Former 49ers Boldin, Davis, Gore have reasons to be thankful

Former 49ers Boldin, Davis, Gore have reasons to be thankful

Three well-known former 49ers have reasons to be grateful on a day in which each will take the field on Thanksgiving Day.

Instead of being subjected to a 1-9 season and franchise-tying nine-game losing streak as members of the 49ers, Anquan Boldin, Vernon Davis and Frank Gore are in the playoff hunt and playing key roles with their respective teams.

WR Anquan Boldin, Detroit
Boldin was the 49ers’ leading receiver in each of his three seasons with the 49ers. He was announced as the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award during Super Bowl week in San Francisco.

But the 49ers did not have a place for him on their roster, as they committed themselves to transitioning to a younger group of wide receivers.

Bruce Ellington and Eric Rogers, a pickup from the Canadian Football League, both sustained season-ending injuries before the start of the regular season. DeAndre Smelter has never snapped back from a knee injury that ended his final college season at Georgia Tech before general manager Trent Baalke selected him in the fourth round of the 2015 draft. Smelter is currently on the 49ers’ practice squad.

“He’s been OK, but he hasn’t played better than the guys that are on the active roster right now,” 49ers coach Chip Kelly said of Smelter. “So that has not been a discussion about bringing him up.”

Meanwhile, Boldin ranks third on the Lions with 41 receptions for 323 yards and five touchdowns. Boldin’s 7.9-yard per reception is the lowest of his career. A year ago, his 11.4 average with the 49ers was the lowest since his second season in the league.

Boldin, 36, is obviously slowing down, but he is still producing more than any receiver on the 49ers. Slot receiver Jeremy Kerley has 40 catches for 424 yards and three touchdowns.

The Lions (6-4) play the Minnesota Vikings in the early game on Thanksgiving Day.

TE Vernon Davis, Washington
Davis has experienced a bit of a resurgence with his best season since 2013, when he had 850 yards receiving and 13 touchdowns for the 49ers.

When Davis fell, he fell hard. But, now, he is making some contributions for Washington, which enters Thursday’s game against the Dallas Cowboys with a 6-3-1 record.

The 49ers dealt him to the Denver Broncos at the trade deadline last year. Former 49ers GM Scot McCloughan raised some eyebrows when he signed Davis as a free agent in the offseason. But Davis, 32, has given Washington about what they expected at this stage of his career. Davis has 26 catches for 382 yards and two touchdowns.

Vance McDonald is the 49ers’ top tight end. He has 18 catches for 322 yards and four touchdowns.

RB Frank Gore, Indianapolis
The 49ers offered Gore, the 49ers’ all-time leading rusher, only a one-year contract when he became a free agent after the 2014 season. The 49ers determined it was time for Carlos Hyde to become the featured back.

The Colts, meanwhile, valued Gore with a three-year, $12 million contract. Gore has the longest current consecutive-games played streak of any NFL running back at 90 games, entering the Colts’ Thanksgiving night game against the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Gore, 33, has remained healthier and more productive than Hyde. Gore has 642 yards rushing and four touchdowns on 163 carries this season.

He also has 28 catches for 201 yards and a career-tying three touchdown receptions and is on pace for his best season as a receiver since 2010.

Gore ranks ninth on the NFL’s all-time rushing list with 12,682 yards. He is just 57 yards behind Hall of Famer Tony Dorsett for No. 8 on the list.

Meanwhile, Hyde has 529 yards rushing and six TDs on 141 carries. He has 16 catches for 90 yards.

The Colts (5-5) enter Thanksgiving one game behind the Houston Texans in the AFC South.

49ers RT Trent Brown to undergo season-ending shoulder surgery


49ers RT Trent Brown to undergo season-ending shoulder surgery

Right tackle Trent Brown will undergo season-ending shoulder surgery, 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan announced Friday during his press conference at team headquarters in Santa Clara.

Brown has been plagued by a shoulder injury sustained toward the end of practice on Thanksgiving Day. He sat out the next game, Nov. 26, against Seattle before returning to the starting lineup at Chicago a week later.

Brown did not play Sunday against the Houston Texans after seeing limited practice time on Thursday and Friday. Veteran guard Zane Beadles started at right tackle in the 49ers’ 26-16 victory over the Texans.

Brown, a third-year player, did not practice Wednesday or Thursday of this week. The decision to undergo surgery at this stage would likely ensure Brown is available for the opening of training camp in late-July after a lengthy rehabilitation.

A seventh-round draft pick in 2015 from Florida, Brown started all 16 games last season at right tackle. He is eligible to sign a contract extension in the offseason, as he is scheduled to enter the final season of his original four-year contract.

Beadles is the 49ers’ fourth option at right tackle. Brown's top backups, Garry Gilliam (knee) and Erik Magnuson (foot), went on injured reserve earlier this season.

How 49ers' four safeties fit into future plans


How 49ers' four safeties fit into future plans

The 49ers are now starting players who began the season as backups at nearly half of the positions on both sides of the ball.

The team’s reliance on depth, in some cases, has highlighted which positions need to be strengthened in the offseason. But at the two safety spots, it has reinforced to the 49ers how much they like the four players who have seen significant action in those roles.

Here is a look at those four players and how they fit into the club’s plans for next season:

There might be no bigger surprise on the team than Colbert, whom the 49ers first tried out at cornerback and expected him to be little more than a contributor on special teams during the regular season.

A seventh-round draft pick, Colbert was overshadowed by undrafted rookie Lorenzo Jerome during training camp. Jerome became expendable early in the season due to his lack of size and speed, as well as his inability to carve out a niche on special teams.

Colbert, the team’s second-leading tackler on special teams, has started three recent games at free safety and has been exceptional with 18 tackles and four passes broken up. His big hit, causing a fourth-quarter fumble of DeAndre Hopkins, helped the 49ers clinch last week’s victory over the Houston Texans.

Colbert has size (6-foot-2, 205 pounds), range, aggression and toughness. After undergoing surgery to repair a broken thumb, Colbert insisted on returning to action a week earlier than the 49ers anticipated.

There is also a belief his game will go another level in his second season, as he plays faster with a greater knowledge and comfort level of his responsibilities in the deep middle of the 49ers’ standard cover-3 defense.

The 49ers have Colbert under contract at low levels through the 2020 season. They are allowed to negotiate a extension with him after the 2019 season.

Tartt started the first two games at free safety before moving to strong safety, where he started the next five games before he was forced back to free safety. The 49ers feel comfortable about Tartt’s ability to play either position. He has good coverage skills but his size and physicality probably make him a better fit closer to the line of scrimmage.

Tartt’s season ended in Week 9 with a broken forearm. He was the team’s leading tackler for most of the season with an interception and three passes defended.

The 49ers are allowed to negotiate a multi-year contract with Tartt after this season, and he would appear to be high on their list of priorities to lock up to a contract extension before entering the final year of his deal.

The 49ers picked up the fifth-year option on Jimmie Ward last offseason, which means he already has a deal in place for 2018. Because he played cornerback last season – and not safety – his one-year price tag for 2018 jumped nearly $3 million from $5.597 million to $8.526 million. Is Ward worth that much money? That's something the 49ers will have to determine. They could get out of the contract before the new league year begins on March 14.

First off, Ward has not proven he can remain healthy. He has been plagued by a variety of injuries. In his first four NFL seasons, he played all 16 games once. He missed a minimum of five games in every other season, including this year when appeared in just seven games before sustaining a fractured forearm.

His scheduled salary for next season is big. But the 49ers have plenty of cap space, and they are required to eventually spend that money. If the dollars allocated to Ward prevents them from acquiring a targeted offensive lineman, wide receiver or pass rusher, then it becomes a problem. But because the 49ers are currently $54.8 million under the cap, which rolls over to next season, that is probably not going to be an issue.

The 49ers could also try to sign Ward to a multiyear contract with an average dollar amount far south of $8.5 million. But the one-year deal for next season allows the 49ers some flexibility because it would be just a one-year commitment and would not have any financial implications beyond the 2018 season.

Another element Ward gives the 49ers is his versatility. He can play cornerback, too. But his best position is free safety. While the 49ers believe he can be a starter-caliber cornerback, they are confident his can be an All-Pro free safety.

With the three players who are under contract for next season – Colbert, Tartt and Ward – there is little doubt each would play and play a lot in 2018. Injuries seem inevitable. But if each remains healthy and available, the presence of three high-caliber safeties would give the defensive coaching staff flexibility to design game plans to best take advantage of matchups.

There is a lot of uncertainty surrounding Reid because he is playing this season under the fifth-year option and is scheduled for unrestricted free agency in March. The 49ers like Reid a lot, but they also really like the three aforementioned guys who are already under contract.

When everyone was healthy near the middle of the season, the 49ers settled on Tartt and Ward as the starters and moved Reid to linebacker. Injuries necessitated the move of Reid back to strong safety, where he has found his niche playing close to the line of scrimmage.

The market could determine whether the 49ers bring back Reid. It is uncertain how much – if any – his role in the protest of racial inequality will impact in how other teams assess Reid's free-agent value.

In other words, it is difficult to imagine the 49ers will get into a bidding war for Reid because of the other players they already have at safety. But if the market is soft for Reid, the 49ers would likely welcome him back at the right price.