49ers

Mailbag: Is WR still a top priority for 49ers?

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Mailbag: Is WR still a top priority for 49ers?

The 49ers’ top offseason needs:

Cornerback
Offensive line
Pass-rusher
Wide receiver

OK, with that out of the way, let’s take a look at some of the other questions submitted via Facebook for this edition of 49ers Mailbag. . .

Do you think Jimmy's play and the ascension of Goodwin, Taylor, and Kittle would reduce the Niners’ aggressiveness for a top free agent WR? (Ronnie Dominguez)
Coach Kyle Shanahan was not altogether satisfied with the team’s wide receivers due to the high number of dropped passes and the inability to consistently beat man coverage.

But the 49ers’ No. 1 receiver, Pierre Garçon, will be back during the offseason program to join Marquise Goodwin, Trent Taylor, Aldrick Robinson and Kendrick Bourne.

Garçon’s ability to find ways to get open against zone and man should be a very good match for Jimmy Garoppolo’s anticipation and accuracy.

Among the top wide receivers scheduled to be unrestricted free agents are Sammy Watkins, Jarvis Landry, Allen Robinson and Marqise Lee.

Lee is good, but not necessarily a game-changer; Watkins was the third-leading wide receiver on the L.A. Rams; Landry is one of the better possession receivers; and Robinson is very good but missed the season with a torn ACL.

Any of those players would be a nice piece at the right price. My thought is the 49ers would be more inclined to find another player such as Goodwin – someone they believe has a lot more to show.

It would probably be wise to add a player like that while also keeping the door open to selecting a young talent on the second day of the draft.

What QB contract do you think the 49ers front office will use as their comparison for Jimmy G’s deal? Or is franchise tag on the table this year? (Shawn Green)
How the 49ers view Garoppolo’s contract is one thing. How Garoppolo and his agent, Don Yee, view it is just as important to working out a long-term extension.

Yee and Garoppolo rejected New England’s multi-year offer of $17 million to $18 million a year, according to Seth Wickersham's ESPN report. Garoppolo, it seems, has yearned for an opportunity to play. And that was not going to happen with the Patriots as long as Tom Brady was still breathing.

So, now, Garoppolo has his chance to play. It did not take long to establish himself as the central figure of the 49ers’ organization. Obviously, the floor for negotiations is the 2018 franchise tag for quarterbacks – projected as $23.5 million.

My guess is the Derek Carr contract will be used as a road map. (A little more or a little less.) They were in the same draft. They were second-round draft picks. And the Carr contract takes into account the cost of living in the Bay Area.

Where does Malcom Smith play? (Daniel Lucero)
The 49ers were devastated when Smith was lost for the season during training camp due to a torn pectoral. If Smith had remained healthy and playing well, the parting with NaVorro Bowman probably would have occurred much earlier. Smith is expected to start at weakside linebacker in 2018, with Reuben Foster moving to middle linebacker. The 49ers can be expected to re-sign Brock Coyle to serve as a special-teams ace and backup inside linebacker.

Is Joe Williams a potential explosive type back they’re looking for? (Brad Peltier)
Yes. The Joe Williams the 49ers coaches saw on film from his final season at Utah was exactly what the team wants from its featured halfback.

But Williams was tentative and did not show a whole lot in the offseason and training camp. The 49ers, in essence, gave Williams a redshirt year when he sustained a foot injury late in the exhibition season.

The 49ers like Williams’ approach to his rehab as he spent the season on injured reserve. The club hopes the light will go on and Williams can show in the NFL the same playmaking skills that attracted them to him in the first place.

The 49ers really like Carlos Hyde, but I don’t see them making an aggressive push to keep him from hitting the open market. That’s because Williams’ upside with his ability to make defenders miss greater and there are always a bunch of good running backs available after Day 1 of the draft.

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

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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

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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.