Shanahan not closing door on Kaepernick's return to 49ers

Shanahan not closing door on Kaepernick's return to 49ers

INDIANAPOLIS – The 49ers’ organization has gotten a fresh start with a new coach and a new general manager.

And the team’s decision-makers are also starting with a new set of eyes to chart the course for the team’s future at quarterback.

“I won’t close any door,” Shanahan said of the possibility of re-signing Colin Kaepernick, who is expected to opt out of his contract and become an unrestricted free agent.

“We’re going to look for who we think gives us the best chance to win and who can help us the most. Kap is one of those guys that’s available.”

Kaepernick’s decision to become an unrestricted free agent is a formality that will not force the 49ers to release him in order to avoid his scheduled $14.9 million pay for the 2017 season.

“There had to be a decision made on Kap, and mainly he made that decision,” Shanahan said Wednesday at the NFL Scouting Combine. “If he wouldn’t have, we would’ve had to make a decision. But by that happening, it throws him into the boat with everyone else. It’s not that you’re deciding to part ways or not, he decided to do that. It throws him into the boat everybody else is in, which makes it easy for us.

“We don’t have an attachment to Kap. We look at him just like all the other guys that I’m looking at. It was good to get to meet him, talk to him, but besides that, we’re looking at him on film like everybody else.”

Kaepernick met last week with Shanahan and general manager John Lynch at team headquarters in Santa Clara. During that conversation, Kaepernick intimated he would opt out of his contract, Shanahan said. The 49ers told Kaepernick he would be evaluated like all the other quarterback options this offseason.

“We told him straight up, we’re throwing you into the pool with all the other guys,” Shanahan said. “We have to evaluate all the free agents, the trade possibilities and the draft, and whatever we think the best scenario is the way we’re going to go. But Kap’s in that. He’s involved in that. Just like anybody else."

Kaepernick started 11 games for the 49ers last season and posted his best statistical season since 2013. Kaepernick completed 59.2 percent of his pass attempts with 16 touchdowns, four interceptions and a passer rating of 90.7. He also rushed for 468 yards.

Shanahan said there are no issues with designing an offense that accentuates Kaepernick’s strengths.

“What Kap did to go to the Super Bowl, he ran similar offense to what we did in 2012,” Shanahan said, referring to the Washington offense during Robert Griffin's rookie season.  “I think that’s the kind of stuff that gives him the best chance to be successful.

“You’ll adjust to anybody. Would I do the exact same stuff I’ve done in Atlanta? That’s different than what I’ve done for other people. So it’s going to always change. But with Kap’s skillset, if he was your guy, you’d adjust to him.”

The 49ers have discussed all the quarterback options, including trades, Shanahan said. Washington’s Kirk Cousins and New England’s Jimmy Garoppolo might not be available in trades. Even if they were, the price would be exorbitant.

But if the 49ers were to wait a season, it’s possible they could be available as free agents and the 49ers would not have to surrender draft picks.

“All that comes into play,” Shanahan said. “Yes, you have targets of people you want, but you have to be smart and value your initial needs with the organizational needs in the immediate future and the long haul. You’re always thinking about how to win now, but that can never be at the expense of the future, too.”

While the 49ers feel urgency to fill their need at quarterback, Shanahan said the decision must be calculated to provide the best long-term results for the organization. Both Shanahan and general manager John Lynch are on six-year contracts, which implies there will be patience to allow them to build.

“I’m very eager,” Shanahan said. “We’re all very eager. But it’s important, coming here, we’re also going to make the right decision. We’re not going to do something just because we’re eager. Everybody wants your quarterback and you want to not have to worry about that. But you also have to make sure the guy that you want is there. A lot of bad decisions are made by people who are just eager.

“John and myself came here and we knew we could make decisions might not always be the flashiest, but we truly think it’s best for our organization. That’s how you stay out of trouble.”


Frank Gore returns home for his 14th NFL season


Frank Gore returns home for his 14th NFL season

Frank Gore is returning home to, in all likelihood, finish his professional football career.

Gore, 34, signed a one-year contract to enter his 14th NFL season with his hometown Miami Dolphins, the team announced Friday.

Gore grew up in Coconut Grove, Florida, and attended Coral Gables High School before playing collegiately at the University of Miami.

He played the first 10 NFL seasons with the 49ers and is the franchise’s all-time leading rusher. Gore ranks fifth in NFL history with 14,026 rushing yards – just 75 yards behind No. 4 Curtis Martin.

After rushing for 11,073 yards and 64 touchdowns with the 49ers, the club declined to offer him a multi-year contract following the 2014 season. Gore played the past three seasons with the Indianapolis Colts.

Gore remains one of the most popular players in 49ers history. When asked recently if he would be willing to “retire” as a member of the 49ers after his final game, Gore reacted enthusiastically about the possibility.

1, Emmitt Smith 18,355
2, Walter Payton 16,726
3, Barry Sanders 15,269
4, Curtis Martin 14,101
5, Frank Gore 14,026

49ers increase competition for starting guard positions


49ers increase competition for starting guard positions

The 49ers are the fifth team to give Jonathan Cooper a chance after he arrived in the NFL as the No. 7 overall pick of the Arizona Cardinals in the 2013 draft.

Cooper, 28, caught the attention of the 49ers with his career-high 13 starts last season with the Dallas Cowboys. The 49ers signed him to a one-year, $4.95 million contract this week.

“We signed him to compete for one of the guard spots as a starter,” 49ers general manager John Lynch said Thursday at Stanford's pro day. “He played very well in our minds for Dallas last year and kind of resurrected his career. He’s battled injuries, but we really like the way he played, and we think he’s a very good fit for what we do. So we were pleased to add him.”

The 49ers plan to take it slowly this offseason with Cooper, who underwent surgery after tearing the medial-collateral ligament in his left knee during the final game of the season. The 49ers report for the offseason program in mid-April.

The 49ers are certain to have at least two new starters on the offensive line. Former New York Giants center Weston Richburg was signed to replace Daniel Kilgore, who was subsequently traded to the Miami Dolphins. Brandon Fusco, who started 16 games at right guard, signed with the Atlanta Falcons as an unrestricted free agent.

Laken Tomlinson has a chance to hold onto a starting job. Acquired shortly before the start of the regular season in a trade from the Detroit Lions, Tomlinson quickly moved into the starting lineup at left guard and started the final 15 games. Tomlinson was a first-round draft pick of the Lions in 2015.

“Laken played very well the longer he was there,” Lynch said. “I think people forget with Laken, he came here in Week 1. He was kind of force-fed. We didn’t have many options. But we saw a guy get better throughout the season. He’ll get his opportunity.”

Joshua Garnett, a first-round pick of the 49ers in 2016, spent last season on injured reserve due to an a knee injury sustained in training camp. The 49ers challenged Garnett to get in better physical condition. He has been cleared for football activity.

“Joshua Garnett has been working extremely hard, so he’ll be in that mix,” Lynch said. “He did a great job embracing the time he has last year to improve as a player. He remade his body and we're looking forward to see him get after it in the offseason.

“I think he’s excited about it. He’s feeling sexy, as he says.”

Erik Magnuson, 24, won a spot on the 49ers’ roster after signing as an undrafted rookie from Michigan. Magnuson could enter into the competition at guard. He displayed unique versatility in his first season, starting two games at right tackle before sustaining a season-ending foot injury. He can also serve as a backup center.

And, perhaps, the 49ers are not finished adding to the competition. The team owns the No. 9 overall selection, and Notre Dame’s Quenton Nelson could be on the radar in the unlikely event he is not selected within the top eight picks.

When asked if the 49ers could also add another player to the mix with a draft pick, Lynch answered, “We’ll see. We’re always looking to get better there.”