49ers key matchup No. 2: Jean Francois vs. McQuistan


49ers key matchup No. 2: Jean Francois vs. McQuistan

Editor's note: This is the second part in a series that spotlights three 49ers-Seahawks matchups to watch Sunday, 5:20 p.m. (NBC-TV), at CenturyLink Field, Seattle.

[RELATED: 49ers key matchup No. 3: Crabtree vs. Sherman]

49ers RDT Ricky Jean Francois vs. Seattle LG Paul McQuistan

Tale of the tape
Jean Francois (95): 6-foot-3, 295 pounds, fourth season, LSU
McQuistan (67): 6-foot-6, 315 pounds, seventh season, Weber State

The 49ers called on Ricky Jean Francois, their first defensive lineman off the sideline, in the second half a week ago when Justin Smith was unable to return to action due to a left elbow injury against the New England Patriots.

Smith did not practice this week, and he is not expected to be available Sunday night against the Seattle Seahawks. Even if Smith does suit up, Jean Francois will likely be counted upon to play most of the game.

When asked how he feels about Jean Francois' ability to step into the lineup in place of an All-Pro player, 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh said, "I feel good. I think we all felt good about Ricky Jean and Ray (McDonald), anybody who goes in there. Next guy up."

McDonald and Jean Francois provided big plays for the 49ers a week ago after the Patriots rallied to score four consecutive touchdowns to pull into a 31-31 tie in the fourth quarter. McDonald and Jean Francois produced back-to-back sacks of quarterback Tom Brady as the 49ers held onto the momentum and a 41-34 victory.

Jean Francois is expected to make his fourth career start. And the 49ers' most versatile defensive lineman will be going against the Seahawks' most versatile offensive lineman. Seattle's Paul McQuistan moved from right guard to left guard when James Carpenter went on injured reserve. McQuistan also played left tackle last year when Russell Okung was injured.

Jean Francois' effectiveness can also be measured in how outside linebacker Aldon Smith fares against Okung, who is having an outstanding season at left tackle. According to Pro Football Focus, Okung has yet to surrender a quarterback sack and has been beaten for only two quarterback hits in 13 games.

Aldon Smith has 19.5 sacks through 14 games, just three behind Michael Strahan's NFL record of 22.5 sacks, which he set for the New York Giants in 2001.

Justin Smith, who has made 185 consecutive regular-season starts since his rookie season in 2001 with the Cincinnati Bengals, generally attracts a lot of double teams. He ties up blockers, which benefits Aldon Smith, as well as inside linebackers Patrick Willis and NaVorro Bowman. Jean Francois must do a good job in his one-on-one matchups against McQuistan.

After all, Jean Francois said he figures the Seahawks will try to test him with a steady diet of running back Marshawn Lynch coming his way. Lynch has rushed for 1,379 yards and 10 touchdowns this season. He gained 103 yards on 19 carries in the 49ers' 13-6 victory at Candlestick Park on Oct. 18.

"I usually get that every game, from the first time I started against Tampa Bay, I know they're going to come at me," Jean Francois said. "Everybody knows Justin Smith is one of the best D-linemen, so they're dealing with a guy who has played or hasn't started. That's the best part about it. They get to come at me."

Jean Francois is scheduled for unrestricted free agency in the offseason, so a strong showing could increase his stock on the open market. But as he prepared this week to start and play every down in place of one of the 49ers' most influential players.

"It would help me, but it's going to help my teammates, too," Jean Francois said. "It's another step closer to having a bye week, winning the division and so on and so on. Free agency? I'm not worried about that. I'm just worried about the season and what I can control right now."

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


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


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.