After reaching tentative deals with four offensive players, the 49ers appear to be closing in on bolstering their thin linebacker corps.
A league source confirms the 49ers have engaged in contract talks with the agent for Raiders free-agent linebacker Malcolm Smith. Peter Schrager of FoxSports.com first reported the mutual interest.
Smith is best-remembered for his interception of Colin Kaepernick's pass after Richard Sherman’s tip in the end zone on the throw intended for Michael Crabtree in the closing minute to preserve the Seahawks’ victory over the 49ers in the NFC Championship Game in January 2014.
Smith went on to be named the MVP of Super Bowl XLVIII, as he returned an interception for a touchdown and recovered a fumble in Seattle’s 43-8 victory over the Denver Broncos.
Smith, who turns 27 in July, spent the past two seasons with the Raiders. He recorded 185 tackles and four sacks in 30 games after signing as a free agent in 2015.
He spent his first four seasons with the Seahawks. Robert Saleh, the 49ers’ defensive coordinator, was a defensive quality control coach in Seattle during Smith’s first three NFL seasons.
NaVorro Bowman, who is coming off a season-ending Achilles injury, and Ray-Ray Armstrong are the 49ers’ only returning linebackers who have seen significant playing time.
Smith’s agent also represents wide receiver Pierre Garçon, with whom the 49ers on Wednesday reached an agreement. Deals cannot become official until Thursday at 1 p.m., the official opening of the free-agent signing period.
The 49ers on Wednesday were assigned outside linebacker Cassius Marsh off waivers from the New England Patriots.
The Patriots waived Marsh on Tuesday after acquiring him in September from the Seattle Seahawks in exchange for fifth- and seventh-round draft picks.
Marsh (6 foot 4, 245 pounds) appeared in 46 games in his four NFL seasons. Three of his four career sacks came in 2016 while with the Seahawks. He was Seattle's fourth-round pick in 2014.
Marsh is the second defensive player the 49ers have claimed off waivers this week. The club acquired former Jacksonville Jaguars defensive lineman Sheldon Day on Monday. The 49ers released defensive linemen Tony McDaniel and Datone Jones within the past week.
The 49ers are at their roster maximum of 53 players. The club will have to clear a roster spot if Tank Carradine, as expected, is activated off injured reserve in order to play Sunday against the Seattle Seahawks at Levi’s Stadium.
SANTA CLARA – Quarterback C.J. Beathard is expected to make his fifth consecutive start for the 49ers on Sunday, but Seattle coach Pete Carroll said his team will be prepared to face Jimmy Garoppolo, too.
“It really isn’t a factor,” Carroll said in a conference call with Bay Area reporters on Wednesday. “We’re just preparing for the 49ers. They got a style of offense. They got really good players who do what they do. And whoever’s triggering it from the quarterback spot, we’re going to go play football.
“We’ve seen Jimmy play. We’ve seen how he’s mobile and the kind of athlete and competitor he is. But other than that, we just go play football. We can’t do anything about that.”
Beathard remained on the sideline when the clubs met Sept. 17 in Seattle. The Seahawks have defeated the 49ers seven consecutive times, including a 12-9 victory in Week 2 this season. Quarterback Brian Hoyer started the 49ers’ first six games of the season and rushed for just 7 yards during that time. Beathard has 115 yards rushing on 20 attempts in Kyle Shanahan’s offense.
“He’s been mobile. He’s got a rushing average, you know,” Carroll said of Beathard. “He’s averaging 5-yards a carry and stuff. They’re incorporating him in the run game some that we have to be concerned about. That’s different than other quarterbacks at times. I’d think Jimmy can do the same stuff.
“He (Beathard) is getting more settled. You can see the offense growing. You can see Kyle able to expand and do more stuff. He’s an incredible offensive coordinator and play-caller that we’ve respected for a long time. I think they’re just grown and they’re getting more proficient at what they’re doing."