49ers

Mailbag: Which 49ers vets are on shaky ground?

Mailbag: Which 49ers vets are on shaky ground?

The 49ers’ new regime heads to the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis this week with the first major wave of offseason activity set to kick off.

Already, the 49ers have made roster improvements. And there figure to be plenty of activity ahead in the coming weeks.

Here are some questions submitted by readers on Facebook for this edition of 49ers Mailbag:

Do you see the 49ers cutting ties with larger contracts like Bethea, Torrey Smith and Ahmad Brooks?‬ (Blair Wilkins)
The 49ers have approximately $75 million in space under the salary cap – and that’s before any adjustment of Colin Kaepernick’s contract. So it’s not as if the organization needs to create cap room.

Any decision made to part ways with veteran players will be made solely on how that player fits into what the 49ers envision on the field.

And that’s what general manager John Lynch, coach Kyle Shanahan and his staff are doing now. They are studying the video from last season to determine which players fit their ideals.

Safety Antoine Bethea is scheduled to earn $5.75 million. Bethea, 32, enters the final year of his contract. There is no question he is everything the 49ers want in a player off the field. If one of the younger guys is not better than Bethea, there is no reason to get rid of him.

Brooks is on the books to earn $5.3 million in 2017. That’s not a huge amount for a starting outside linebacker or defensive end – whichever spot he might fit best. The 49ers must look to upgrade their pass rush. Brooks turns 33 next month. He’s good for six sacks a season. Again, it’s not as if the 49ers can’t afford him. And, as of now, it’s not as if the 49ers have anyone better.

Smith is scheduled to earn $8 million. He has been vastly underutilized in his two seasons since signing with the 49ers. He’s the most interesting case of the high-priced veterans.

Kyle Shanahan’s offense is predicated on using the running game to set up the play-action shot down the field. Smith is limited. He’s not a possession receiver. He’s not going to make plays over the middle. He is an outside receiver whose contributions come in the vertical passing game. But that’s what Shanahan wants.

If Smith is paired with a strong tight end, a running back who catch the ball out of the backfield, a slot receiver with short-area quickness to get open underneath, a very good receiver on the other side and an accurate quarterback who can throw the deep ball, there should be a role for Smith in the 49ers’ offense.

Will the 49ers continue to be aggressive pursuing free agents this offseason? If so, what positions?‬ (Bradley Lodge)
The 49ers have zeroed in on two veteran free agents and they signed them both.

The organization has already spent more money than it did all of last offseason on veteran free agency with the four-year, $16 million deal to sign defensive tackle Earl Mitchell, whom the Miami Dolphins recently released.

Nickel back K’Waun Williams has a history with 49ers defensive backs coach Jeff Hafley. The 49ers did not have to make much of a financial investment to sign him.

The 49ers will definitely go after a veteran quarterback or two in free agency or via trade. Pass rusher, inside linebacker and wide receiver are other positions the 49ers can be expected to look during free agency.

The opening of the new league year – when free-agent signings and trades can occur – is March 9. The draft is seven weeks later.

The 49ers must fill as many of their needs with smart deals that fit into the long-term plan with veteran acquisitions. Then, the draft is about taking the best players on their board when it’s time to select. Teams that reach for need generally strike out.

What are the chances of drafting a QB with first pick and playing them behind a Kap / Cousins until they're ready to become starter?‬ (Hillory Broussard)
If Colin Kaepernick returns, it will not be as a no-questions-asked starter. Just read what Lynch said on KNBR this week about the team’s needs:

“Do we have some places – probably the ultimate position, quarterback – where we need to improve? Absolutely. And we’re committed to doing that.”

That statement can easily be interpreted that Lynch does not believe the 49ers had a starting-caliber quarterback on the roster last season.

But if the 49ers were to go out and swing a trade for Kirk Cousins or Jimmy Garoppolo, it’s going to take a big commitment – in terms of draft picks and a suitable new contract. Then, the 49ers would have that player.

Cousins or Garoppolo would unquestionably fill the 49ers’ need at quarterback for 2017 and beyond -- at least in the minds of the 49ers' new decision-makers. There would be no reason for the 49ers to then draft a quarterback with the No. 2 overall pick – if the 49ers even had the No. 2 overall pick at that point.

 

49ers LB Reuben Foster says return from suspension is like celebrating holiday

49ers LB Reuben Foster says return from suspension is like celebrating holiday

SANTA CLARA – Second-year linebacker Reuben Foster was around his teammates during the first two weeks of the regular season, but Monday marked a new beginning for him.

After serving a two-game suspension for violations of the NFL’s policies on substances of abuse and personal conduct, Foster was able to participate in all team activities when he reported back to work on Monday.

“It’s like a holiday, just knowing I can come back and play the game I love,” Foster said on Thursday. “So I’m just happy to be playing the cards right and doing good off the field and on the field, and doing nothing off the field so I won’t be off the field again.”

Foster, a first-round pick of the 49ers in 2017, admitted during training camp that he feared his career could be over when he faced an allegation of domestic violence. He was cleared of those charges, but served an NFL suspension that stemmed from marijuana and weapons charges.

During his suspension, Foster was able to attend all meetings but was not allowed to attend games, participate in practice, watch practice or take part in team lifting sessions.

Brock Coyle and Elijah Lee started the first two games at weak side linebacker in place of Foster. He is expected to provide the 49ers with a much-needed playmaker on defense upon his return.

“This is his first game back. We’re excited to have him,” said cornerback Richard Sherman, whose locker is stationed next to Foster’s. “He’s excited to be back out there. He brings incredible energy and speed and explosiveness and physicality to the defense, and we appreciate it.”

[RELATED: 49ers injury report: Sherman sits]

Foster will make his season debut on Sunday against the Kansas City Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium. His presence is something coach Andy Reid said his team is game-planning against.

“Reuben’s a good football player,” Reid said. “We looked at him when he came out, liked him, had him visit up here, the whole deal. He’s a heck of a football player, and he flies around and makes plays. We’re going to be aware of where he’s at, and do our best to do well against him.”

Foster's return comes at a good time. The defense is banged up and going against one of the fastest offenses in the NFL.

Said 49ers defensive coordinator Robert Saleh, “He’s got fresh legs. He looks fast. So we’re excited to have him back. Love his energy.”

Foster also seems to love his new role in the defense. Rookie Fred Warner is wearing the green dot on his helmet, signifying the responsibility of relaying the radio call from the sideline to his 10 teammates in the huddle.

Because he no longer has that duty on defense, Foster says it allows him up to just play football with a clear mind and “get on someone’s tail.”

Warner, who will remain as the starter in the middle of the 49ers’ defense, appears cut out for that leadership role, Foster said.

“I’ve seen a real dog in Fred, a real mature man who goes about his business,” Foster said. “And I really salute him for that. I’m proud of him for stepping up and taking control of the defense, wearing the green sticker. I’ve worn the green sticker, and it’s hard to wear the green sticker, so I’m really proud of him.”

49ers-Chiefs injury report: Richard Sherman sits with heel issue

49ers-Chiefs injury report: Richard Sherman sits with heel issue

SANTA CLARA – Veteran cornerback Richard Sherman sat out practice with an unspecified heel injury, the 49ers reported on Thursday.

Sherman, who appeared to be walking fine throughout the day, was one of three 49ers who did not practice. It is not known if the condition is connected to either the surgery on his right Achilles or the bone spurs that were removed from his left heel.

Strong safety Jaquiski Tartt has not practiced this week due to a shoulder injury he aggravated Sunday against the Detroit Lions. Antone Exum and D.J. Reed have taken practice snaps at safety, as well as Tyvis Powell, who is currently on the practice squad.

“That’s another area we’re working through to make sure we can put the best player forward,” 49ers defensive coordinator Robert Saleh said. “So there’s three guys working in that spot while (Tartt) is not practicing.”

Backup guard Joshua Garnett has been out since the opener with a toe injury, and is not expected to be available to play.

Three other 49eres have gone through limited practice this week and could be game-time decisions as the club faces the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday at Arrowhead Stadium: Wide receiver Marquise Goodwin (quadricep), guard Mike Person (foot), cornerback Ahkello Witherspoon (ankle, hip).

Thursday’s practice reports

49ERS
Did not practice
G Joshua Garnett (toe)
CB Richard Sherman (heel)
S Jaquiski Tartt (shoulder)

Limited practice
WR Marquise Goodwin (quadricep)
G Mike Person (foot)
CB Ahkello Witherspoon (ankle)

Full participation
T Joe Staley (not injury related – vet day)

CHIEFS
Did not practice
S Eric Berry (heel)
S Armani Watts (not injury related)

Limited practice
LB Ben Niemann (hamstring)

Full participation
G Cameron Erving (knee)
CB Kendall Fuller (hand)
DE Jarvis Jenkins (elbow)
DE Chris Jones (groin)
LB Reggie Ragland (shoulder, knee)