San Francisco 49ers: Jon Baldwin

Weekend mail call:

Cedric from Memphis wants to know if I agree with him that San Francisco 49ers' quarterback Colin Kaepernick needs a quality backup like Alex Smith to keep him on his toes.

Bill Williamson: I think every team would love to have a top-shelf backup quarterback, but that is not exactly easy to accomplish. Smith was a starter and that's why he was traded. Blaine Gabbert likely won't keep Kaepernick "on his toes," but I don't see motivation as a big issue for him, anyway.

Kris from Missoula, Montana wants to know if there are any updates on defensive lineman Lawrence Okoye.

BW: He is still learning the game. The former British Olympic discus thrower spent last year on the injured reserve. He is very much in the learning process of the game. But he is extremely athletic and he has a chance to develop. I think the 49ers would like to put him on the practice squad.

Craig from Fox Island, Washington, wants to know if I think receiver Jon Baldwin could be moved to tight end.

BW: Conceivably, sure. Baldwin is 6-foot-4, 230 pounds. He is big and he could probably get bigger. If Vernon Davis holds out in training camp, perhaps the 49ers would think about it. Baldwin has virtually no chance to make the roster as a receiver. I think the chances of him making it as a tight end would be a longshot as well. The former first-round pick of the Kansas City Chiefs has had trouble making an impact in the league in any way.
During the draft, the San Francisco 49ers acquired receiver Stevie Johnson from the Buffalo Bills for a conditional fourth-round pick. NFL Nation 49ers reporter Bill Williamson and Buffalo Bills reporter Mike Rodak discuss what the trade means for both teams.

Williamson: Mike, it appeared Johnson's days with the Bills were over when they moved up to take Clemson receiver Sammy Watkins with the No. 4 overall pick. Johnson was gone less than 24 hours later. Was it as simple as that?

[+] EnlargeStevie Johnson
Tom Szczerbowski/Getty ImagesThere was no room for Stevie Johnson in Buffalo, but he gives San Francisco much-needed options with three-receiver sets.
Rodak: Bill, I think the Bills had a good idea for a while that they wanted to move on from Johnson if they were able to replace him in the draft. Once they selected Watkins, it put those plans in motion, which is why Johnson was gone less than 24 hours after Watkins arrived. There were questions about Johnson's future in Buffalo dating to late last season. The problem was if the Bills were (a) able to replace his production in the offense, and (b) find the right compensation on the trade market. I think the Bills did well by receiving a conditional fourth-round pick -- it could become a third-round pick -- in return for Johnson, while Watkins should slide into Johnson's old role as the No. 1 receiver.

Many Bills fans are hoping that Johnson puts up good numbers in San Francisco, as that could trigger the Bills receiving the third-round pick instead of the fourth-round selection. What are the chances of Johnson contributing right away with the 49ers? Where does he fit on the depth chart?

Williamson: Johnson is going to play extensively. He will be the third receiver behind Anquan Boldin and Michael Crabtree. But this isn't about him being behind anyone. This is about the 49ers adding another key piece. The 49ers feel their best way of toppling Seattle is with more receiving weapons, so Johnson will get a chance to contribute a lot. The 49ers ran the fewest three-receiver sets in the NFL last year. That was mostly because of their options. They clearly will feel more comfortable with Johnson in their three-receiver sets. Still, it will be somewhat of an adjustment for the offense. Thus, it is a bit difficult to predict just how many catches Johnson will get. But it is safe to say the 49ers didn't bring him on board to put him on the bench.

Mike, do you think Johnson can thrive in San Francisco or do you think he is on the downslide?

Rodak: I think Johnson has plenty left in the tank. Last season's performance was a combination of two factors: (a) playing with a carousel of inexperienced quarterbacks -- EJ Manuel, Thad Lewis and Jeff Tuel -- who weren't able to consistently get him the ball, and (b) a string of injuries that kept him out of four games. Johnson drew criticism last offseason for a perception that he didn't work out and train as extensively as he needed to. Whether that led to his injuries last season is debatable, but Johnson was at the Bills' facility for the start of their workout program this offseason and seemed ready to go at full speed. If he keeps that mentality in San Francisco, the 49ers shouldn't have any issues with Johnson. If he stays healthy, he can still be an effective receiver.

Bill, what does this trade mean for some of the other receivers on the depth chart? Jonathan Baldwin and Brandon Lloyd have tried to re-start their careers in San Francisco, while Quinton Patton and Bruce Ellington are younger players in the mix. How will that all shake out?

Williamson: Baldwin is all but gone. He needed to do well last year and he couldn't produce. Lloyd was an interesting, cheap add last month. But the trade of Johnson and the drafting of the speedy Ellington changed that. Last season, when Michael Crabtree was out for the first 11 games, the 49ers got virtually nothing from their receivers other than Boldin. Now, the group of Boldin, Crabtree, Johnson, Patton (who played well down the stretch after coming back from a broken foot) and Ellington gives the 49ers one of the deepest receiving groups in the NFL. It's a stunning transformation and it will all benefit quarterback Colin Kaepernick greatly. He was terrific once Crabtree returned. With a better receiving group this year, I expect the electric Kaepernick to be stellar all season.

Mike, in closing, do you think the Bills will miss Johnson or is this trade the best for everyone?

Rodak: I think both sides will benefit. The Bills didn't have room for Johnson and it didn't make sense for him to stick around. In trading Johnson now, they clear cap space -- he was set to make about $9 million each of the next two seasons -- and also pick up a draft pick next year. Since they traded their 2015 first- and fourth-round selections to move up for Watkins, having that extra pick will help. With Watkins, Woods, and Mike Williams in the mix, I don't think the Bills will miss Johnson too much.
The San Francisco 49ers added 12 players in the draft (and veteran receiver Stevie Johnson through a trade) during the weekend. The 49ers entered the draft with a stacked roster. Whittling down to the 53-man roster will not be an easy task this summer.

Let’s take a look at positions where veterans who could be in jeopardy of making the roster due to the additions.

Quarterback

Who could be on the bubble? McLeod Bethel-Thompson.

Why: Bethel-Thompson finished last year on the practice squad. The 49ers are signing Southern Illinois quarterback Kory Faulkner as an undrafted free agent. The two will likely be battling for a practice squad gig.

Running back

Who could be on the bubble? Kendall Hunter and LaMichael James.

Why: The 49ers drafted Ohio State’s Carlos Hyde in the second round. The 49ers will definitely roll with Frank Gore, Hyde and Marcus Lattimore (if healthy) at tailback. Bruce Miller will be the fullback. That leaves one or two spots. I bet the 49ers find a way to keep the valuable Hunter. But James, who would be open to a trade, could be expendable.

Receiver

Who could be on the bubble? Jon Baldwin, Brandon Lloyd and Kassim Osgood.

Why: Johnson will be the No. 3 receiver and fourth-round pick Bruce Ellington will certainly make the team. The team also likes second-year player Quinton Patton. If the 49ers keep six receivers, Osgood has a good chance to make the team because he is simply awesome on special teams. Baldwin has virtually no chance to make the team and Lloyd, who was signed earlier this offseason, would have to have a tremendous camp to make it.

Offensive line

Who could be on the bubble? Joe Looney and Adam Snyder

Why: The 49ers drafted center Marcus Martin (fellow third-round pick Brandon Thomas will likely be on the PUP all season). That could mean Looney, who played well at guard in a limited role last year, could be in trouble, but I think the 49ers will give him every chance to make the team. Synder could be on the odd man out although the team likes this experience. This could be a position where the 49ers go heavy.

Linebacker

Who could be on the bubble? Nick Moody

Why: The 49ers drafted inside linebacker Chris Borland in the third round and they are expected to add former Stanford standout Shayne Skov on undrafted free agency. Borland will surely make the team. If Skov makes the 53-man roster Moody, a sixth-round pick last year, would have difficulty sticking.

Secondary

Who could be on the bubble? Chris Cook, Eric Wright, Craig Dahl, Bubba Ventrone

Why: This position will likely take some time to develop. The 49ers added three cornerbacks in the draft and first-round safety Jimmie Ward will play nickel. Ward and fourth-round pick Dontae Johnson will definitely make the team. So, a veteran or two may be expendable. Again, this will be a heated camp battle.
Brandon Lloyd is not the big-hit free-agent addition that DeSean Jackson or Julian Edelman would have been for the San Francisco 49ers.

Lloyd
But for the one season he has signed for, Lloyd might be able to help the team. Lloyd, 32, didn't play last season, but he did enjoy late-career success. He led the NFL in receiving yardage in 2010 with Denver and had 74 catches for the Patriots in 2012.

So there is reason to believe Lloyd can help the 49ers as a No. 3 or No. 4 receiver. But if he doesn't have a good camp, I could also see the 49ers moving. This is a low risk, look-see deal.

Let's take a look at whom the signing can affect:

Who could be affected: Kassim Osgood and Jonathan Baldwin. If Lloyd makes the team, Baldwin will likely be out. The team re-signed Osgood this offseason because he is a huge part of the special teams. But the 49ers will likely not keep more than six receivers. If Lloyd makes the team, it will be him, Anquan Boldin, Michael Crabtree, Quinton Patton and likely a rookie. Osgood would be the sixth man and perhaps become vulnerable, depending on needs at other positions.

Who it doesn't affect: Patton and the team's plans to take a receiver early in the draft. Patton finished the season strong in 2013 as a rookie. The team will allow him to develop as quickly as he can. If he's ready to be the No. 3 receiver in 2014, he will probably get the job. Lloyd and Boldin are 33 and Crabtree is a free agent after this season. San Francisco will take a receiver in the draft, no doubt about it.

The Lloyd signing is simply a chance to see if the team can get a productive season from a veteran who has produced recently.
The re-signing of special teams ace Kassim Osgood on Monday essentially shrinks the candidates to make the team at receiver.

Osgood
Osgood
Osgood is officially listed as a receiver, but make no mistake -- he's on the team because he is a supreme special teamer. Osgood played sparingly at receiver last season yet he is counted as one on the 53-man roster. The 49ers will likely keep six receivers, including Osgood on the roster in 2014.

In addition to Osgood (it's a longshot that he doesn't make the team), starters Anquan Boldin and Michael Crabtree and promising second-year player Quinton Patton are locks to make the roster.

The 49ers have been linked to several receivers during the free-agency period, and they're expected take a receiver early in the draft. That means players such as Jon Baldwin, who made little impact last year, and practice squader Chuck Jacobs will have to compete for roster spots.

Thus, Osgood's signing lessons opportunities for others at the position even though he likely won't make much of an impact at receiver.

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.
The following are some highlights from our San Francisco 49ers chat, held Thursday:

Jean Claude from Vermont: If Watkins and Evans are chosen in the first 10 picks, would it make more sense for the 49ers to trade their two 2nd round picks to possibly move up to late 1st early 2nd round?

Bill Williamson: I'm really starting to think that way. Maybe get 29, 30 or 30, 31 or 32. Take a receiver a corner right there. Be pretty nice. Both positions are stacked. I'm starting to lean that is the best approach since their two biggest need areas are loaded.

Ross from Portland: Any updates on the Harbaugh-Baalke situation?

BW: There hasn't been any real updates in months. Nothing has changed. Has been tense at times. Still is. Only thing that made this news again is the Browns' pursuit of Harbaugh. But in reality, nothing has changed.

Trent from Maryland: Hi, Bill, do you think Jon Baldwin will make the 53-man roster? Or does Alec Baldwin have a better chance?

BW: No, but Billy Baldwin is a real comer. I'm not high on Jon Baldwin. If he is on the 53-man roster that means he either made huge strides or the 49ers didn't improve enough at the spot.
Even with a pay cut, Jon Baldwin will have to compete for a roster spot with the San Francisco 49ers.

The receiver, acquired in a trade with Kansas City last summer for fellow former first-round pick, A.J. Jenkins, made no impact with the 49ers, who badly needed a young receiver to emerge. He had three catches total and was not active on game days for much of the season.

As expected, Baldwin took a pay cut this week. ESPN’s Field Yates reported Baldwin’s base salary reduced from $1.4 million to $645,000, though he can earn the difference of $755,000 back in the form of incentives. Baldwin's deal includes incentives tied to receiving yards, receptions and offensive playing time.

There is no guaranteed money, so the 49ers will be free if Baldwin does not make the team. Getting out of this deal easily was one of the incentives for the trade.

If Baldwin, entering his fourth season, finally emerges, the 49ers will take it as a bonus, but they are expected to use a high pick in the draft, so Baldwin is not being counted on.

ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported Thursday that the salary cap will rise to $130 million for the season. The 49ers will have about $11 million to spend under the cap.

Jon Baldwin restructures contract

February, 20, 2014
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49ers wide receiver Jon Baldwin has restructured the final year of his current contract, according to a league source.

The 24-year-old had his base salary reduced from $1.4 million to $645,000, though he can earn the difference of $755,000 back in the form of incentives.

Baldwin's deal includes incentives tied to receiving yards, receptions and offensive playing time.

If Baldwin surpasses 65 receptions next season, he will earn $255,000. If he surpasses 800 receiving yards, he will earn $250,000. And if he surpasses 80 percent of the offensive snaps, he will earn $250,000 more.

Should he reach all three of these barometers, which is unlikely based on his performance through his first three NFL seasons, he will make the total of $1.4 million that he was originally scheduled to earn.

The deal does not include any guaranteed money, so the 49ers have an out to move on from Baldwin without penalty if he does not fit their roster plans for 2014.
Weekend mail call:

Mark from Palm Harbor, Fla., wants to know if I think the 49ers should trade running back LaMichael James to the Eagles so he can reunite with his coach at Oregon, Chip Kelly.

Bill Williamson: I suggested James be dealt to the Eagles in October. I still believe it. James, a second-round pick in 2012, did make an impact as a returner in the second half of the season. But he didn't make much of an impact as a running back in 2013. With Marcus Lattimore expected to be healthy in 2014, I don't see James getting more offensive snaps. He has been known for making some cryptic tweets that have been perceived to be about his role. I'm sure Kelly would like to work with James again, but I doubt James would command much on the trade market. Still, I don't think dealing James would be the worst move the 49ers made.

Mark from Redondo Beach, Calif., wants to know if I think the 49ers should target a receiver or a cornerback in the first round.

BW: I believe the 49ers should consider receivers first. Now if the draft board falls so that it makes sense to take a cornerback first, that's fine. But the key to the 49ers' 2014 season is being better than Seattle. Getting better on offense and scoring more points against Seattle is paramount. That's why I think they should beef up on offense.

Brian from San Antonio wants to know why I ranked receiver Jon Baldwin as No. 59 out of 60 in my team rankings project.

BW: I just don't think Baldwin has a future with the 49ers. They were screaming for a young receiver to make a contribution and he couldn't get on the field. He had just three catches last season.

Mailbag: Talking trade

February, 8, 2014
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Weekend mail call:

Alex from Los Gatos, Calif., wants to know if I think the San Francisco 49ers could consider trading 2015 free agent Mike Iupati this offseason.

Bill Williamson: I can see why you ask. Re-signing Iupati may be difficult with high-dollar contracts for Colin Kaepernick, Aldon Smith and Michael Crabtree coming up. I would not be shocked at all if Iupati leaves in free agency in 2015. He is valuable piece, but you simply can’t keep everybody. Sometimes, there are tough decisions that have to be made. But I think the 49ers will probably decide that keeping Iupati for as long as possible is the best move. This is a team with few holes and that has a real chance to win the Super Bowl this upcoming season. Pursuing a Super Bowl with Iupati is better than doing it without him.

Juan from Cerritos, Calif., wants to know if I think the 49ers or Kansas City Chiefs won the Jon Baldwin/A.J. Jenkins trade.

BW: Wow, I don’t know if either team won the swap of the two receivers who were former first-round picks. Baldwin had three catches for the 49ers and Jenkins had eight catches for the Chiefs. Neither made an impact. The 49ers can take some solace -- they can save $1.4 million in salary-cap room by cutting Baldwin and moving on. So, there’s some benefit. The truth is, the real mistake was drafting Jenkins in the first place. The trade was just a way for two teams with disappointing picks to move away from their mistakes.

Mario from San Rafael, Calif., wants to know if I think the 49ers could trade for Vikings’ running back Adrian Peterson.

BW: I just don’t see this being a realistic possibility unless Peterson came very cheaply. Plus, the 49ers feel good about their running back situation.
Teams across the NFL will spend the next several weeks making financial plans heading toward 2014. Here are some players the San Francisco 49ers may ask to take a pay cut or would consider releasing in a salary-cap move.

Cornerback Carlos Rogers

Set to make in 2014: $6,600,000

Likely outcome: Rogers declined to take a pay cut last year. The 49ers may decide to move away from him this year. He will be 33 and the team is in a bit of a transition year at the position. Unless Rogers takes a big cut, I can see him playing elsewhere in 2014.

Running back Frank Gore

Set to make in 2014: $6,450,000

Likely outcome: Gore is not going to be cut. He is too valued and revered by the organization. But the reality is he's a 30-year-old running back that is set to take up 11.15 percent of the offense's salary cap. He could be asked to adjust his deal.

Receiver Jon Baldwin

Set to make in 2014: $1,404,765

Likely outcome: Baldwin caught three passes last season. He was not a factor even though the 49ers needed help at receiver. I just don't see them keeping him at that price tag.

49ers rankings: 55-60

February, 3, 2014
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We are taking a look at the top 60 players in the San Francisco 49ers’ program and will rank them from 1-60. We are going to take a look in a 12-part series, moving upward. The ranking considerations are based on 2013 production, future projections, age, and contract status:

56. Guard Ryan Seymour: The former Seattle practice-squader finished the season on the 49ers’ 53-man roster. He should get a long look in training camp. Because the 49ers would like to develop some young offensive linemen and because Seymour is versatile, he has a chance to stick around.

57. Quarterback Colt McCoy: It would be a surprise if the 49ers don’t look to upgrade from McCoy at backup quarterback. They considered it several times last season. He is a free agent. He did seem to fit in with his teammates, though.

58. Tight end Derek Carrier: He finished the season on the 53-man roster and played some. He will need to improve his strength, but the 49ers like his athleticism. He can make the team again if he has a strong training camp.

59. Wide receiver Jon Baldwin: I don’t see Baldwin having a future with the 49ers. He had three catches for 28 yards this season despite the fact the 49ers were begging for a young receiver to contribute. He was acquired in a trade for fellow former first-round pick A.J. Jenkins in August. But Baldwin never helped. I can see the 49ers cutting him to save some money.

60. Defensive lineman Lawrence Okoye: He’s an interesting prospect. A year from now, he could either be much higher on this list or off the team. The former British Olympic discus thrower is raw, but he is highly athletic, speedy and bright. The team thinks he could develop into a player. Training camp will be huge for Okoye, who was on the injured reserve list last season.

Change is likely at receiver

January, 28, 2014
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One of the San Francisco 49ers' top need positions is wide receiver. There's a strong chance the team could use their first draft pick on the position.

Let's take a look at their 2013 receivers and where they stand moving forward:

Michael Crabtree: The future is bright. Crabtree should be completely healed from his May 2013 torn Achilles by training camp. He is a focal point of the offense. He is a strong candidate to be re-signed in the next year. He is a free agent in 2015.

Anquan Boldin: Boldin was an instant success in his first year with the 49ers. He is 33 and he is a free agent. Expect the 49ers to do what it takes to keep him in San Francisco.

Quinton Patton: The fourth-round pick missed most of the season with a broken foot. But he was impressive when he was on the field. He made some big plays down the stretch. If he continues to develop, he can be an impact player.

Jon Baldwin: He was traded for fellow former first-round pick A.J. Jenkins. Baldwin made no impact with the 49ers. He had three catches for 28 yards (Jenkins had eight catches or 130 yards for the Chiefs). I expect the 49ers to consider cutting Baldwin to save money. He had plenty of chances to contribute and he couldn't come through.

Kassim Osgood: He played some offensive snaps, but he is mostly a special-teams player. In fact, he's a great special teamer.

Mario Manningham: The oft-injured Manningham is recovering from multiple knee issues. He is a free agent. The 49ers will likely look to move on unless they decide to give Manningham one more chance in training camp.

No surprises on 49ers' inactive list

December, 29, 2013
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GLENDALE, Ariz. -- There isn’t much intrigue on the San Francisco 49ers’ list of inactives Sunday at Arizona.

And that’s a good thing for the team. This team is very healthy. All six of the team’s inactive players are young, depth players. The 49ers have only 52 players on the roster after putting receiver Mario Manningham on the injured reserve Friday. The 49ers are expected to fill the roster in the next couple of days.

Here are Sunday’s inactive players: tight end Derek Carrier, linebacker Nick Moody, guard Ryan Seymour, defensive tackle Quinton Dial, guard Joe Looney and receiver Jon Baldwin.

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