49ers all in on 'next man up' philosophy

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49ers all in on 'next man up' philosophy

Rael Enteen
CSNBayArea.com staff writer 

SANTA CLARA – Jim Harbaugh and Colin Kaepernick are both well versed in the 'injuries open up opportunities' narrative.

Alex Smith’s concussion on Nov. 11 paved the way for Harbaugh to hand the starting quarterback job to Kaepernick, who emerged as a breakout NFL star as he led the 49ers to the Super Bowl.

While Michael Crabtree will be sidelined until November at the earliest as he recovers from surgery to repair a torn Achilles tendon, both Harbaugh and Kaepernick displayed more confidence than concern Wednesday after practice.

[RELATED: Crabtree out with torn Achilles]

“We have a lot of talent out here,” Kaepernick said, echoing his head coach’s sentiments. “We have a lot of great players. It’s just who’s going to step up and fill that role now.”

Minutes after Kaepernick and Harbaugh dropped the “step up” line, Patrick Willis followed suit.

“It’s an opportunity for someone else to step up,” he said.

[RATTO: Crabtree injury leaves Harbaugh with three options]

In Kaepernick’s 10 starts between the regular season and playoffs, he targeted Crabtree 92 times, compared to just 39 passes thrown to Vernon Davis and Randy Moss.

When asked why he looked Crabtree’s way so often, Kaepernick took a page from his head coach’s media playbook and kept it simple.

“He got open. That’s what you want from a receiver.”

Kaepernick was equally complimentary of two 49ers receivers who stand to benefit the most from Crabtree’s injury. A.J. Jenkins, the 2012 first-round draft pick who didn’t catch a pass his rookie season, and Ricardo Lockette, an undrafted free agent who has been Kaepernick’s roommate since he joined the 49ers’ practice squad in September, could be leaned on heavily in Crabtree’s absence.

“They’re great players that have been working hard,” Kaepernick said after throwing passes to both Jenkins and Lockette in 7-on-7 drills during Wednesday’s practice.

While Kaepernick toes Harbaugh’s ‘next man up’ line about the in-house talent, he was very vocal about his appreciation for veteran receiver Randy Moss’ leadership last season. But, like Harbaugh, he wouldn’t comment on the possibility of bringing the future Hall of Famer back in the fold.

[RELATED: Replacing Crabtree not a one-man job]

“That’s not my decision,” he said.

 

49ers already spend more in free agency than a year ago

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49ers already spend more in free agency than a year ago

Under the 49ers’ new regime, the club has already invested more in the free-agent market than a year ago under then-general manager Trent Baalke.

Just a reminder: The free-agent signing period does not officially open until March 9.

The 49ers on Friday reached a contract agreement with veteran defensive tackle Earl Mitchell, who is penciled into be a starter in the team’s new 4-3 base scheme under defensive coordinator Robert Saleh.

It was the first significant move under new general manager John Lynch, who also signed a player with NFL experience earlier in the week.

The 49ers also added cornerback K’Waun Williams to a one-year contract. Williams served as the Cleveland Browns’ nickel back for two seasons. The Browns released him before the start of last season and he was unable to play due to an ankle injury.

Mitchell was available to be signed before the start of the new league year because the Miami Dolphins released him last week in a move to save the team $4 million in cap space.

Mitchell took four free-agent visits and after wrapping up his tour with the Atlanta Falcons on Friday, he and the 49ers quickly agreed on a four-year, $16 million contract that includes $5.5 million of money in the first year, according to a source.

Last year, Baalke did little to improve the roster for coach Chip Kelly. The 49ers, who finished 5-11 in Jim Tomsula's one season, dropped to 2-14. Just hours after the season concluded, the 49ers announced the firings of Baalke and Kelly.

The only veteran free-agent addition who stepped on the field for the 49ers last season was offensive lineman Zane Beadles. The 49ers signed Beadles in late-March to a three-year, $9.75 million contract with a $1.75 million signing bonus. Beadles had a good season for the 49ers, starting 13 games at left guard and the final three games at left tackle.

The 49ers have already shown more willingness to be aggressive under Lynch’s leadership.

Mitchell, 29, is a seven-year veteran who began his NFL career from 2010 to ’13 with the Houston Texans. He was a rookie in Saleh’s final season as assistant linebackers coach in Houston.

Mitchell joins DeForest Buckner, Arik Armstead and Quinton Dial on the 49ers defensive line. The 49ers view Mitchell as a high-energy player who bring good character to the locker room. The signing of Mitchell could be an indication the 49ers are moving on from Glenn Dorsey, who is scheduled to be an unrestricted free agent.

With 5.5 sacks in seven seasons, the 49ers do not figure to use Mitchell in passing situations. The club must try to bolster its pass rush in free agency or the draft. Last season, Buckner and Ahmad Brooks shared the team-lead with six sacks apiece. In 2015, Brooks and Aaron Lynch both led the way with 6.5 sacks.

Source: 49ers agree to four-year deal with former Dolphins DT

Source: 49ers agree to four-year deal with former Dolphins DT

The San Francisco 49ers agreed to a four-year, $16 million deal with defensive tackle Earl Mitchell on Friday, CSNBayArea.com has learned

Mitchell, 29, will earn $5.5 million in his first year with the 49ers. 

The seven-year veteran played in nine games last season for the Dolphins. He recorded 17 total tackles. 

Since entering the league in 2010 as a third-round draft pick with the Texans, Mitchell has appeared in 100 games between Houston and Miami, totaling 206 tackles. He has also recorded 5.5 sacks.