Aldon Smith works to expand versatility

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Aldon Smith works to expand versatility

Over the past week, we started taking a look at the offseasons of the 49ers position groups. Now, it starts to get a little more difficult because of the nature of the practices.Players are not allowed to wear pads, and no contact is allowed. So good luck trying to evaluate linebackers, defensive linemen and offensive linemen under those restrictions. But that won't stop us from trying. . .
Linebackers
The 49ers made it simple last season for rookie Aldon Smith, the team's first-round draft pick. Although listed as an outside linebacker, Smith rarely played the position. He entered at right defensive end in passing situations, and his job was to work with Justin Smith to get to the quarterback.Few did it better than Smith, who tied for fifth in the NFL with 14 sacks. Things will get a bit more complex in his second year. Smith is slated to replace Parys Haralson at right outside linebacker. He will not be one-dimensional this season, as a big part of his game will be setting the edge in the run game.As far as his duties against the pass, one sequence during the final day of the mandatory minicamp might have offered a glimpse of what to expect.During a coverage drill, Smith got completely turned around while attempting to cover rookie tight end Garrett Celek. Smith ended up trailing Celek by at least 5 yards, as Celek caught the pass down the field from Colin Kaepernick.Then, a short time later during an 11-on-11 session, Smith showed his quickness to take an outside route to get around left tackle Joe Staley for a would-be sack of Josh Johnson.Bottom line: Smith is the 49ers' best pure pass rusher. Do no expect to see him in coverage very often as he transitions into a full-time role.The 49ers two All-Pro inside linebackers, Patrick Willis and NaVorro Bowman did not participate in the final days of the offseason program. Willis went home to Tennessee due to an illness in his family. Bowman remained with his girlfriend on the East Coast as the couple expected the birth of twins.Ahmad Brooks parlayed his first year as a starter (in six NFL seasons) into a handsome six-year, 37 million contract extension. Brooks played 93 percent of all 49ers defensive snaps last season. In the past, Brooks had a tendency to get out of shape during the offseason. But he took part in the full offseason program, and appeared to put himself in position to have a big-time season.Haralson, who has 68 career starts, enters training camp as the top backup at the outside linebacker positions after Aldon Smith takes over as the starter on the right side. It does not appear as if Haralson's scheduled 2.75 million salary is a concern at this point.The 49ers selected two outside linebackers in the draft to supply the team with some depth. However, Darius Fleming, a fifth-round pick from Notre Dame sustained a torn ACL and likely out for the season. And Cam Johnson, a seventh-round selection from Virginia, missed most of the offseason program. Coach Jim Harbaugh said he underwent a clean-out procedure, presumably to improve a knee condition that plagued him in college. Johnson is expected to be ready for camp.Larry Grant did not attract any attention from other clubs as a restricted free agent. He signed his one-year, 1.2 million contract and returns as the 49ers' primary backup at inside linebacker. Shortly after Willis left practice during the first day of the team's mandatory minicamp, Grant stripped tight end Nate Byham and broke up a pass intended for Vernon Davis in a 7-on-7 drill.Veteran Tavares Gooden stepped into action with the first team, alongside Grant, with the absences of Bowman and Willis. Michael Wilhoite, who spent the last month of the season on the practice squad, saw a lot of action, too. Undrafted Joe Holland (Purdue) sat out the final few practices with a right foot injury.On the outside, Eric Bakhtiari, who played for Harbaugh at the University of San Diego, put himself in position to compete for a roster spot. It'll likely come down to whether special-teams coordinator Brad Seely envisions him as a core contributor in that phase of the game. Undrafted rookie Kourtnei Brown, a 6-foot-6, 255-pounder, looks the part but never was a major contributor during his four seasons at Clemson.

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 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.