49ers review: Tight ends

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49ers review: Tight ends

This is the sixth installment of a nine-part series that reviews every 49ers player and position group.After seeing how Stanford offenses used its tight ends under coach Jim Harbaugh and offensive coordinator Greg Roman, big things were expected from Vernon Davis and Delanie Walker in the 49ers' passing game. However, it did not work out that way through most of the season. Both Davis and Walker had their lowest production since 1998 2008, when then-offensive coordinator Mike Martz virtually eliminated the tight end from the offense. But things picked up late for Davis, who became the team's top receiving threat -- really, their only receiving threat -- in the playoffs. Grade: BVernon Davis -- After two seasons with more than 900 yards receiving, Davis' production took a step back in the regular season. He struggled mightily to learn the new 49ers system, and admittedly became frustrated. But late in the season, it seemed to click for him. He averaged 42 yards receiving in the 49ers' first 13 games. In his final five games, including the playoffs, Davis averaged 107 yards receiving. He has never been finer than in the two playoff games, catching 10 passes for 292 yards and four touchdowns. Davis played more than 95 percent of the team's offensive snaps during the season, and he once again excelled as a blocker.Delanie Walker -- When Walker caught six passes for 69 yards on Nov. 13 against the New York Giants, it figured to be the start of a larger role in the passing game. But Walker finished the season without another catch in the six games before sustaining a fractured jaw that kept him out of action for a month. He returned to action and caught two passes for 36 yards in the NFC Championship Game against the Giants. Walker made major improvements as a blocker this season. He threw key blocks on Detroit defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh to spring big runs in the 49ers' win. Walker finished the regular season with just 19 catches for 198 yards and three touchdowns in 15 games.Justin Peelle -- The 10-year veteran was added to the 53-man roster after the first game of the season as a blocking specialist. He did what he was brought in to do, and his play time saw a bump late in the season after Walker's injury. He was used almost exclusively in short-yardage situations. He caught just one pass for 19 yards during the regular season.Nate Byham -- His season ended before it began when he sustained a torn ACL in his left knee during training camp. Byham spent the entire season on injured reserve. His rehabilitation is on schedule. Although he said he believes he would be ready to participate in minicamps and organized team activities, Byham said there is no reason to rush it. He fully expects to be ready to compete for a roster spot in training camp.

Report: 49ers UFA linebacker to visit Seahawks

Report: 49ers UFA linebacker to visit Seahawks

Gerald Hodges is in search of a new team and he's looking at a division rival of the 49ers.

The unrestricted free agent is scheduled to visit the Seahawks on Wednesday, according to ESPN.

Acquired in October of 2015 from Minnesota for a sixth-round pick, the four-year pro played in 25 games over the past two seasons with the 49ers.

In his time with San Francisco, the former fourth-round pick recorded three sacks, two interceptions and one fumble recovery.

But he was not considered a fit for the new 49ers under general manager John Lynch and coach Kyle Shanahan. Hodges was deactivated for a game late in the season at Atlanta for breaking team rules. He did not offer an explanation or apology

The 49ers have signed three linebackers through two weeks of free agency: Malcolm Smith, Brock Coyle and Dekoda Watson.

Donald Trump, Jim Harbaugh address Kaepernick's free agent status

Donald Trump, Jim Harbaugh address Kaepernick's free agent status

On the same day the FBI director announced members of Donald Trump’s presidential campaign are under investigation for colluding with Russia to influence the election, Trump turned his thoughts to Colin Kaepernick’s status as an NFL free agent.

And Jim Harbaugh, appearing on Pro Football Talk, suggested teams that are not showing interest in Kaepernick are making a mistake.

“I’ll tell you the same thing I tell them: I think he’s an outstanding player and I think he’s a great competitor who has proven it in games and has the ability to be not only an NFL starter but a great NFL player,” Harbaugh said Tuesday morning.

“He’ll have a great career and be a great quarterback, win championships.”

On Monday evening, during a rally in Kentucky, Trump made remarks about Kaepernick. In the lead-up to the November election, Kaepernick called Trump “openly racist” and said he would not vote for Hillary Clinton, either.

“And you know, your San Francisco quarterback? I’m sure nobody ever heard of him,” Trump said.

“There was an article today, it was reported that NFL owners don’t want to pick him up because they don’t want to get a nasty tweet from Donald Trump. Do you believe that? I just saw that. I just saw that. I said if I remember that one I’m gonna report it to the people of Kentucky. Because they like it when people actually stand for the American flag.”

Mike Freeman of Bleacher Report reported an AFC general manager told him there were three reasons Kaepernick has not signed. Some believe, according to the anonymous source, that Kaepernick can no longer play at a high level. Others “genuinely hate him” for kneeling during the national anthem as part of his protest of racial inequality in America.

And, “some teams fear the backlash from fans after getting him,” according to the report. “They think there might be protests or Trump will tweet about the team. I'd say that number is around 10 percent. Then there's another 10 percent that has a mix of those feelings.”

Kaepernick’s teammates voted him the winner of the Len Eshmont Award for courage and inspiration last season. It is historically the most prestigious award among 49ers players. But the 49ers have already signed veteran quarterbacks Brian Hoyer and Matt Barkley.

General manager John Lynch acknowledged last week on KNBR the odds of the 49ers bringing back Kaepernick are slim.

“I think the likelihood of that happening has gone down significantly. But we’re not going to close our mind or out options on anyone, including him,” Lynch said.

Even though there has been no reported interest in Kaepernick from any team around the league, Lynch said Kaepernick nearly signed with a team earlier during the free-agent signing period.

“I don’t know what happened to that market,” Lynch said. “He was, in everyone’s mind in this league, very close to signing a deal with a team at a really good number. And it fell through, apparently.”