NFC West: Phil Dawson

49ers practice report

August, 20, 2014
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SANTA CLARA, Calif. – Before being pulled off Levi’s Stadium’s loose grass field less than an hour after practice began by coach Jim Harbaugh, the San Francisco 49ers did go through the paces for a bit in front of a couple thousand fans.

A few highlights, then, of the 49ers' final public practice.
  • Wide receiver Michael Crabtree was still not in attendance, as he was in Texas the day before for the birth of his son Michael III.
  • Even before the public practice was cut short, the poor condition of the field was obvious, from divots flying out when players made cuts to the discolored spots in the middle of the field. And if Bruce Ellington tweaking his right ankle in a one-on-one drill with cornerback Chris Culliver was not proof enough, then Stevie Johnson taking a spill untouched on an out pattern at the goal line and jerking his left leg sealed it.
  • Phil Dawson, one of the more accurate kickers in NFL history, continued to work on his craft after missing a pair of field goals in Sunday’s 34-0 exhibition loss to the Denver Broncos by kicking numerous field goals. If Andy Lee was not holding, then Dawson had a metal holder in his place so he could work solo.
  • Ellington, LaMichael James and veteran Anquan Boldin were the three players fielding punts.
  • Cornerback Tramaine Brock picked off McLeod Bethel-Thompson on a pass intended for David Reed on the right sideline and returned it 25 yards for a touchdown.
Examining the San Francisco 49ers' roster:

QUARTERBACKS (2)

Because of heavy competition elsewhere, the 49ers will likely only carry two quarterbacks. They finished last season that way. The competition will be to see if undrafted rookie Kory Faulkner can take McLeod Bethel-Thompson's spot on the practice squad.

RUNNING BACKS (5)

The fact that the 49ers drafted Hyde in the second round and Lattimore is healthy means some tough decisions will have to be made. Hunter is too valuable to let go. That means 2012 second-round pick LaMichael James will have difficulty making the roster.

WIDE RECEIVERS (6)

The 49ers are so much deeper here this year than last. That means they will likely have to keep six receivers. Lloyd may look good and Patton has too much potential to give up on. That means it could be tough for Kassim Osgood to make it even though he is a special teams cog.

TIGHT ENDS (3)

If Davis ends his holdout, I can't see the 49ers keeping more than three tight ends because of the glut at receiver. Unless Garrett Celek has a big camp, he may be in trouble. Carrier intrigues the 49ers because of his size and speed.

OFFENSIVE LINE (8)

Assuming Boone ends his holdout, this is a pretty nice group of eight players. It's improved from last year. A solid veteran like Adam Snyder and a promising youngster like Ryan Seymour will have trouble making the team.

DEFENSIVE LINE (9)

This is another power spot. It's deep. Players like Jerod-Eddie and Dial are too valuable to cut. Ramsey has looked good and I have a hunch the 49ers may like him too much to expose him to the waiver wire. That means Demarcus Dobbs could be in trouble.

LINEBACKERS (7)

Most teams carry six linebackers but the 49ers are stacked here, especially with NaVorro Bowman out for about half the season. Because fifth-round pick Lynch is promising he should make the roster. Dan Skuta is an excellent player, but there might not be any room for him. I could see him being one of those later-summer Trent Baalke trade specials because he has value.

CORNERBACKS (5)

This unit is in flux, but I see Johnson making it. Don't be surprised if there is some in-camp jockeying as the 49ers look for the best mix.

SAFETIES (5)

Ward, the 49ers' first-round pick, will play nickel cornerback as a rookie, but projects long term as a safety. Ventrone and Spillman should stick because they are great on special teams. Craig Dahl could be in trouble.

SPECIALISTS (3):

This group is set and it's excellent.

49ers offseason wrap-up

May, 22, 2014
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» NFC Wrap: East | West | North | South » AFC: East | West | North | South » Grades

With free agency and the draft in the rearview mirror and training camp just a couple of months away, we assess the San Francisco 49ers' offseason moves.

[+] EnlargeStevie Johnson
Tom Szczerbowski/Getty ImagesThe 49ers added depth to their receiving corps by acquiring Stevie Johnson.
Best move: Making offense a priority. The 49ers' re-signed receiver Anquan Boldin and kicker Phil Dawson in a free agency in which they signed only two outside veterans. During the draft, they added veteran receiver Stevie Johnson in a trade with the Buffalo Bills, then drafted a tumbling Ohio State running back Carlos Hyde in the second round. This offense now has a lot of firepower. These moves really solidified the unit.

Riskiest move: Change in the secondary. The 49ers will have three new starters in the secondary after seeing safety Donte Whitner and cornerback Tarell Brown leave in free agency and after cutting Carlos Rogers. Whitner was the only one the 49ers had interest in keeping, but he was too pricey. The 49ers made a nice move of bringing in a comparable player -- safety Antoine Bethea from the Colts. Chris Culliver, who was injured in 2013, and first-round pick Jimmie Ward will play in the nickel. I think these changes should work well, especially since the meat of the 49ers' defense is the front seven. But when there are such wholesale changes, it's a question mark.

Most surprising move: Making 12 draft picks. The 49ers entered the draft with 11 picks, but with few needs. Yet the 49ers ended up with 12, which was tied for most in the NFL. I don't think more than seven or eight of the draft picks have a chance to make this stacked roster. Of course, the 49ers took a few injured players to stash, which only helps the entire program. It's difficult to imagine a deeper team than San Francisco in the league.

Receiver depth: I cannot emphasize this enough -- it's stunning how much depth the 49ers now have at receiver when compared to last season. With Michael Crabtree hurt for much of the year, the 49ers received virtually no production from the position other than from Boldin. Now, the 49ers are loaded at with Boldin, Crabtree, Johnson, second-year player Quinton Patton (who missed much of the season with a broken foot) and speedy fourth-round pick Bruce Ellington. This is the biggest difference on the team.
Free agency is entering its fifth day (it only seems like 43) and the San Francisco 49ers have been busy making roster changes. Let's take a look at what has gone on so far:

Returning free agents: Receiver Anquan Boldin, kicker Phil Dawson, cornerback Eric Wright.

Departed free agents: Safety Donte Whitner (Cleveland), cornerback Tarell Brown (Oakland), running back Anthony Dixon (tweeted he is signing with Buffalo on Saturday).

Released: Cornerback Carlos Rogers.

Free-agent addition: Safety Antoine Bethea (Colts), Cornerback Chris Cook (Vikings).

Acquired in trade: Quarterback Blaine Gabbert from Jaguars; tackle Jonathan Martin from Miami.

Who are they interested in? Cornerback Walter Thurmond (Seattle),receivers Julian Edelman (New England) and Emmanuel Sanders (Pittsburgh).

Remaining 49ers free agents: Center Jonathan Goodwin, receiver Mario Manningham, quarterback Colt McCoy, receiver Kassim Osgood, cornerback Perrish Cox.

Starting lineup changes: Bethea for Whitner; likely Daniel Kilgore for Goodwin.

49ers' offseason scorecard

March, 12, 2014
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Free agency isn’t 24 hours old and the San Francisco 49ers have been busy making roster changes. Let’s take a look at what has gone on so far:

Returning free agents: receiver Anquan Boldin, kicker Phil Dawson, cornerback Eric Wright.

Departed free agents: Safety Donte Whitner (Browns).

Released: Cornerback Carlos Rogers.

Free=agent addition: Safety Antoine Bethea (Colts).

Acquired in trade: Quarterback Blaine Gabbert from Jaguars; tackle Jonathan Martin from Miami.

Remaining free-agent priority: Cornerback Tarell Brown.

Other remaining free agents: Center Jonathan Goodwin, receiver Mario Manningham, quarterback Colt McCoy, receiver Kassim Osgood, running back Anthony Dixon, cornerback Perrish Cox.

Starting lineup changes: Bethea for Whitner; likely Daniel Kilgore for Goodwin.
The San Francisco 49ers’ second veteran free-agent re-signing was another 2013 acquisition who shined.

Kicker Phil Dawson tweeted Tuesday he is returning to the 49ers. He was minutes from becoming a free agent. Dawson joins receiver Anquan Boldin, who signed last week, as key veterans who are coming back.

Dawson
The 49ers traded for Boldin and signed Dawson last year. Both were smashing successes in San Francisco.

Dawson, 39, made a team-record 27 straight field goals during the regular season. He also made several in critical situations and was a fit in the locker room.

Dawson was always coming back. Both sides wanted to make it happen. In fact, 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh said "pay the man" when referring to Dawson's impending free agency in a news conference.

The front office listened, and the 49ers will continue to have reliability at the kicker position.

The team’s other two free-agent priorities are safety Donte Whitner and cornerback Tarell Brown. There have been reports that Whitner will sign with his hometown Cleveland Browns when free agency starts at 4 p.m. ET. Brown will also get interest.
Free agency starts at 4 p.m. ET (1 p.m. PT) Tuesday.

It is clear the San Francisco 49ers' plan of attack will be to sign their own top free agents. They secured their top free-agent priority, receiver Anquan Boldin, last week. Their other targets are safety Donte Whitner, cornerback Tarell Brown and kicker Phil Dawson. Dawson and Brown both may get quick action on the open market.

If any of these players leave, the 49ers will likely have to go find a replacement in some form. Let’s take a look at who they may be:

Safety

Possible free-agent options: Mike Mitchell (Panthers), Malcolm Jenkins (Saints), James Ihedigbo (Ravens).

Summary: The free-agent market is thin, and, in my opinion, signing Whitner is, by far, the best option. If not, one of the above-mentioned players could be a suitable, but not equal signing. If Whitner’s market doesn’t get crazy, the 49ers need to try to keep him. In-house potential replacements are C.J. Spillman and Craig Dahl, but neither are considered top options.

Cornerback

Possible free-agent options: Nolan Carroll (Dolphins), Antonio Cromartie (released by Jets), Champ Bailey (released by Broncos), Walter Thurmond (Seahawks), Asante Samuel (released by Falcons), Antoine Cason (Cardinals), Charles Tillman (Bears), Captain Munnerlyn (Panthers).

Summary: Replacing Brown may be easier than replacing Whitner. There are a ton of decent cornerbacks. Carroll is one of the players the 49ers have checked in on. If the 49ers lose Brown, they could wait out the market and get a decent player or two here. A wild card could be Darrelle Revis, who reportedly either is going to be traded or released, as soon as this week, by Tampa Bay. He will likely be pricey but if something crazy happens, perhaps the 49ers could get involved.

Kicker

Possible free-agent options: Steven Hauschka (Seahawks), Adam Vinatieri (Colts), Josh Brown (Giants), Dan Carpenter (Bills).

Summary: There are some decent kickers available, but I think Dawson is the best fit and I expect him to be back. If not, any of these kickers could be the fix. Just a guess, but I don’t think it gets to that point.
Bill Barnwell of Grantland.com offers a tidy, thumbnail plan for the San Francisco 49ers in free agency.

Below is Barnwell’s plan and my thoughts on it:

Estimated Cap Space: $10,021,111

Likely Cuts: CB Carlos Rogers

Who They Should Keep: CB Tarell Brown, K Phil Dawson

Rogers
Rodgers-Cromartie
Who They Should Sign: CB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, CB Asante Samuel, S Louis Delmas

Did you know the largest cap hit on the 2014 San Francisco 49ers belongs to, of all people, Rogers? The 49ers would clear $5 million off their cap by releasing Rogers, a move likely to occur despite San Francisco’s relative lack of depth in the secondary. Signing the younger, more talented Rodgers-Cromartie makes more sense, with Samuel filling in as depth and Delmas replacing the departing Donte Whitner. The Niners are sufficiently deep elsewhere to stay out of free agency, although they will certainly sneak in after a couple of weeks if they see a bargain lurking unsigned.

My take: What sticks out to me is the Rodgers-Cromartie thought. If the 49ers can get him, they should jump at it. He would be an upgrade and a fine fit for the defense. But I think he could get a big deal somewhere. I think Whitner is a better player than Delmas, and the 49ers should concentrate on keeping him. But if Whitner’s market is too high, then Delmas could be a solid replacement.

Free-agency primer: 49ers

March, 7, 2014
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» AFC Free-Agency Primer: East | West | North | South » NFC: East | West | North | South

Key free agents: S Donte Whitner, CB Tarell Brown, K Phil Dawson

Where they stand: The 49ers are already off to a productive start to free agency. They re-signed receiver Anquan Boldin to a team-friendly two-year, $12 million extension earlier this week. Boldin was the team's top free-agency priority. No matter what happens once free agency starts Tuesday, the 49ers already accomplished Task 1. But that doesn't mean their work is over. The 49ers love their roster and they want to keep their talent. Whitner, Brown and Dawson are all players the 49ers want back.

What to expect: The 49ers have been in contact with all of their top priorities. But it won't be a surprise if they have to wait out Whitner, Brown and Dawson. All three may want to test the market. I wouldn't be surprised if both Brown and Whitner get heavy interest, but the 49ers may be willing to do what it takes to keep both, within reason. Dawson may be easier to get done. If Whitner and/or Brown leave, the 49ers may have to dip into the outside free-agent market. I think that's the only way the 49ers become big players in the outside market. They may sign a few pieces here and there, but for the most part the 49ers like their roster and want to keep it in place as much as possible.
The NFL deadline for teams to place the franchise tag on players expired Monday without the San Francisco 49ers applying it.

That’s no surprise. It would have been a surprise if the 49ers did apply the tag.

The team’s top free-agent priorities, after re-signing receiver Anquan Boldin on Monday, are safety Donte Whitner, kicker Phil Dawson and cornerback Tarell Brown. It simply did not make any financial sense to tag any of these players. Still, the 49ers want these players back and will continue to work toward deals with them before free agency starts on March 11.

Next year, perhaps, will be a different story. They have big-name free agents looming in the form of quarterback Colin Kaepernick, pass-rusher Aldon Smith and receiver Michael Crabtree. All three are priorities. Kaepernick could get a new deal this offseason. However it shakes out, I could see one of these players getting tagged this time next year.

49ers contract status update

February, 28, 2014
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Free agency starts in 11 days. Along with every other team, the San Francisco 49ers are putting together their final plans. The 49ers are in pretty nice shape. They are poised to be $15-16 million under the salary cap.

The team has gained cap room by reducing deals for backup safety Craig Dahl and backup receiver Jon Baldwin. They want cornerback Carlos Rogers back at a much reduced salary from the $6 million he is due. If he doesn't accept a pay cut, he will likely be cut. General manager Trent Baalke has said he doesn't think the team needs to reduce the salary of running back Frank Gore, who is set to make $6.4 million.

The deadline giving a player the franchise tag is Monday. The 49ers are not expected to use the tag. They have been close to a deal with receiver Anquan Boldin. Boldin, 33, is likely looking at a two- or three-year deal. He could be paid up to $17 million if it is a three-year deal. The team's other priority free agents are safety Donte Whitner, kicker Phil Dawson and cornerback Tarell Brown.

The 49ers extended the deal of Daniel Kilgore on Thursday. He was set to be a free agent next year. That means he is in line to start next year and that the 49ers likely won't re-sign Jonathan Goodwin, who started at center the past three years.

The team is not expected to give the restricted free-agent tender to backup defensive lineman DeMarcus Dobbs and cornerback Perrish Cox. That would make them unrestricted free agents.
Echoing what coach Jim Harbaugh indicated Thursday and keeping to the mantra of the organization, San Francisco 49ers general manager Trent Baalke predictably had this message when speaking to the media Friday: the team’s free-agent plan will be to keep its own.

“Our No. 1 objective is to keep our own guys,” Baalke said.

Whitner
The 49ers' top priorities in the coming weeks (free agency starts March 11) are to re-sign receiver Anquan Boldin, safety Donte Whitner, kicker Phil Dawson, and perhaps cornerback Tarell Brown. Whitner might be the most difficult to sign. If I had to guess, I’d say Boldin has the best chance of being signed before free agency.

In other topics Baalke addressed:
  • Baalke praised running back Frank Gore for another productive season in 2013 and told reporters the 49ers don’t necessarily have to approach Gore to take a pay cut. He is to make $6.4 million this season.
  • Baalke said he expects Michael Wilhoite and second-year player Nick Moody to fill in for linebacker NaVorro Bowman in the first half of the season as Bowman recovers from torn ACL. Baalke also indicated the team could bring in some competition. He said Bowman will not be rushed.
  • As he did in October, Baalke said the team has no intentions of trading running back/kick returner LaMicheal James. Baalke said he believes James, a second-round pick in 2012, will get more opportunities to run the ball moving forward.
  • Baalke said pass-rushing star Aldon Smith is going well and said the team has “a great support system for him." Smith missed five games in 2013 when he voluntarily entered a substance abuse center. He finished the season strong.
  • Baalke spoke glowingly of 2013 fourth-round pick Quinton Patton. The receiver finished the season strong after missing 10 games with a broken foot. Patton impressed the team with his zeal for the game.

49ers well positioned to improve

February, 18, 2014
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One of the unique things about the San Francisco 49ers is that not only have they become one of the NFL’s elite teams but they are also well positioned to remain atop the league.

The 49ers -- who have been to the NFC title game the past three seasons -- are fantastic health as a franchise. They are young, they have managed the salary cap well and they are looking at having 12 draft picks in May, so there is plenty of ways the 49ers can improve.

In fact, in an Insider piece, ESPN's Mike Sando believes the 49ers are positioned to improve more than any team in the NFL this offseason. Insider That’s pretty scary considering they are coming off a 12-4 season.

Here are some of Sando’s thoughts:
"The 49ers have one of the most talented rosters in the NFL, even though nine of their league-high 16 Pro Bowl players are either specialist, players headed toward free agency, potential cap casualties or coming off injury. Most of the team's best players remain under contract for at least another season. Re-signing receiver Anquan Boldin is realistic but not essential now that Michael Crabtree is healthy. Keeping strong safety Donte Whitner might be tougher from a cost standpoint. ... Having additional choices in the second and third rounds gives San Francisco flexibility. Last year, the team parlayed a similar situation into a quick move up the draft board for safety Eric Reid. I wouldn't be surprised to see San Francisco strike similarly for a cornerback this year."


I agree with Sando that this team has a chance to get better. I don’t expect any earth-shattering veteran acquisitions. I think the 49ers want to keep their own priority free agents in the form of Boldin, Whitner and kicker Phil Dawson.

I think the real noise San Francisco can make is in the draft. I can see the 49ers making a big move up to grab a top-rated receiver or defensive back. This is a team with few needs. I can’t see more than five or six draft picks among the 53-man roster. So, adding an instant impact player could make this team even more dangerous in 2014.

Franchise/transition tags: 49ers

February, 17, 2014
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Monday opens the window in which NFL teams can apply the franchise tag to players.

It appears unlikely the San Francisco 49ers will give out any significant tag to a pending free agent. Yes, the 49ers have priority free agents, but there are no natural fits for any of them to be franchised.

Whitner
Boldin
The priority free agents are receiver Anquan Boldin, safety Donte Whitner, kicker Phil Dawson and cornerback Tarell Brown.

The team definitely wants Boldin, who had one of his best NFL seasons in his only year in San Francisco, to return. He was a vital part of the offense. However, Boldin is 33 and probably has one short-term deal left in his career. There is no chance it will make fiscal sense to give Boldin a one-year franchise tag. He will probably command $5-7 million a season, well short of the receiver franchise tag number.

Brown is not considered a top-flight cornerback and the franchise tag is reserved for the elite at the position.

The franchise tag numbers for safeties will likely be in the $7-8 million range. Whitner signed a three-year, $11.5 million deal in 2011. He is a key part of the defense and the 49ers need him back. If they sense the safety market will be robust, they could decide to use the franchise tag on Whitner. But I'm not sure the market will go that high. I wouldn't say Whitner getting the franchise tag is impossible, but it would be a surprise.

Dawson could have been a candidate to be franchised, but tagging him as such is virtually impossible. Two years ago, New Orleans quarterback Drew Brees filed a grievance that spurred the ruling that a player receive a major pay raise when he is franchised for the third time. Dawson was franchised twice by the Browns. Thus, his pay for 2014 will be at the rate of a quarterback if the 49ers use the franchise tag on him. That will not happen.
Earlier Thursday on "SportsCenter," ESPN Insider Adam Caplan identified an explosive receiver as the San Francisco 49ers’ top need this offseason.

Caplan suggested the 49ers should pursue Pittsburgh receiver Emmanuel Sanders in free agency. Caplan reasoned that Sanders will be attainable for the 49ers because the Steelers likely won’t try to re-sign him.

Sanders has speed and he has made big plays. He had 67 catches for 740 yards and six touchdowns last season. It was Sanders’ best season in four NFL campaigns. He will turn 27 in March.

There’s no doubt Sanders would be a nice complement to Michael Crabtree, Vernon Davis and Anquan Boldin (who needs to be re-signed). Sanders' speed would give the 49ers an added dimension.

However, I’m not sure it would be cost efficient. The 49ers have priority free agents in Boldin, safety Donte Whitner and kicker Phil Dawson. Also, they have Quinton Patton entering his second season and they may pursue a receiver early in the draft.

Thus, I’m not sure the 49ers would invest significant salary in a receiver because of those factors. But, if the price is right, Sanders would look good in a 49ers uniform. At the very least, Caplan’s idea is interesting early-February fodder.

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