Opening the mailbag

There were plenty of questions today about tight ends and the 49ers’ speculated interest in Leon Washington and Jared Gaither. I tried to diffuse some of those questions with an earlier post on why it does not make sense for the 49ers to pursue restricted free agents.

Question: Why are the 49ers eyeing another tight end? Seems odd considering we have Vernon Davis & Delanie Walker, don’t u think? @InvizNLongBeach

Answer: There’s nothing odd about it. They wanted a big-bodied tight end to be used as a blocking specialist on short yardage situations. That’s why they brought in veteran Anthony Becht for a visit on Tuesday. Last season, the 49ers kept just two tight ends on the team after cutting Bear Pascoe and Joe Jon Finley when the roster had to be trimmed to 53. The 49ers ended up using a reserve offensive lineman to report as an eligible tight end last season in those situations. Personally, I don’t see that as a bad option. But a lot of teams do have blocking specialists. The 49ers have already signed one “blocking” tight end, Tony Curtis.

Q: Hey Matt, heard anything on the (Jets running back) Leon Washington to the Niners speculation? @leandrosasjr

A: I think you summed it up correctly with your choice of the word “speculation.” I have been unable to gather any information that would lead me to believe the 49ers would be willing to give Washington a big contract AND forfeit a second-round draft pick. That wouldn’t seem to make much sense. After all, Washington’s best attribute is speed and his season ended with a broken leg, so there’s uncertainty with him, too. I’ve heard the 49ers are not interested. The 49ers should be able to get a good return man in the second or third round at a better price than Washington would cost as a free agent. At 5-foot-8, 195 pounds, Washington does not exactly fit the mold of what 49ers assistant Tom Rathman considers ideal for a running back.

Q: your thoughts on Justin Fargas? @Durren133

A: He does not return punts. He hasn’t returned kickoffs since 2003. He turned 30 in January. This would make no sense. The 49ers expect Glen Coffee to be around 220 pounds this season. That seems like a much more logical answer. Plus, I’ve heard 49ers aren’t interested in him, either.

Q: Since David Carr has not officially signed yet, does this mean anything? @tverdun

A: It means Carr has not returned to the Bay Area to sign the original copy of the contract. He went home to Bakersfield after visiting with the 49ers on Friday and Saturday. They can Fed-Ex the contract back and forth, or just wait for Carr to return to the Bay Area to take part in the 49ers’ offseason program, which begins Monday.

Q: Why would Carr sign as a back up with the 49ers when he could probably start for the cardinals? @taylorlapidus

A: Probably returning to California had something to do with it. But he also must feel as if the 49ers give him the best opportunity to take over as a long-term starter. Alex Smith is signed through only this season, so his future is up in the air. Carr is just one snap away from the opportunity to resurrect his career.

Q: Shaun Hill to the Rams or Carolina for a 1-yr deal seems realistic, right? @nickwan

A: I would not expect Hill to remain on the 49ers into training camp. I think the 49ers will do the right thing and give him a chance to go elsewhere. The only reason they might want to keep him around is if they don’t think Nate Davis has a future – and I don’t believe that to be the case. The Rams could be an option because former 49ers scout Mike Williams is now the director of pro personnel in St. Louis. Here’s another one I have not completely ruled out: How about the Chicago Bears? On this surface it might seem odd. Hill wasn’t smitten with Mike Martz through training camp. The feeling was mutual. But Hill played well when Mike Singletary benched J.T. O’Sullivan. I think there is a level of mutual respect. Martz had some nice things to say about Hill’s ability to process information quickly after the snap of the ball. Martz is the new O.C. with the Bears, and he’d probably like to have at least one QB he’s had in the past.

 Q: Heard anything about Ravens’ Offensive Tackle Gaither as a possible trade to the 49ers? Intriguing… @nomancheswey

A: No, I haven’t heard a word. Again, this would surprise me. If he were any good, why wouldn’t the Ravens just match any offer the 49ers give him?

Q: If SF wants a RFA they can sign him to offer sheet that includes “poison pill” clause. They won’t have to pay far above market. @nflguy49

A: They would still have to pay over market value – unless you assume that no other club would be willing to compete with the 49ers for the potential restricted free agent. The player can negotiate the best contract possible and decide which offer sheet he’s going to sign.

The “poison pill” to which you refer is a tactic that has been used sparingly in the past to prevent an incumbent team from matching an offer sheet. For instance, the 49ers could put language in the contract that guarantees the contract if the player sees action in X-number of games in the state of Missouri. This would, for instance, prevent the Rams from matching any offer sheet.

Q: U think the Niners would consider using the “posion pill” to sign a player like OJ Atogwe? @toddniemeyer

A: I really don’t know. I doubt the 49ers would want to employ such a tactic, but you never know. Atogwe is dating Singletary’s daughter. Atogwe, who finished the year on injured reserve, stood at the back of Singletary’s post-game press conference with members of the Singletary family in St. Louis after the final game of the season. But I don’t know if the club is interested in Atogwe. They might want to sink that money into extending the contract of Dashon Goldson. After all, I can’t see them with two high-priced safeties on the team at the same time. The 49ers have addressed the future of the safety position in the past two drafts with Reggie Smith and Curtis Taylor. We don’t know if either of those players will produce, but it might be time to find out.

Q: Joey Porter? it’ll save a draft pick and fill a need. Plus he’ll have things in common with David Carr who also is from Bakersfield. @ravz51

A: The 49ers were not interested in him three years ago, and I can’t imagine anything has changed now that he’s three years older.


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