Last chance: Bakhtiari works without a safety net


Last chance: Bakhtiari works without a safety net

SANTA CLARA -- Outside linebacker Eric Bakhtiari has made a living bouncing around the NFL since 2008. But what worked for him in the past is no longer an option this season.
This is a make-or-break training camp for a guy who attracted interest from one NFL team in the offseason.And it just so happened when the phone rang, the person on the other end was the first one who gave him hope he could play at the highest level of the sport.Bakhtiari was prepared to enroll at the University of Arizona after being a one-year high school starter at Burlingame. He was not going to play football. But when he visited a friend at the University of San Diego in March before his freshman season, he saw an opportunity to continue to play college football at a lower level of competition.
After red-shirting his first year at San Diego, he was among eight players chosen to interview coaching candidates. There was one candidate who stood out among the others.Jim Harbaugh.After spring drills that first year, Harbaugh met with all 90 players. What he said to Bakhtiari that day in 2004 changed the youngster's commitment to the game."He told me -- I vividly remember this -- I walked in and we were talking and he said, 'We don't think you can be a good player here; we think you can be a great one.' And I've always remembered that," Bakhtiari said.What was his initial reaction?"I thought somebody else was in the room and he wasn't talking to me," Bakhtiari said.Bakhtiari became a three-time all-conference selection. In 2006 and '07, he was selected as the conference's Defensive Player of the Year."It gave me confidence and made me put more pressure on myself instead of being just a guy," Bakhtiari said. "Knowing the expectations were set for me, it kind of curbed my social activities on the weekends. Everything I did was geared toward football, in terms of my diet, when I went to bed, my workouts and what time I went out on weekends and what time I came back home."After going undrafted, Bakhtiari set forth on a remarkable NFL journey. He mostly lived a week-to-week existence on practice squads throughout the league, earning approximately 5,000 a week.From 2008 to 2011, he made stops with San Diego, the 49ers, back to San Diego, Tampa Bay, Tennessee, back to the 49ers, Miami, Kansas City, Cleveland, and back to Kansas City.Through it all, he has suited up for only three regular-season games. The Titans promoted him from the practice squad in 2009 for three games. He did not play any defense, but he was on the field for 47 plays on special teams.And don't bother asking him what he remembers from his first game: Nov. 13, 2009, vs. the St. Louis Rams. He sustained a concussion on kickoff coverage and he has only a hazy recollection of his NFL debut.Bakhtiari, 27, has a chance this summer to create new memories. The 49ers have a shortage of outside linebackers with injuries sidelining rookies Darius Fleming and Cam Johnson, both of whom were draft picks.Harbaugh personally invited Bakhtiari this spring to take part in a mass workout for veteran players prior to the draft at the 49ers' practice facility. Bakhtiari was brought back for a follow-up before the club signed him."I think a lot of him as a football player, as a person, and a guy," Harbaugh said. "Very talented, hard working guy, who you can count on. He's a count-on-me guy."The 49ers hope to count on Bakhtiari for more the same after an impressive opener to the exhibition season. He recorded two sacks Friday night against the Minnesota Vikings to keep himself in the conversation for a spot on the 53-man roster."For a guy that's only got one year in the league or whatever it is, credited, he's got a lot of experience because he's been in a bunch of camps," 49ers defensive coordinator Vic Fangio said. "He's a smart player. He's experienced and it showed in that game there. He took advantage of his opportunities."But if he does not make the 49ers' roster, he can forget about getting a call to the team's practice squad. He no longer has practice-squad eligibility. And there's no way to spin that as good news for Bakhtiari with each team required to trim 37 players from Aug. 27 to Aug. 31."I think any time you eliminate yourself from having a job in the NFL, it's never a good thing," Bakhtiari said. "It's a special place to be. It's an honor and I've appreciated the years of service I've had here. I don't have that safety net of the practice squad."

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.