49ers

49ers hire Ken Norton Jr.

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49ers hire Ken Norton Jr.

The 49ers on Monday announced Ken Norton Jr. has joined Kyle Shanahan's staff as assistant head coach - defense/inside linebackers.

Johnny Holland, the team's linebackers coach last season, will become the team’s run game specialist/outside linebackers coach. Michael Clay will become an assistant special teams coach after being assistant strength and conditioning coach last season.

“Ken brings a great deal of knowledge and experience to our team having spent more than two decades as a NFL player and coach,” Shanahan said in a statement. “Throughout his coaching career, Ken has developed a tremendous understanding of our defensive system, making him a perfect fit for our staff.

"With four Super Bowl titles on his resume, including one as a 49er, Ken knows firsthand what it takes to become a championship caliber team.”

Norton, 51, spent the past 2 1/2 seasons as defensive coordinator for the Oakland Raiders under then-coach Jack Del Rio until his firing this past season.

He played in the NFL for 13 seasons, including his final seven years with the 49ers from 1994-2000. He was on two Super Bowl-winning teams as an inside linebacker with the Dallas Cowboys before winning a Super Bowl in his first season after signing with the 49ers as a free agent in 1994.

Norton spent five seasons as an assistant coach with the Seattle Seahawks as linebackers coach. He served three three seasons on Pete Carroll's staff with Robert Saleh, the 49ers' defensive coordinator. Saleh was the Seahawks' defensive quality control coach at the time. Norton and Saleh were on Seattle's team that won the Super Bowl in February 2014.

In his new role, Norton will be reconnected with weakside linebacker Malcolm Smith, who earned MVP honors in the Seahawks 43-8 victory over the Denver Broncos in Super Bowl XLVIII. Smith spent last season on injured reserve with a torn pectoral but is expected to return as the starter. Norton will also work closely with Reuben Foster. The 49ers expect Foster to move to middle linebacker in his second NFL season.

Drafted by Baalke with injury, former 49ers WR signs with Colts

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Drafted by Baalke with injury, former 49ers WR signs with Colts

The 49ers recently re-signed eight of the 10 players who finished the season on the team’s practice squad.

Wide receiver DeAndre Smelter, who was not among the first wave of 49ers signings to 2018 contracts, signed Wednesday with the Indianapolis Colts, ending his three-season association with the organization.

Smelter was one of general manager Trent Baalke’s redshirt draft picks. The team selected him in the fourth round of the 2015 draft despite a torn ACL that ended his final season at Georgia Tech.

Smelter spent his first season on an injured list. He was waived at the beginning of the past two seasons, finishing both years on the 49ers’ practice squad. Smelter appeared in two games in 2016 and caught one pass for 23 yards.

Last season, the 49ers signed wide receivers Louis Murphy and Max McCaffrey to spots on the 53-man roster instead of Smelter, who remained on the practice squad.

Wide receiver DeAndre Carter, who also spent the entire season on the practice squad, was signed recently to the team’s 90-man roster.

Others who finished the season on the 49ers practice squad to remain on the team’s offseason roster are: quarterback Nick Mullens, tight end Cole Wick, offensive linemen Andrew Lauderdale and Pace Murphy, linebacker Boseko Lokombo, and defensive backs Trovon Reed and Channing Stribling.

The 49ers also signed fullback Malcolm Johnson, who spent last season on injured reserve with the Seattle Seahawks. Johnson appeared in 19 games over the 2015 and ’16 seasons with the Cleveland Browns. He was a sixth-round draft pick in ’15.

Offensive linemen Cameron Hunt, who finished the season on the 49ers’ practice squad, remains unsigned. Guard JP Flynn is also unsigned. He sustained a torn patellar tendon in November and underwent surgery that was expected to keep him out up to nine months.

An intriguing dynamic of Garoppolo's contract negotiations

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An intriguing dynamic of Garoppolo's contract negotiations

If the 49ers and quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo are unable to reach a multi-year contract extension by March 6, the 49ers have no other choice but to designate him as their franchise player.

The estimated one-year salary for the franchise tag would be $23.307 million, according to former NFL agent Joel Corry, whose work now appears at CBS Sports. (That is assuming a 2018 league-wide salary cap of $178.1 million per team.)

There is a lot to consider for both sides as they look to enter into a long-term contract. Corry said if a deal is struck, he would expect it to be in the neighborhood of Derek Carr’s five-year, $125 million deal he signed with the Raiders last offseason.

“And then there’s the other dynamic, which I would not undersell or I think may not be appreciated as much as it should be,” Corry said on the 49ers Insider Podcast. “(Garoppolo’s agent) Don Yee has a reputation – no fault of his own – of doing team-friendly deals.”

Yee also represents New England quarterback Tom Brady, whose average of $20.5 million annual pay ranks 15th among NFL quarterbacks. Brady is underpaid by design, Corry said, because one of the great quarterbacks of all-time realizes it helps the Patriots to maintain a strong supporting cast.

“That’s because Tom Brady dictates, ‘I want to do something good for the team, take less money so we can improve the roster to win Super Bowls.’ That’s not Don Yee who wants to do that,” Corry said.

“The agent works for the player, so he’s executing Tom Brady’s wishes. But he gets that held against him in recruiting. So this is his opportunity to erase that perception if Garoppolo allows him to do his job and gives him latitude to strike the deal that he feels is appropriate.”

For more on the potential negotiating strategies of both sides, listen here to the 49ers Insider Podcast.