49ers mailbag: Antonio Brown? Earl Thomas? Only if the price is right

49ers mailbag: Antonio Brown? Earl Thomas? Only if the price is right

This week marks the unofficial/official start of the draft season with the annual NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis.

We covered a lot of topics on this week’s edition of the 49ers Insider Podcast, as readers/listeners asked us to address an array of topics.

Here are some of the questions we received for a pre-combine 49ers Mailbag:

Peter King says the 49ers are out on AB any truth to that? (@ninerhive)

That’s not exactly what Peter King wrote in his “Football Morning in America” column on Monday. But he made it clear he does not believe the 49ers are all that interested in wide receiver Antonio Brown.

King wrote,"I don’t see San Francisco, unless Jerry Rice gets hired as GM."

With all the baggage Brown will bring to his new team, there are legitimate reasons why the 49ers would hesitate– despite his productivity over his career. But if teams are not exactly lining up to swing a trade with the Pittsburgh Steelers, the price tag could entice the 49ers to get involved.

With Brown due a $2.5 million bonus in two weeks, the Steelers will want to get things moving quickly. The combine is a great place for those discussions to heat up.

Would it make sense to target pass rusher via free agency or just draft a top pass rush prospect #2 overall if that's the direction the front office wants to go in? (@DionCarolina)

In my opinion, the 49ers must target a pass rusher in free agency.

In my opinion, the 49ers must target a pass rusher in the draft.

So, yes, both. The 49ers can improve their defense dramatically with the addition to two edge rushers who provide upgrades over the players the 49ers had in those spots a year ago.

If not Nick Bosa, then Josh Allen. It really looks to be that simple. Doesn’t it?

What are the 49ers chances of signing Earl Thomas? (@buck342) 

A year ago, the 49ers entered the offseason feeling good about their safeties: Jaquiski Tartt and Adrian Colbert. They added Marcell Harris in the draft, and he played well down the final stretch of the season.

Neither Tartt nor Colbert solidified their long-term positions with the organization last season. But the 49ers could still consider them starting-caliber players. Harris inserted himself in the mix to compete for a starting job, too.

Still, if the price is right, the 49ers should be interested in Thomas. After all, he is the prototype for free safety in this defense, much the same way Richard Sherman is the ideal at cornerback.

Are they re-signing Jimmie Ward (@INDlVlDUAL) 

There are plenty of reasons to like Ward, including his versatility and how hard he plays the game.

Of course, there are reasons for the 49ers to want to move on from Ward, too . . . namely, his history of injuries. Four of his five NFL seasons have concluded with him going on injured reserve with bone fractures.

Yes, the coaching staff wants to bring back Ward. But general manager John Lynch has every reason to be cautious. It is doubtful the 49ers would enter into a multi-year contract with Ward. If he gets a good offer elsewhere, the 49ers will probably let him walk.

Who has a higher upside between Mullens or Beathard as a backup QB? (@Nacoz49ers)
What will happen possibly with either Mullens or Beathard? Will one become a trading tool potentially? (@BryanRedmann) 

C.J. Beathard, a third-round draft pick in 2017, has more upside than Nick Mullens, who was undrafted in that same year. Beathard can make all the throws. He does not seem to have any physical limitations.

That said, Mullens was more productive last season after entering the 49ers’ starting lineup.

Mullens completed 64.2 percent of his passes with 13 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. Only Patrick Mahomes, Andrew Luck and Cam Newton have thrown for more than Mullens’ 2,277 yards through eight starts.

Beathard completed 60.4 percent of his attempts with eight TDs and seven interceptions in five starts.

The 49ers have not given up on Beathard as much as Mullens has put himself into a position to legitimately compete for the backup job to Jimmy Garoppolo.

I doubt either player would have much trade value. No team would make a deal with the idea of either player competing for a starting job. It would probably be more realistic for the 49ers to hold onto both players as insurance.

NFL Draft 2020: Justin Jefferson, Jalen Reagor meet 49ers at combine


NFL Draft 2020: Justin Jefferson, Jalen Reagor meet 49ers at combine

Despite only possessing one pick before the fifth round of the 2020 NFL Draft, the 49ers still are doing their due diligence at the NFL Scouting Combine this week in Indianapolis.

San Francisco has met with a pair of wide receivers this week in LSU product Justin Jefferson and former TCU speedster Jalen Reagor.

Jefferson, who was part of LSU’s national championship-winning squad in 2019, said his meeting with the 49ers was informal, while Reagor mentioned that the team highlighted his versatility when discussing his potential fit within the offense.

Coming off a trip to the Super Bowl, the Niners aren’t faced with a lot of glaring needs along the roster, but wide receiver certainly ranks highly among the few holes general manager John Lynch must address this offseason.

The 49ers didn’t have a wide receiver eclipse the 1,000-yard mark last season, with All-Pro tight end George Kittle barely surpassing it (1,053).

Jefferson caught an NCAA Division I-best 111 passes for the Tigers in 2019 and closed out his final collegiate season with 1,540 yards. In the latest NBC Sports Bay Area mock draft, Jefferson wasn't available when the Niners were on the clock at No. 31.

[RELATED: 49ers have solid running backs, but group lacks something]

Reagor’s broad skillset likely would mesh well with the 49ers’ motion-heavy offense, as Reagor made big plays for the Horned Frogs in the running, receiving, and return game during his three seasons in Fort Worth.

This will be Lynch and Shanahan’s first opportunity to draft outside of the top five in the first round, as they hope to build on a breakout 2019 season.

49ers hoping receiver Jalen Hurd will be cleared for offseason program

49ers hoping receiver Jalen Hurd will be cleared for offseason program

INDIANAPOLIS -- Even before the 49ers have the opportunity to select a wide receiver in the draft, the club expects to add the services of a young pass-catcher.

Jalen Hurd, a third-round draft pick from a year ago, appears to be on schedule to receive clearance to rejoin the 49ers when the offseason program begins in April. Hurd spent his rookie season on injured reserve due to a stress fracture in his lower back.

“For it to completely heal, it happens on different timelines,” 49ers general manager John Lynch said. “We found that his has been stubborn. We think he’s been nearing towards a much better place where he’ll be cleared for all activities.

“(We) don’t want to officially give that word, but there have been some recent scans and things that give us a lot of hope that that’ll be the case, come April 1, he’ll be a full-go.”

Hurd was not around the team too much during his rookie season. He did not travel to Miami for Super Bowl LIV due to concerns about aggravating his back condition.

“I think there’s a little anxiety on his part that the long plane rides had set him off before and he worked so hard to try to get right, and kind of didn’t want that to enter the equation,” Lynch said.

[RELATED49ers roster analysis: More receiver depth needed around Deebo Samuel]

In order for Hurd's back to heal, the 49ers and Hurd felt it was best to keep him off his feet.  

“With his back stuff, he didn’t want to travel, didn’t want to be in the meetings and everything," head coach Kyle Shanahan said. "There wasn’t much to do. He had a stress fracture and it’s taking a long time to heal, so we wanted him to be as immobile as possible.”

Hurd (6-foot-4, 227 pounds) caught 69 passes for 946 yards and four touchdowns in his senior season at Baylor in 2018. He played his first three college seasons at Tennessee, where he rushed for 2,635 yards and 20 touchdowns as a running back.

Hurd appeared in the 49ers’ preseason opener last summer and caught two touchdown passes against the Dallas Cowboys before experiencing the back condition that sidelined him for the rest of the season.