Norton Jr. knows Foster's skill set, ready to see what motivates him

Norton Jr. knows Foster's skill set, ready to see what motivates him

Robert Saleh was among the first people to call Ken Norton Jr. after he had been fired as Raiders defensive coordinator on Nov. 21.

Saleh worked under Norton for three seasons when they were on Pete Carroll’s staff with the Seattle Seahawks. Norton was the linebackers coach; Saleh was a quality control coach with an emphasis on linebackers.

This week, the 49ers hired Norton to serve under Saleh, the team’s defensive coordinator. Norton’s title is assistant head coach/inside linebackers.

“We have a fantastic relationship,” Norton said of Saleh during an interview with NBC Sports Bay Area. “In Seattle, I was the linebacker coach and he was my assistant. So I kind of taught him the ropes.

“He has a great vision of how he wanted to do things. I have a vision about how I like to do things. He really appreciated the way I treated him, the things I’ve been able to show him. And now he’s blossomed into a defensive coordinator.”

Young linebacker Reuben Foster is gaining the influence of a veteran within his position group with the addition of Norton as his position coach.

Norton, 51, played 13 NFL seasons – the final seven of which came with the 49ers. He won three Super Bowls as a player (two with Dallas, and one with the 49ers).

“He (Saleh) made it clear that they have a young player similar to the Bruce (Irvin) situation -- very talented, can really do a lot of special things,” Norton said. “And there’s no person he’d like to teach him than myself.

“So we started with that as the initial conversation. Then, it went on to the head coach and the general manager. We kept the conversation going, and this is where it ended up.”

Norton said he has not watched much of Foster’s rookie season, but he studied him a year ago as he was coming out of Alabama and into the NFL draft. The 49ers made a trade with Seattle to move up to No. 31 overall, where they selected Foster.

“Fast, smart, productive, around the ball, passionate – all the things you expect good linebackers to do,” Norton said of Foster. “He hits really hard, really physical. I haven’t had a chance to talk to him and find out what his makeup is or why he plays or what his motivation is or the things he might have planned for his career.

“That’ll be interesting to see the type of man he is. But just from everything on the surface, it looks really good. But you never know. You can never judge a book by its cover. So you have to see what he’s made of and what his motivation is.”

Norton made his motivation clear: He intends to play a role in returning the 49ers to the same level he experienced as a player. In his first season after signing with the 49ers as a free agent in 1994, the club won the Super Bowl.

“San Francisco and I go back to the good ol' days, Jerry Rice and Steve Young and all the fantastic times we’ve had,” Norton said. “(I’m) really look forward to bringing the good ol’ days back. And the things they started with a young quarterback (Jimmy Garoppolo) and with the juice and energy they put in that building, it’s really special to watch.”

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.