Examining the 49ers’ future at QB

Somewhere, some dude is trying to peddle a computer with files and files of old 49ers articles and information that only I can decipher.

My replacement computer is on the way after my original was so rudely removed from my parked car outside a S.F. restaurant after Thursday’s game. But in the meantime I’m borrowing my wife’s laptop to address some topics that have been of particular interest to those who have Tweeted me in recent days.

Let us begin . . .

Who will be the 49ers’ starting quarterback in 2010?

Of course, that’s impossible to answer with seven games remaining in the season, but the quarterback on the roster who has the best chance of being the team’s “quarterback of the future” is the man who is also the 49ers’ quarterback of the present.

Alex Smith will get the chance to prove, once and for all, he is the answer. He has made good strides in some areas in his three starts. He was a 54.4-percent passer entering this season. In his 14 quarters of play, Smith has completed 64.8 percent of his attempts.

He has been better than Shaun Hill in three important areas, including completion percentage (Hill completed 56.1 percent). Smith has also averaged 6.6 yards per pass attempt, compared to Hill’s 6.1 yards. And Smith has been sacked once every 12.2 attempts, while Hill was sacked once every 8.6 attempts.

Where Hill was better than Smith is in the turnover department. Hill threw two picks in 155 attempts, while Smith has tossed six interceptions in 122 throws. But the 49ers justify that disparity – in most circumstances – as plays that were, uh, out of his hands.

It is clear in speaking with 49ers sources that Hill does not figure into the team’s plan as a starter again. The organization likes him as a backup, but not as a starter.

As for Nate Davis, the No. 3, he is nowhere near ready to enter a regular-season game. The club knows nothing more about him now than it did at the end of training camp because he simply does not get any practice time. The 49ers spend their practice time during the season preparing for the upcoming opponent. The starter gets all the first-team reps, while the backup remains sharp mostly with reps for the scout team. I’ve seen Davis play far more snaps as a scout-team defensive back than I’ve seen him line up behind center since the regular season started. He is a project who needs a lot of work during a full offseason to see if he can function in something more than an abridged version of the offense.

What will the 49ers’ priorities be during the offseason?

Even though there is a lot of football yet to be played, I don’t think it’s jumping the gun to say the 49ers must address the offensive line. With two first-round draft picks, it is reasonable to assume – even at this early date — the 49ers will address the line with one of those selections.

But after that . . . who knows? It depends on where the 49ers pick and who has been taken up to that point in the draft. I do not know many of the names of those will be first-round picks. I don’t start getting into the draft until combine time. I’ve tried to follow the QBs, and I’m not nearly as high on draft prospects at that position as I was when the college season began. I also believe if the 49ers have their pick at safety, they’d easily choose Tennessee’s Eric Berry over USC’s Taylor Mays because of his ball skills.

The other part of the equation is free agency. And so much about free agency is up in the air, too. If the Players’ Union and the NFL owners do not agree on a collective-bargaining extension before free agency, it will have a huge impact. Instead of requiring four accrued seasons to become an unrestricted free agent, with no new CBA and an uncapped year, only players with six-plus years of experience will be eligible for unrestricted free agency.

The crop of talent will be reduced dramatically, and I don’t believe there would be any quarterbacks, offensive linemen, pass rushers or safeties the 49ers could consider “the answer.”

Also, 49ers guard David Baas, a scheduled unrestricted free agent, would become a restricted free agent instead, and the 49ers could easily retain his services at a reasonable price.

The one player most people have wondered about is nose tackle Aubrayo Franklin. I’ve heard no talk of a contract extension with him. Part of the reason, I’m sure, is that Franklin could cash in big time if there is no CBA. He could be among the top free agents on the market, and command big bucks. The 49ers have the option of slapping the franchise tag on him, but I don’t think that would happen. Defensive tackles last year commanded a franchise salary of $6.058 million. That number is likely to increase.

Several weeks ago, the 49ers seemed content with Isaac Sopoaga or Kentwan Balmer holding down the nose tackle position into the future. But Franklin’s play has been very, very strong, so it remains to be seen if their thinking has changed or will change over the last half of the season.

Which 49ers have the best chances of making the Pro Bowl?

If the teams were picked today, I think linebacker Patrick Willis and tight end Vernon Davis would be selected. Punter Andy Lee is also deserving. Those three have the best opportunities.

While Franklin might be playing at a high level, I think it would be very difficult for him to be named to the team. There are other defensive tackles in the NFC with much higher profiles, such as the Vikings’ Kevin Williams, the Cowboys’ Jay Ratliff and the Cardinals’ Darnell Dockett.

Also, Justin Smith is have a very good season, but he does not put up the sack numbers needed from a defensive end to be considered. Running back Frank Gore missed a couple games, so he ranks seventh in the NFC in rushing yards. With seven games remaining, Gore ranks well behind Adrian Peterson, Steven Jackson, DeAngelo Williams and Michael Turner.

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The 49ers played Thursday, of course. They did not practice Friday, Saturday or Sunday. On Monday, they’ll have meetings only. They will begin on-field preparations to face the Green Bay Packers on Tuesday.

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