49ers-Ravens: Matchups to watch

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49ers-Ravens: Matchups to watch

BALTIMORE -- The 49ers had demonstrated an all-around team defense. And the Baltimore Ravens have the most offensive playmakers the organization has ever compiled.But the 49ers' best defender and the Ravens' top producer will take center stage Thursday, and they are bound to see a lot of each other throughout the night.
Tale of the tape
49ers LB Patrick Willis (52): 6-1, 240, Mississippi, fifth season
Ravens RB Ray Rice (27): 5-8, 212, Rutgers, fourth seasonRice carried the ball just five times against the Seattle Seahawks a couple weeks ago, and the Ravens lost. On Sunday, he was fed the ball 20 times, gained 104 yards, and the Ravens defeated the Cincinnati Bengals.So the Ravens make it a priority to get the ball in Rice's hands. Rice ranks fifth in the NFL with 1,176 yards from scrimmage. He's a threat as a rusher and as a target in the passing game.Rice has 663 yards rushing with a 4.2 yards, and he also has 51 catches for 513 yards.
He will undoubtedly see a lot of Willis, who leads a 49ers defense that has been difficult on opposing running backs. Willis has also been a force in pass coverage, so he'll likely be asked to pick up Rice out of the backfield on occasion.CSNBaltimore: 49ers-Ravens -- the basics Keys -- pressure Smith, stop Gore predictions
The 49ers have been dominant against the run this season with Willis and NaVorro Bowman racking up most of the tackles. The 49ers have not allowed a 100-yard rusher in 32 games. And the unit has not allowed a rushing touchdown this season."You look at what's going on over there, and it kind of reminds us of our own defense," Rice said on a conference call with Bay Area reporters. "It's going to be a challenge. Every yard matters in this game. It's going to be a slugfest."And Rice said Willis is the closest comparison to Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis.RELATED: Ravens roster depth chart injuries"He's a tenacious player," Rice said. "I have a lot of respect for that guy. Take Ray out, and (Willis) is the second-best linebacker in the NFL." Other matchups worth watching
49ers LOLB Ahmad Brooks (55) vs. Ravens RT Michael Oher (74): Brooks rarely comes off he field, as he plays standing up on base downs and lines up at defensive end in nickel situations. Brooks ranks seventh on the team in tackles, and his duty is to set the edge in the run game. As a pass-rusher, Brooks is second on the team with six sacks, matching his career-high. Oher, the subject of the book and movie, "The Blind Side," nearly was drafted by the 49ers in 2009. Then-general manager Scot McCloughan insisted on receiver Michael Crabtree over Oher, with then-coach Mike Singletary taking up the argument for the offensive lineman.49ers QB Alex Smith (11) vs. Ravens FS Ed Reed (20): If being a "game manager" means making good decisions and avoiding turnovers, Smith is guilty. But it becomes a lot more difficult to make good decisions and avoid interceptions with Reed patrolling the secondary. Reed is a seven-time Pro Bowl player. He produced a league-best eight interceptions in just 10 games last season, and he has three picks this year. Reed has 57 interceptions in his career, which is the league-high since entering the league in 2002. Thirty-three of his interceptions have come at home. Overall, the Ravens are 35-10 in games in which he has caught a pass from an opposing quarterback.

49ers have already spent more in 2017 free agency than a year ago

49ers have already spent more in 2017 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.

"As soon as Earl hit the open market, he became a priority for us to sign,” 49ers general manager John Lynch said in a statement released Saturday morning. “A man of high character, he represents everything we want to be as a football team. Earl is a tone-setter who plays the game with a tremendous passion and the effort necessary to win in this league. We believe those qualities are contagious and will help to make our team stronger. We look forward to the impact Earl will have on the field, in the locker room and in our community.”

It was the first significant move under 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 12 games at left guard, two games at left tackle and the final two games at center.

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.