49ers Mailbag: What's expected from Alex Smith?


49ers Mailbag: What's expected from Alex Smith?

Rookies are scheduled to report to 49ers training camp on Saturday, July 21. The veterans show up Thursday, July 26, with the first full-squad practice slated for the next day.As we get closer to the opening of camp, we'll dig into the 49ers Mailbag to answer some questions. Let's continue with what we started Thursday with questions about the team's rookies and Dashon Goldson . . . Q: Based on what you've seen so far, is Alex Smith ready to take the next step, stay the same as last year or regress? (@kdottorres)
I appreciate the way you phrased that question -- "based on what you've seen so far."Based on what I've seen, yes, Alex Smith is ready to take the next step. The first couple practices I watched during camp, he seemed to struggle with his accuracy. Perhaps that was a result of the slight mechanical alternations he made to his throwing motion.By the time the offseason program had come to a conclusion, Smith looked to be playing on a different level than any of the other quarterbacks of the roster.I don't see any way Smith can match or do better than throwing five interceptions in 16 games. But there are other areas in which Smith and the 49ers' passing game can make dramatic improvements.RELATED: Alex Smith 2011 game logs
With a better knowledge of the offense, Smith should be able to make better pre-snap reads. His anticipation of what will happen based on the play call along with the defense (and type of pressure) should enable Smith to be more decisive and the offense to be more productive on third downs and in the red zone.Of course, the 49ers' receivers should also be better from Day 1, and that includes tight end Vernon Davis, who became comfortable with the offense late in the season.
Let there be no mistake, Smith is the player this season under the most pressure to perform this season. The contract he signed with the 49ers made it necessary for him to play well to earn a 8.5 million payout for the 2013 season.The 49ers structured the "three-year" deal in such a way that they would face only a 1 million cap hit next year if they decided to part ways with Smith rather than pay his 2013 salary. Therefore, coming off what many called his breakout season, Smith will be under more scrutiny that ever. Q: I'm not sure the 49ers improved on their major weaknesses... 3rd down coverage and interior o-line blocking. Improved only @ WR. (@mrtapout1975)
I'd argue that third-down coverage and interior offensive-line blocking were not the 49ers' major weaknesses last season.After all, the 49ers' defense ranked 11th in the NFL in third down defense. The opposition converted on 35.2 percent of third downs. But, true, the 49ers did not add any pass-rushers. Aldon Smith is slated to be an every-down player, and that could make him less effective on third downs. Their top three or four cornerbacks from a year ago will be back in the same roles, but Tarell Brown and Chris Culliver should be improved.
As far as interior offensive line, the 49ers figure Alex Boone will be a better right guard than Adam Snyder. That's why the 49ers made no attempt to re-sign Snyder. The reason the 49ers did not try Boone at guard last year is because there was not enough time to make the transition to a new position due to the lockout.

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.