49ers

Safeties Ward, Tartt appear to fit within 49ers' scheme

Safeties Ward, Tartt appear to fit within 49ers' scheme

The 49ers have spent the past four weeks evaluating the roster general manager John Lynch and coach Kyle Shanahan inherited.

Lynch, a nine-time Pro Bowl safety and Hall of Fame finalist, not surprisingly has spent a lot of time looking at the players the 49ers have at the position he played.

In the new Seattle-based defensive scheme under new coordinator Robert Saleh, the 49ers will play a lot of single-high safety. They are looking for someone who can track the ball and make plays in center field.

Lynch said the 49ers will certainly consider moving Jimmie Ward back to the deep middle after he started 10 games last season at right cornerback. He missed four starts with a quad injury and was placed on injured reserve with a shoulder injury.

“Just being completely honest, we think he’s a good scheme fit for what we’re doing at the free-safety position,” Lynch said at the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis.

“But we don’t know that until you put him there. It’s projecting. We think his traits, his skills, translate very well to that, but it’s such an instinct position, I think you really have to give him – and we’re kind of excited – to give him an offseason to say, ‘Let’s give this a go.’”

Ward saw action exclusively as the 49ers’ nickel back in his first two seasons after the organization selected him with the No. 30 overall selection in the 2014 draft.

Lynch said the 49ers will strongly consider Ward to be primarily a safety, but he could also see action in other spots, too.

“That doesn’t preclude him from playing nickel in some situations, or moving around,” Lynch said. “I think he brings some great versatility. But that is something we’re exploring and we will explore this offseason.”

Ward played four seasons at Northern Illinois, where he was used in a variety of roles. He recorded four career interceptions (three as a junior, one as a sophomore) and broke up 10 passes .

“Frankly, I haven’t watched a lot of his college tape because I wasn’t doing this then,” Lynch said. “I will. Right now, we’ve been just studying him for what he’s done the last couple of years on the 49ers. We’re excited about what he brings to us as a player wherever he’s playing.”

The 49ers believe Jaquiski Tartt has a chance to fit well into the new scheme. Tartt (6 foot 1, 221 pounds) started 14 of the 30 games in which he appeared in his first two NFL seasons. Under the previous defensive coordinators, Eric Mangini and Jim O’Neil, the system asked the safeties to perform a wide array of functions. The new defense is designed to accentuate the strengths the safeties without asking them to do too much, which should enable Tartt to play to his strengths.

If the 49ers pattern their defense after Seattle's, Ward would play a style similar to Earl Thomas, while Tartt could potentially fill the role of Kam Chancellor.

Eric Reid, who is scheduled to play under the fifth-year option this season, has started all 57 games in which he appeared over the past four seasons since being the No. 18 overall pick in the 2013 draft.

Veteran Antoine Bethea is also currently on the 49ers’ depth chart at safety. Bethea, who turns 33 in July, is an 11-year veteran who was the 49ers’ leader with 110 tackles last season.

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.