49ers-Rams: Matchups to watch


49ers-Rams: Matchups to watch

SAN FRANCISCO -- It's almost impossible to come up with "matchups to watch" in any game featuring the St. Louis Rams.After all, it's always problematic to find Rams who will actually be healthy enough to play.The team has been decimated by injuries this season. Nine players who have started games this season are among the 13 players whose seasons have already ended with trips to injured reserve.The list of those lost for the season includes receiver Danny Amendola, both starting offensive tackles, Rodger Saffold and Jason Smith, and six -- that's right, six -- cornerbacks.Ron Bartell and Bradley Fletcher were the Rams' starting cornerbacks to open the season. They played a combined five games before both were lost for the season. Veteran Al Harris started five games before he was lost for the season.The Rams continue to have injury concerns, as their most important offensive player, quarterback Sam Bradford, and their best defensive player, Chris Long, are questionable with ankle injuries.
Tale of the tape
49ers RT Anthony Davis (76): 6-5, 323, Rutgers, second season
Rams DE Chris Long (91): 6-3, 270, Virginia, fourth seasonIn his second NFL season, Davis has shown vast improvement and consistency over his rookie season. But there is no denying Davis struggled Thanksgiving night against the Baltimore Ravens.Things do not get a whole lot easier on Sunday, as he'll be matched against Long, who is quickly becoming recognized as one of the top challenges for right tackles. At least Davis will be playing alongside right guard Adam Snyder again, as he's back from a hamstring strain that forced him out of the game against the Ravens.
Long, however, might not be at full strength. He missed practice time this week with an ankle sprain. He is listed as questionable for Sunday's game, but the 49ers expect Long to be on the field. Long has not missed a game in his NFL career.Long is sixth in the NFL with 10 sacks on the season, and he has recorded at least one sack in five consecutive games. Half of his sacks have come in the fourth quarter of games."He's just a good football player," Davis said. "I've seen him play just as well against the run. He's a good pass-rusher, good motor. He's good."Last season, Long got the better of Davis in two matchups with a sack in each game and four quarterback pressures. Both Long and Davis are better than a year ago, Davis said."It's a different matchup this year," Davis said. "We're both different players."This is a huge matchup for the 49ers, whose pass protection will be looking to rebound from a forgettable performance in a 16-6 loss to the Ravens. The 49ers allowed nine sacks -- a 13-year worst performance for the team. Other matchups worth watching
49ers RB Frank Gore (21) vs. Rams LB James Laurinaitis (55): The Rams have the worst rush defense in the league. Arizona's Beanie Wells gained 228 yards on 27 rushing attempts last week in the Cardinals' 23-20 win at St. Louis. Laurinaitis is the Rams' leading tackler, and he must shed blocks and make the stop of Gore to prevent him from breaking into the secondary. Gore has five 100-yard games this season, and he needs 22 yards to break the 49ers' franchise record for rushing yards since the club entered the NFL in 1950.49ers NT Isaac Sopoaga (90) vs. Rams C Tony Wragge (64): The 49ers' run defense has been outstanding -- and that's an understatement. And a lot of it starts with Sopoaga clogging up the middle. The 49ers have not allowed a 100-yard rusher in 33 consecutive games, the longest active streak in the NFL. They are the first team since the 1928 Providence Steamrollers to not allow a rushing touchdown in the first 11 games of a season. In fact, the last player to score a rushing touchdown against them was the Rams' Steven Jackson. He scored on a 1-yard run on Dec. 26. The 49ers have gone 51 quarters without allowing a rushing TD. Wragge will start his fourth game at center after taking over for struggling Jason Brown. If the Rams want to run the ball, Wragge will have to do a good job against Sopoaga. Wragge, one of the 49ers player representatives during the lockout, signed with the Rams as a free agent.

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.