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Panthers wanted to draft Manning, made Colts big offer in 1998

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Panthers wanted to draft Manning, made Colts big offer in 1998

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- If the Carolina Panthers had their way, maybe Peyton Manning would be playing for them - not against them - in the Super Bowl.

When Manning was coming out for the 1998 draft, the Panthers approached Indianapolis Colts general manager Bill Polian with a megadeal offer.

It included trading fourth-year quarterback Kerry Collins and multiple draft picks, including their first-round selection that year, for the right to take Manning with the No. 1 overall selection.

Carolina was hoping Polian, who had drafted Collins just three years before while working as the GM for the Panthers, would pull the trigger on the deal.

Problem was, Polian wouldn't even consider the offer.

"Bill was dead set against it," said Dom Capers, Carolina's head coach at the time who was also given control of personnel decisions when Polian left the team after the 1997 season.

"He was set on keeping the pick. You never know on those kinds of things - but sometimes you have to try."

Polian said he had his heart setting on drafting Manning.

"There wasn't anything they could give us that was going to replace Peyton Manning," Polian said.

Capers, now the defensive coordinator with the Green Bay Packers, said he was "blown away" after meeting Manning at the NFL scouting combine in Indianapolis in February 1998.

Manning walked into the interview with a yellow notepad, sat down and started asking Capers questions.

"He left the room and I sat there in amazement," Capers said. "It was like he was interviewing me for an hour. He was incredibly professional, focused and you just knew right then he was going to be a player."

Apparently, so did Polian.

The Colts at the time already had running back Marshall Faulk, wide receiver Marvin Harrison and offensive tackle Tarik Glenn on the roster and Polian felt all they needed was a quarterback.

He liked Manning over Collins, whom he selected with the fifth overall pick in 1995.

"We liked Kerry, but we didn't feel like it was a fair return," Polian said. "We felt Peyton had so much potential. Honestly, there was nothing anybody could have offered us that would have made us decide to move the pick."

Said Capers: "Bill knew what he had with the No. 1 pick in Peyton. We tried. We talked with Bill, but Bill just wasn't going to do it. He thought Peyton was going to be something special - and he proved him right."

Manning is expected to be a first-ballot Hall of Famer.

The five-time league MVP will be playing in his fourth Super Bowl when the Denver Broncos meet the Panthers on Feb. 7 in Santa Clara, California.

"He's going to go down if not the greatest, one of the greatest quarterbacks to ever play this game," Panthers linebacker Thomas Davis said.

Said Capers: "If you took one of the top five offensive coordinators and put him under center that is what it would be like. He's so cerebral."

Not long after Polian selected Manning over Ryan Leaf with the No. 1 pick, the Colts and Panthers organizations headed in two different directions.

The Colts became a mainstay in the playoffs, reaching the postseason 11 of the next 13 seasons under Manning and won the Super Bowl after the 2006 season.

The Panthers would go five seasons before even making the playoffs.

They selected defensive end Jason Peter with the 14th overall pick in 1998. But he retired after the 2001 season.

Collins, who had been accused of using a racial slur by a teammate in 1997, found more problems on and off the field.

He was cut by the Panthers midway through the 1998 season after Capers told reporters the quarterback walked into his office and told him he'd lost the desire to play.

A year later, Collins was arrested for DUI while a member of the New Orleans Saints.

Collins would get things straightened out though and play 17 seasons in the NFL, leading the New York Giants to an appearance in the Super Bowl.

As for Capers, he handed the job to Steve Beuerlein after Collins was released, but the Panthers finished 4-12 in 1998 and he was fired by owner Jerry Richardson.

Capers laughed when asked if the deal for Manning had gone through if his tenure in Carolina might have been longer.

"You never know," Capers said. "That is one thing about this business - you just never know. Those kinds of decisions have tremendous impacts on an organization."

As for Polian, he said with a laugh, "I think I made the right call."

49ers Mailbag: New defensive line coach could pave way for top free agent

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49ers Mailbag: New defensive line coach could pave way for top free agent

The revamped 49ers coaching staff is taking shape with the comings of defensive line coach Kris Kocurek and secondary coach Joe Woods to replace fired Jeff Zgonina and Jeff Hafley, who took a co-defensive coordinator position at Ohio State.

Quarterbacks coach Rich Scangarello, the new offensive coordinator for Vic Fangio’s Denver Broncos, will likely be replaced with a shift of either Mike LaFleur or Mike McDaniel to a new title. The 49ers also have a couple other positions to fill, as coach Kyle Shanahan and general manager John Lynch look to limit the number of preventable injuries.

Today, we solicit questions from our readers as the 49ers staff readies to get back to work next week as coaches of the South squad at the annual Senior Bowl in Mobile, Alabama.

How many FAs pass rushers will be signed in the off-season? (@chriscream)
The 49ers will sign one free-agent pass rusher who will be assured a spot on the 53-man roster. They might add another veteran along the lines of Jeremiah Attaochu of last year -- a player who would have to compete for a spot and win his way onto the team.

The 49ers will have some options in free agency, depending on which players are locked up via the franchise tag or contract extensions.

With the addition of defensive line coach Kris Kocurek, formerly of the Detroit Lions, the 49ers would have to be viewed as a favorite to land edge rusher Ziggy Ansah. In the past, defensive coordinator Robert Saleh has also spoken highly of Dante Fowler Jr. Those two presumptive free agents could be attractive as upgrades.

The 49ers will set out to add a starter-caliber edge rusher in free agency, and come back with another impactful pass rusher in the draft.

If the 49ers plan to take an edge rusher at #2, do they look to move someone out of the current edge group in a trade and accumulate another pick? Another DE makes that room quite crowded. Does Thomas make a full time move inside next to DeFo? (@HausVonSchlegel)
I don’t know that any spare parts they have at defensive end would have much trade value. More than likely, the 49ers would hold onto everyone to cover their . . . uh . . . bases in case they have to account for injuries down the road. With the addition of a true pass-rush end, Solomon Thomas would be likely moved inside next to DeForest Buckner. But Thomas is not a nose tackle, so that anticipated move would probably not occur on most base downs.

Do you think that 49ers will try to give Armstead a new contract? Like 3-4 year with $6-$7 million yearly? (@Andersen49ers)
Right now, Armstead is on the books for $9 million for next season. There is no reason for him to take less money than that. If the 49ers do not want to devote that money to him for one year, they would have to cut him prior to the start of the new league year. Then Armstead would be a free agent and able to negotiate the best contract possible with any team in the NFL. More than likely, Armstead will play out this season on the fifth-year option, just like Jimmie Ward did in 2018.

And speaking of Jimmie Ward. . .

Fans don’t seem to care much for Jimmie Ward, however the coaches always talk him up. What, as fans are we missing that merits SF trying to retain his services considering he’s always hurt. (@LoMed1978)
Every coaching staff that’s had Ward – and there have been a few -- has really liked him because of his versatility and his toughness. Fans might scoff when they hear “toughness,” because of the injuries. Maybe “fearless” is the better description. The guy plays hard. Maybe he plays too hard. But that’s something coaches love.

And speaking of injuries . . .

Will cleaning out the training staff actually have an effect on the amount of injuries, or is it just about making moves because someone needs to take the fall? (@bathebay)
Injuries became such a huge talking point of the past two seasons, the 49ers obviously felt as if something had to be done. Will the changes help? The 49ers feel as if they needed to do something – so it can’t hurt. Ray Wright is out as strength and conditioning coach, and Jeff Ferguson was let go as the team’s athletic trainer. In my opinion, many of the football injuries that occur are unavoidable. The risk of injuries can be reduced, but they certainly cannot be eliminated. Bad luck plays into it, too. My prediction is the 49ers will sustain fewer injuries in 2019, and people will point to these changes – whether the staff moves actually played a factor or not.

What is one thing you miss about going to a game at Candlestick vs a game at Levi's? (@Random49ers)
I liked typing “Candlestick Park” more than I like typing “Levi’s Stadium.”

2019 NFL mock draft: Mel Kiper Jr. has 49ers picking Josh Allen at No. 2

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2019 NFL mock draft: Mel Kiper Jr. has 49ers picking Josh Allen at No. 2

Kyle Shanahan and the rest of his 49ers coaching staff won't have the opportunity of working with edge rusher Josh Allen in the Senior Bowl anymore, but that doesn't matter to ESPN NFL draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. 

In his first mock draft of 2019, Kiper has the 49ers selecting Allen with the No. 2 overall pick. Here's why he believes the former Kentucky Wildcat is the perfect fit for San Francisco: 

If you're talking about pure pass-rushing ability, the 6-foot-7, 230-pound Allen is right up there with [Nick] Bosa.

The 49ers selected defensive linemen in three straight years from 2015 to 2017 -- Arik Armstead, DeForest Buckner and Solomon Thomas -- but none of those players get after the quarterback like Allen, who can play outside linebacker as well.

As a senior, Allen had 17 sacks, including three in a dominant bowl game performance against Penn State.

In the 2018 regular season, the 49ers ranked 15th in the NFL with 37 sacks, but 12 of those came from Buckner.

Allen was a consensus All-America selection, as well as the SEC’s Defensive Player of the Year, Chuck Bednarik Award winner, and Bronko Nagurski Award winner. He was also chosen as the winner of the Ronnie Lott IMPACT Trophy, which takes into account on-field and off-field excellence.