansas City, was entertained in Santa Clara. Do the 49ers keep shopping for veterans?

My take is this, Sean Hill is an acceptable QB at best. Alex Smith still has the potential but until healthy and proves it on the field again, he will be a 2nd or 3rd string QB. The 49ers need to decide on a QB for now and the future. That was the beauty of bringing Warner in. They could start him this year and maybe next, draft a mid-round QB and start developing him for the future. So if the 49ers can get someone better than Hill for the right price, I say bring him in.

I don’t believe Damon Huard is that guy. He had a nice two year run in Kansas City but he needs to go be a backup somewhere else. I am intrigued by Jeff Garcia. There wont be a lot of passing in the new 49er offense so that could keep him healthier. I still like his mobility even at his age. And right now he still may qualify as the best QB the 49ers have had since he left.

I am not sure there are too many other older veterans that could fill the role for a year or two that would make San Francisco immediately better enough to put them into the playoff hunt. Byron Leftwich? Interesting idea I suppose but he does not excite me. Rex Grossman? NO WAY!

When the idea was first broached with me a few weeks back I laughed it off, but now with Warner off the table I am actually in favor of signing Jeff Garcia. But if the 49ers do not, I am not sure I would bring anyone else in. Especially if they are confident in the health of Alex Smith. I would go with Hill, back him up with Smith, and then I would start drafting QBs in the 3rd and 4th rounds for the next few years until I found one that I like. Even if they do sign a veteran I am a proponent of drafting a mid-round QB.

They already tried the first round QB approach with Smith, so I would pass on Mark Sanchez if he is still on the table at the #10 spot. I am not sold on Sanchez to begin with but even if I did like him, I just find so much more value on QBs in later rounds.

Hopefully the 49ers will pass on the all-exciting Damon Huard and either move on to Jeff Garcia or start looking at other free agents outside the QB position.

49er Notes: Backup RB Deshaun Foster was in Buffalo visiting with the Bills today. It seems unlikely that he will be back with the club next year and I would be shocked if the 49ers did not spend a 1st day draft pick on a RB to help shoulder the load with Frank Gore next year.

UPDATED POST: So of course 15 minutes after I post this blog, Matt Maiocco announces that Huard has signed a one-year contract with the Niners. Well, I will leave my thoughts on the subject above and respond to the signing tomorrow when we may have more details.

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Warner To Stay In Arizona

Posted by davefowkes on 03/03/2009

Adam Schefter of the NFL Network is reporting that Kurt Warner will likely agree to a contract at the end of the week to stay with the Arizona Cardinals. That ends any faint hopes any 49er fans had in bringing in the 38-year old QB. Give 49er management credit for engaging in the possibility and maybe trying to drive the Cardinals price up a bit. But in the end, we all knew Warner was going to stay in Arizona.

It is the right move for Warner, for the Cardinals and maybe even for the 49ers.

http://blogs.nfl.com/2009/03/03/warner-expected-to-stay-in-arizona/

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Warming To Warner

Posted by davefowkes on 03/02/2009

As rumored, Kurt Warner is scheduled to visit the 49ers this week to discuss a move within the NFC West. After being very tepid on the idea to begin with, I am starting to warm to the idea of Kurt Warner as your starting QB for the San Francisco 49ers in 2009!

First, let me be clear, I think most of this is a smoke screen by Warner, his agent and probably the 49ers to jack up the price that Arizona pays for Warner. In some ways I correlate this story to Manny Ramirez negotiations between the Dodgers and Giants. Sure the Giants are there but it is mostly about getting the most dollars out of Los Angeles. Same story here, Kurt Warner fits best in Arizona, everyone knows it, it is where he should end up, but can they agree on the number to make it work. Then again, reports indicate the 49ers chartered a plane and limo to deliver the Warners to Santa Clara, maybe this is a real pitch! 

Now that said, if Arizona does not back down, and the 49ers step up, here are the reasons I like the move. Warner at this age would clearly be the best QB on the 49ers roster. Sean Hill and Alex Smith could battle for backup positions and the 49ers could start drafting mid-round QBs until they hit on one they like long term.

One way to get better in your division is to make your rivals worse! The Cardinals without Warner are clearly not as good a team as they are with him. If  you make the argument that Warner wins the 49ers and extra 2 games just by being there, that is a 9-7 record which might just win the division next year. Without Warner, do the Cardinals hit 500?

Now the downside and the reason I was originally against this idea. How good a QB is Warner? Warner’s great successes has been when he is surrounded by great players. He ran the greatest show on turf to perfection in St. Louis. He had Arizona’s offense humming with Larry Fitgerald and Anquin Boldin. But in between he was pretty mediocre at the end of his days in St. Louis and that quick stop he had in New York. Even his first few years in Arizona found him on the bench.

The 49ers are not looking to pass. They do not have great WRs. How would Warner fit in on that Baltimore-west offense with a lack of great receivers and maybe questionable pass blocking in front of him. I do NOT believe that Warner is the type of QB that makes everybody around him better! I think he is a great QB at taking advantage of great talent around him. Not sure that is the case here in San Francisco.

So bottom line: Warner is a good signing because he is an upgrade and it weakens the rival. It is a bad signing if they give him too much money and tie up to much cap space in him rather than developing a new “QB of the future.” If it works out, I consider this to be more good than bad. But in the end I still think this is about driving Arizona’s price up! It will be an interest week in the NFC West!

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49ers Look at Free Agency

Posted by davefowkes on 02/26/2009

Free agency begins tonight in the NFL at 9pm pacific time. That is when teams are free to start signing available players. Every year some big names sign for big cash to move to another team. Some lesser names sign for way too much money to move teams.

I am not expecting the 49ers to be too splashy this year. The 49ers are in an interesting mix. Unlike years past, they don’t have huge needs at every position, yet an upgrade could be had just about anywhere. This free agent period has the potential to be a very expensive one. The salary cap has gone up another $4-million or so, and every team is under the cap with money to spend. That means teams will be overpaying for what they get. It is not worth spending the money just to spend it. The 49ers need value for their buys and sometimes you don’t get value in a market like this.

If I were the 49ers I would play it pretty conservatively. If I were to break the bank it would be for Titan DT Albert Haynesworth. His character might be a bit questionable but his talent is not. You put him in the middle of that defense next to Justin Smith, it changes the way teams will look at the Niner defense. If there is one guy out there worth the price of admission, I would put it on Haynesworth.

However, I don’t see the 49ers in the hunt for Haynesworth. So the 49ers could look WR but given the new offense the 49ers will run, I am not sure it is worth big money to get one of the top WRs. They might as well go with what they have and look to upgrade through the draft. The other position the 49ers desperately need to upgrade is at safety. Not sure there is a big ticket player out there for the 49ers but I would be surprised if they did not bring in a second level player to compete at safety.

Other than that I would not expect to see a lot of activity from the 49ers in free agency. I would guess we’ll just see 4-5 support level guys to come in and compete for roster spots. I think the 49ers seem dedicated to building through the draft which is probably the right thing to do.

The 49ers have spent a lot of money lately on the likes of Justin Smith and Nate Clements in free agency. My hunch would be they will be much quieter this year.

But boy would Albert Haynesworth be a wonderful surprise!

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Vick Won’t Be A Niner

Posted by davefowkes on 02/18/2009

In typical 49er fashion, a slip of the tongue has led to a mini controversy. The 49ers showed they still have work to do in the world of PR. The controversy is this: During a “state of the team” address with season ticket holders, neither coach Mike Singletary nor team owner Jed York denied a possibility of the 49ers acquiring QB Michael Vick when he is released from jail.

First of all, I did not get caught up in it because despite my low respect for the York organization I just could not believe they would be so foolish as to bring in Vick. This is the Bay Area, there is now way that Vick’s act would work here given what he did to dogs. Maybe somewhere else, but not here. The fan base would be enraged which the 49ers can not afford! People deserve second chances in life, and once Vick serves his time he will get one I am sure. But not with San Francisco!

On a personal level I can say quite honestly, if the 49ers were to sign Vick I would give up my position as loyal fan! Let’s face it, I am a dog lover. What Vick did outrages me! Makes me mad just thinking about it! I won’t be able to get over that anytime soon! But it even goes beyond that, even before getting in trouble, I don’t think Vick was all that great a QB. Yes, he had some good runs. First QB to win a playoff game at Lambeau field. He is clearly a great athlete. But to me is a very poor decision maker. If he can’t make the big play with his legs, he is likely to make a bigger mistake with his arm. I don’t think he is a good fit. Plus, he has been in prison two years. Will he really come out and pick up where he left off?

If Vick returns to the NFL the reality is someone will look at him in a creative offense that specializes in the “wildcat” formation or the spread option from college. But that is not what the 49ers will be running.They will be run left, run right, throw on third and long.

Bottom line to me: He is a questionable fit for the team, and a bad apple that has a real rotten past! If the 49ers really can’t do better than Michael Vick then why am I bothering to be a 49er fan?

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