San Francisco 49ers: Latest Combine News and Rumors
Let's just say the rumor mill in San Francisco has succumbed to high winds, which has made the 49ers quite the polarizing offseason story from a barrage of angles. How they're building, who they're talking to and what they're involved in has everyone interested.
With the 2014 NFL Scouting Combine almost in the books, the draft a couple months away and free agency on the horizon, there is no shortage of opportunities when it comes to team building. And it's safe to say they're already exploring new talent.
One way or another, this team will have a slightly altered identity from years past.
It's not even March yet, and this club is popping up all over the web, as well as on your favorite sports channels like ESPN and NFL Network. Already, it's looking like it'll be a very active offseason for the 49ers—one with roller-coaster-type twists and turns.
But can they come out the other end, not only unscathed, but better than they were?
So sit tight: This offseason will be an immense challenge, and we're only in the beginning stages of it. Without further ado, here is what's relevant with the San Francisco football team as of Monday, February 24, 2014.
Measurements courtesy of CBS Sports and NFL Draft Scout. Contract information courtesy of Spotrac, unless specified otherwise. Key stories provided by Matt Maiocco of CSN Bay Area and Cam Inman of the San Jose Mercury News.
Preliminary Contract Talks Underway with Colin Kaepernick
This was big news out of Indy and monumental for the modern rebirth of the 49ers.
Kaepernick, the 26-year-old multi-tooled prodigy who took the club to two NFC title games and a Super Bowl in his first two years in the lineup, is only slated to earn $1.6 million in 2014. That is an unbelievable bargain, considering he may be in line to earn at least 10 times that at roughly $16-20 million.
Given his early success, the fact that he is coach Jim Harbaugh’s handpicked guy and that his value is currently at the lowest it will ever be, now seems like the time to strike a deal.
Getting started on the right foot, the Niners took their quarterback out for steaks in Indianapolis, per Rapoport, entering preliminary talks with Kaepernick and his agent.
Negotiations are in the very early stages, but it’s a positive sign that they’re underway. Running back Frank Gore will not be around forever, and it was necessary for San Francisco to find a new cornerstone for the offense. Colin Kaepernick is easily priority No. 1.
49ers and Colin Kaepernick's reps made a decent start on extension talks. Nothing solid, but apparently no immediate road blocks, either.— Tim Kawakami (@timkawakami) February 24, 2014
49ers Possibly Interested in Louisville Safety Calvin Pryor
CSN Bay Area’s Matt Maiocco reported that Louisville safety Calvin Pryor had a formal interview with the 49ers brass the night before his combine workout.
After speaking with the All-Big East selection, who is currently being vaunted as a first- to second-round prospect, Turron Davenport of Bay Sports Net also confirmed from Lucas Oil Stadium that Pryor had indeed met with head coach Jim Harbaugh and secondary coach Ed Donatell, citing a mutual interest.
Pryor’s eyes lit up when asked about the Niners, as he seemed enamored by the idea of pairing up with Pro Bowl safety Eric Reid, per Davenport.
This seems like a picturesque tandem and a realistic player that San Francisco can pursue. On the other hand, the whole thing may also be a smokescreen. By nature, the 49ers are not very loud about their picks.
They don’t like to advertise to the rest of the league who they’re interested in, in order to give themselves that same competitive advantage on draft day. It's how they are. Looking at it from that perspective, it’s possible that Calvin Pryor was a No. 2 or 3 guy on their board who they were just doing their due diligence on.
Jon Baldwin Is Still a 49er, for Now
Wide receiver Jon Baldwin is still a member of the 49ers, but he is on a short leash.
The former first-round pick helped his chances by agreeing to reduce his 2014 salary, taking it down from $1.4 million to $645,000. But that’s far from any sort of guaranteed job security. It’s very unlikely that the 49ers are putting much stock in him from here on out.
In fact, acquiring him in a swap always came off as a low-key way to part with 2012 first-round pick A.J. Jenkins without cutting him outright.
They went through channels trying to salvage something, but in the end, it’s the same result. The 49ers are still out a first-round talent from that year's draft class, and it's only 2014. And truly, Baldwin brings nothing to the table. His size and speed mean nothing without confidence, hands and route-running ability.
The team would be better taking a chance on a sixth- or seventh-round flier to fill his spot—a player whose future is yet to be determined.
From what we can tell, Baldwin simply can’t be relied on. The 49ers were badly in need of air support when No. 1 receiver Michael Crabtree went down. Then after Kyle Williams was released and Quinton Patton fractured his foot, Baldwin had as many opportunities as any to get involved but failed to step up.
It’s a long shot that Jon Baldwin makes it through this upcoming training camp, which should be the most competitive in four years under Jim Harbaugh.
Cleveland Browns Allegedly Tried to Trade for Jim Harbaugh
According to Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk, the Cleveland Browns “nearly pulled off a trade” that would’ve sent coach Jim Harbaugh to Ohio. Clearly that’s not the whole story, but it was the beginning of a monsoon of mistruths, dead ends and finger pointing that took place this weekend.
And still, it’s ongoing.
But both Harbaugh and 49ers CEO/owner Jed York adamantly refuted the claims by the Browns, who said they had an “opportunity” to acquire the 2011 AP Coach of the Year. Cleveland’s camp, including owner Jimmy Haslam, strongly suggests that the prospect of acquiring Harbaugh was real.
But the fact is, only a few people really know what transpired, and only kernels of this story are probably true.
Cutting through all the “he said, she said” banter, it is peculiar that this is the third football program to be connected to the Niners head coach this year alone. The Browns join the University of Texas and the Miami Dolphins as teams to be linked to the coach over the past five months, per CBS Sports.
Front-office tension has been the go-to excuse for all of these imaginary deals as well.
Added to which, Harbaugh desires a very lucrative contract extension. If one were to examine all the facts and really look at the timeline, as compared to the quiet 2011 and 2012 seasons, it does seem as if there is a silent puppet master working in the background.
To be perfectly honest, it is possible that Harbaugh’s super agent, David Dunn of Athletes First, is the one pulling the strings in an attempt to press San Francisco and create a market for his client. Truly, you never know, but it is the most logical explanation in all this.
Crazier things have happened.
49ers Closing in on a Deal with Anquan Boldin
Early in the week at Lucas Oil Stadium, head coach Jim Harbaugh indicated at his presser that things were moving in a “positive direction” in regard to contract talks with wideout Anquan Boldin, via Cam Inman of the San Jose Mercury News. Boldin, who played out the last year of a three-year deal, put on a clinic in his first-ever year as a true No. 1.
Statistically, it was his best showing since his last season with the Arizona Cardinals in 2009.
No. 81 demonstrated his value to the organization in a big way, proving that this career peak he's hitting is still in flux.
Harbaugh has continued to express his admiration for Boldin, as well as his desire to see him return to the team next year. On Saturday, ESPN insider Adam Schefter reported that the 49ers and Boldin are in fact closing in on a deal, inferring one looks imminent.
This is positive because by bringing back the veteran, who is the team’s reigning 1,000-yard receiver, it ensures stability at the wideout position.
This is a club that’s had some nasty misfires in the draft and free agency when it comes to stocking the position around receiver Michael Crabtree, who has been a pillar on offense. It’s the one spot they haven’t been able to hit on. Fortunately, Boldin has a great rapport with quarterback Colin Kaepernick and is performing at a high, high level.
NaVorro Bowman to Potentially Miss Half of 2014
After witnessing him suffer an absolutely gruesome ACL tear in the 2013 NFC title game, it shouldn't come as a surprise that 49ers All-Pro linebacker NaVorro Bowman may miss a great deal of the 2014 regular season.
Coach Jim Harbaugh confirmed as much from the NFL Scouting Combine, saying "midway through the season is more realistic" timetable for return, via Bill Williamson of ESPN. Bowman is certainly a physical marvel like an Adrian Peterson, for instance, but he is a young stud at the beginning of a long-term contract.
Meaning, while Bowman may be able to return in the first half of the season, the 49ers will not take any unnecessary risks or shortcuts.
With NaVorro Bowman likely starting the 2014-15 NFL season on the physically unable to perform list, look for up-and-coming linebacker Michael Wilhoite to take charge in camp and into the season. He is a big, fast, bulky tracker who can cover, and he already has experience standing in for one All-Pro in linebacker Patrick Willis.
Eric Mangini Moved to Tight Ends Coach
There was a flurry of activity within the 49ers' infrastructure this past week, as the 49ers moved senior offensive consultant Eric Mangini to the role of tight ends coach. This followed two moves: (1) Offensive line coach Tim Drevno left his position for a job opportunity at USC and (2) Tight ends coach Reggie Davis became the assistant offensive line coach.
Until this point, Mangini's role and impact has been relatively unknown to those outside the organization.
The former two-time head coach and pupil of New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick will now be in a more visible position, working hands on with a Pro Bowler in Vernon Davis. Mangini will also assume the responsibility for the development of last year's second-round pick Vance McDonald, who the team would like to see more receiving production from.
Front Office Forcing Carlos Rogers into a Corner
Veteran defensive back Carlos Rogers is officially in the beginning stages of being squeegeed off this roster in 2014. According to reports, a massive pay cut will be requested of the 2011 Pro Bowler, who will have the single-highest cap figure on the roster.
“Sources indicate the 49ers will want him to reduce his salary by more than half. If he declines, the 49ers will release him,” per Matt Maiocco of CSN Bay Area.
Four-plus million off a team-high $8 million salary is a major sum—one that Rogers, or anybody for that matter, would be unlikely to agree to. That being the case, and with the team’s intentions already laid out, it does seem more and more likely that an inevitable split is coming.
Of course, that is unless Rogers surprises by giving into San Francisco’s highhanded demands (it seems doubtful).
The cornerback will be 33 years old for the upcoming season and is nearing the down slope of his game. So even if Rogers did agree to the substantial pay cut, the 49ers should look to move on anyway, seeing as how they can build for the future and get far better for cheaper.
This is probably why San Francisco is low-balling him, in the hope that he’ll see his own way out.
While his contributions were very valuable in the short term, the business dynamic of the NFL will see to it that there is a split this offseason. Carlos Rogers' tenure with the 49ers was never meant to be long lasting. And right now, this is one of those scenarios that make sense from every conceivable angle.
Brandin Cooks’ Big Day Fuels Talk to San Francisco
Oregon State wide receiver Brandin Cooks is 100 percent on this team’s big board; you can believe that.
Between San Francisco’s team need and its proclivity for selecting players of this type, it’d be a shock if they weren’t strongly considering the all-purpose dynamo as a candidate with their first-round selection. It would stray from their M.O. completely if the scouting department just dismissed him.
But so far it does not appear that they have, as Cooks was one of the first players the organization met with in Indianapolis, via Matt Barrows of The Sacramento Bee.
Cooks, a native of Northern California, is projected to the 49ers because of their desire to further weaponize the receiving corps for the future, coupled with the dire need for speed. Right now, the offense has to have a complementary threat that is a constant danger to get loose for the big play.
Not to mention, Cooks is also commonly mocked as a mid-to-late first-rounder, which is right in Baalke’s strike zone. And his stock has since gone up after his showing at the combine.
The 40-time from Indy—officially a 4.33, making him the fastest wide receiver this year—really created a buzz around Cooks. This man will scorch the earth. On top of which, he also threw up a man-sized set of 16 bench reps of 225 pounds in that compact 189-pound frame of his.
All the locals were up in arms over Cooks, fortifying the communal draft crush. Bill Williamson of ESPN made it a point to mention the receiver’s big day, citing his speed, strong hands and route-running ability as selling points for the 49ers. Williamson even advocates a trade up.
Barrows of The Sac Bee continued to pile on the rave reviews, currently buoying the Cooks/49ers pairing on Day 1.
Cooks and Barrows had a one-on-one before the combine, and the 49ers local beat writer came away quite impressed. Barrows also isn’t even sure that the Oregon State speedster will be around at No. 30 overall anymore, which would necessitate a trade up.
CSN Bay Area’s Matt Maiocco also believes Cooks is a fit.
What resonated with Maiocco was how much the 49ers would get by taking him in the first round. Not only is the team plugging in a high-caliber athlete with starting potential but also a particularly dangerous weapon in the slot and a game-breaking threat on the return team.
These are excellent points.
Better yet, Cooks wants to wear the red and gold as well, citing the match between his skill set and San Francisco's coast-to-coast attack:
Coming from a pro-style system at Oregon State ... I feel like that would be an easy transition to be able to go somewhere like a West Coast offense and fit right in and make an impact right away.
As far as the first round goes, few prospects and teams have been linked as regularly as Brandin Cooks and the 49ers. If the team believes he’s the missing element and they have the system that would optimize his talent, then this is a very viable option for the San Francisco front office.
Brandin Cooks on potentially playing for his favorite NFL team, the #49ers: "Hey, I would love to blow the top off for them."— Matt Barrows (@mattbarrows) February 16, 2014
Team to Approach Craig Dahl About a Pay Cut
In Matt Maiocco’s info-laden report this past week, he also included the fact that second-string safety Craig Dahl would be asked to restructure his current deal, which is a three-year, $5.25 million contract signed prior to this past season.
Coming back to compete as a backup safety again, Dahl is set to take home nearly $1.9 million against the cap in 2014.
That won't do.
His dead money this season ($466,667) and next ($233,334) is low enough where the Niners could release him if he's not on board with taking a pay cut. And again, the team can tap the draft for a prospect that will earn a fraction of Dahl’s wage, while potentially adding a player who is already better and has more upside.
The risk of it all is that Dahl is a veteran and has a defined role on special teams.
Nevertheless, these are millions of dollars the 49ers could potentially be saving, and they won’t want to overspend at any position, whether it's a starter or backup. Obviously they don’t feel Craig Dahl is going to have a big enough role, nor is he playing at a high enough level to earn that much, making him a logical target for cost cutting.
Tank Carradine Has Second Knee Surgery
Cornellius "Tank" Carradine, arguably the team's most tantalizing project player, is reportedly coming off a second knee surgery to remove a mass of scar tissue that accumulated after an ACL repair.
This was a bit worrisome. Reports were that the 6'4" defensive tackle could not even flex his leg at all until he had it cleaned out. But following the surgery, he was able to straighten it, per Jim Harbaugh, via the team's official website.
On the plus side, the 49ers coach indicated that expectations are now very high for Tank Carradine, as the behemoth finally looks ready to get involved.
He looks like a different guy now, since that procedure. Just with what we saw when he did practice with our football team and now this procedure that's been done, I'm even more excited. I think he's going to have a great offseason and look forward to his progress very, very much.