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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.

Jimmy Garoppolo 'worst practice quarterback we've had,' Patriots analyst says

Jimmy Garoppolo 'worst practice quarterback we've had,' Patriots analyst says

Jimmy Garoppolo had a rough 2019 preseason debut for the 49ers. That followed a horrid day at practice, where the quarterback threw interceptions on five consecutive plays. 

While Garoppolo's issues might be chalked up to rust after he spent almost a year rehabbing from a torn ACL, what if there's another answer?

As you're aware, Garoppolo spent the first three-plus seasons of his career with the New England Patriots. Garoppolo often is a topic of conversation in the Boston sports media scene, and his struggles in the 49ers' preseason game against the Broncos (1-for-6 passing for 0 yards with an interception), were discussed on the Patriots' radio broadcast Thursday night. 

Patriots color man Scott Zolak dropped a little knowledge -- or baseless gossip -- about Garoppolo's time in New England, and it might explains his issues so far with the 49ers. 

Garoppolo's poor practices apparently have been whispered about around the NFL.

As Pro Football Focus' Kevin Cole noted, this wouldn't jive with the number of stories that came out after the trade about coach Bill Belichick's displeasure with having to trade Garoppolo. 

Poor practice habits are not tolerated at 1 Patriot Place. Regardless of talent, if a player doesn't practice correctly, he isn't there long. 

Is Garoppolo a poor practice QB? Is it due to a lack of effort? Lack of talent? Is Zolak full of it? Money is on the last one.

[RELATED: Jimmy G ready to fight, not crumble after poor showing]

Garoppolo will look to bounce back in the 49ers' next preseason game, which is Saturday night against the Chiefs. Continued struggles only will make the whispers grow louder as it pertains to the 49ers signal-caller's overall ability and practice habits. 

49ers' Richard Sherman doesn't care Michael Crabtree signed with Cardinals

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49ers' Richard Sherman doesn't care Michael Crabtree signed with Cardinals

Richard Sherman and Michael Crabtree have a bit of a history.

As you know, in the 2013 NFC Championship Game, Sherman deflected a Colin Kaepernick pass intended for Crabtree into the arms of Seahawks linebacker Malcolm Smith, ending the 49ers' chances of winning the conference. Sherman then gave the choke sign to both Kaepernick and Crabtree.

Sherman also had some words for Crabtree after he tried to shake the receiver's hand and Crabtree pushed him in the face. Then came the infamous Erin Andrews sideline interview in which Sherman called out Crabtree for being a sub-par player.

That brings us to Wednesday. 

Crabtree signed a one-year contract with the Arizona Cardinals, meaning, of course, Sherman would have two more games of going up against his rival. 

But the 49ers cornerback couldn’t care less about Crabtree. 

“I haven’t seen that man in six years — five, six years,” Sherman said Thursday, via The Athletic. “I don’t have any feeling either way towards him. When I see him, you know, there’s going to be a competition. I’m going to look to win. Otherwise, I don’t really give a damn.”

[RELATED: Jimmy G ready to fight, not crumble after poor showing]

Sherman and the 49ers' defense have looked locked in during the preseason, and figure to be one of the best units in the conference, while Crabtree joins the Kliff Kingsbury Air Raid system hoping to become one of rookie quarterback Kyler Murray's favored targets. 

As for the beef with Crabtree, Sherman is sick of rehashing old news. 

“Oh, I’ve talked about it several times,” Sherman said of the time Crabtree tried to fight him at a charity event. “And he knows what was behind it. That’s all that really matters.”

The 49ers and Cardinals first meet on Halloween. Get your popcorn.