Brown living up to expectations -- on and off field

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Brown living up to expectations -- on and off field

SANTA CLARA -- The move was widely seen as a gamble back in April 2007.

Cornerback Tarell Brown, who had been arrested twice within five months for marijuana possession, became an example throughout the nation of a prospective NFL player who was a "character risk" during the draft.

As a result, the player generally regarded as a third-round talent saw his draft stock plummet and his reputation shattered after his two well-publicized run-ins with the law.

The 49ers' top two decision-makers at the time, coach Mike Nolan and general manager Scot McCloughan, met with Brown on separate occasions and investigated the incidents thoroughly. Texas coach Mack Brown vouched for his former player's character.

The 49ers ended Brown's fall in the draft. The club selected him in the fifth round as the 147th player chosen. McCloughan would later say he never considered Brown much of a risk, at all.

Midway into his third season, the 49ers rewarded Brown with a contract extension through the 2013 season. Brown, now 26, has continued to live up to the organization's expectation that his missteps off the field would not be repeated.

When told Thursday that Brown entered the league with some baggage, 49ers defensive coordinator Vic Fangio was clearly taken aback."Really? That surprises me," Fangio said.

Fangio said he knew next to nothing about Brown before he followed coach Jim Harbaugh from Stanford to the 49ers. And since he has started coaching Brown, Fangio said he has been thoroughly impressed.

"I don't know what his circumstances were, but where he's at today, what my exposure to him has been since the beginning of training camp, I'd have a hard time believing that he had any issues on or off the field," Fangio said.

A week ago, Raiders linebacker Rolando McClain was arrested on a variety of misdemeanor charges, including one for discharging a firearm, in his hometown in Alabama. While all the details have yet to come to light, it's safe to assume McClain placed himself in a position that could've easily been avoided.And that is the lesson Brown said he learned the difficult way.

"You have to surround yourself with positive people," Brown told CSNBayArea.com. "Sometimes, it's not always the person, it's the company that you keep. A lot of times your company can bring you down and put you in a bad situation.

"In my situation, in college, I was around some people that didn't have my best interests at heart. It hurt me in the long run. At the end of the day, all I could do was get better as a person. I know that's not me. I guess everybody around here who's been around me and hangs around me, they know I'm not that type of person."

Veteran cornerback Shawntae Spencer has been Brown's teammate every step of the way. And he can't fathom how anyone could've ever had any question about Brown's intentions.

"Personally, I don't believe it," Spencer said. "I think I speak for everyone here, saying we haven't seen anything remotely close to allegations of the character issues he supposedly had coming out of Texas. He's a great guy -- a family guy.

"He's grown as a player. But as a person, he's always been a good guy. He laughs, cracks a lot of jokes. He's very intelligent. He's never been in any trouble -- on the field, off the field, nothing like that."

Brown has endured many hardships in his life. When he was 9, his mother was murdered as she was getting into her car to go to work one morning. He moved in with his father, who saw football as Tarell's vehicle to earn a scholarship and get an education. Two months before the draft that would see the 49ers select Brown, his father died of a heart attack.

A month later, Brown was arrested a second time for possession. Brown was with his cousin, whom authorities said had a history of drug possession. For his first brush with the law, Brown was suspended for the Texas-Ohio State game in 2006 after getting arrested for possession of marijuana and gun possession. A former teammate assumed responsibility for the marijuana.

"I don't think people have looked to bring me down, I just think it's a selfish world and a lot of times people might not realize the things they're putting their friends or family through," Brown said. "They might not know they're putting other people in danger. It might be a normal routine for them. But to me, it's not a normal routine because if my name's in the paper, it's a big deal. If your name's in the paper, it's brushed under the rug. It's a big difference."

Brown requested drug tests both times, and both times he was proven clean. The charges were dismissed.It's not so much that Brown has changed as a person. But those episodes forced him to make some difficult choices about with whom he could socialize.

"When you're young, you feel like your invincible," Brown said. "You feel like your friends, what they do, won't hurt you. But it can. So you got to keep yourself away from those types of people and say, 'Look, we can be friends but at a distance. We can speak, but coming to my house or hanging out or riding in a car or going to spend time with my family? No, we can't do that.

"I learned from it and it made me a better person because now I'm a father and I know how to carry myself and I know how to say "No' or 'We don't have the same goals or the same interests, so why do you need to be around me?' You live and you learn. As you get older, you get better."

And Brown has gotten better on the field, too. After starting five games over his first four NFL seasons, Brown has nailed down a job as the full-time starter at right cornerback. He ranks third on the team with 10 passes defensed on a defense that is surrendering a league-low 13.4 points per game.

"(He's) a real pro," Fangio said. "The guy works really hard in the meetings, watching film, taking notes, studying, asking questions. He does everything off the field that you would want a guy to do."

Mailbag: Which 49ers vets are on shaky ground?

Mailbag: Which 49ers vets are on shaky ground?

The 49ers’ new regime heads to the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis this week with the first major wave of offseason activity set to kick off.

Already, the 49ers have made roster improvements. And there figure to be plenty of activity ahead in the coming weeks.

Here are some questions submitted by readers on Facebook for this edition of 49ers Mailbag:

Do you see the 49ers cutting ties with larger contracts like Bethea, Torrey Smith and Ahmad Brooks?‬ (Blair Wilkins)
The 49ers have approximately $75 million in space under the salary cap – and that’s before any adjustment of Colin Kaepernick’s contract. So it’s not as if the organization needs to create cap room.

Any decision made to part ways with veteran players will be made solely on how that player fits into what the 49ers envision on the field.

And that’s what general manager John Lynch, coach Kyle Shanahan and his staff are doing now. They are studying the video from last season to determine which players fit their ideals.

Safety Antoine Bethea is scheduled to earn $5.75 million. Bethea, 32, enters the final year of his contract. There is no question he is everything the 49ers want in a player off the field. If one of the younger guys is not better than Bethea, there is no reason to get rid of him.

Brooks is on the books to earn $5.3 million in 2017. That’s not a huge amount for a starting outside linebacker or defensive end – whichever spot he might fit best. The 49ers must look to upgrade their pass rush. Brooks turns 33 next month. He’s good for six sacks a season. Again, it’s not as if the 49ers can’t afford him. And, as of now, it’s not as if the 49ers have anyone better.

Smith is scheduled to earn $8 million. He has been vastly underutilized in his two seasons since signing with the 49ers. He’s the most interesting case of the high-priced veterans.

Kyle Shanahan’s offense is predicated on using the running game to set up the play-action shot down the field. Smith is limited. He’s not a possession receiver. He’s not going to make plays over the middle. He is an outside receiver whose contributions come in the vertical passing game. But that’s what Shanahan wants.

If Smith is paired with a strong tight end, a running back who catch the ball out of the backfield, a slot receiver with short-area quickness to get open underneath, a very good receiver on the other side and an accurate quarterback who can throw the deep ball, there should be a role for Smith in the 49ers’ offense.

Will the 49ers continue to be aggressive pursuing free agents this offseason? If so, what positions?‬ (Bradley Lodge)
The 49ers have zeroed in on two veteran free agents and they signed them both.

The organization has already spent more money than it did all of last offseason on veteran free agency with the four-year, $16 million deal to sign defensive tackle Earl Mitchell, whom the Miami Dolphins recently released.

Nickel back K’Waun Williams has a history with 49ers defensive backs coach Jeff Hafley. The 49ers did not have to make much of a financial investment to sign him.

The 49ers will definitely go after a veteran quarterback or two in free agency or via trade. Pass rusher, inside linebacker and wide receiver are other positions the 49ers can be expected to look during free agency.

The opening of the new league year – when free-agent signings and trades can occur – is March 9. The draft is seven weeks later.

The 49ers must fill as many of their needs with smart deals that fit into the long-term plan with veteran acquisitions. Then, the draft is about taking the best players on their board when it’s time to select. Teams that reach for need generally strike out.

What are the chances of drafting a QB with first pick and playing them behind a Kap / Cousins until they're ready to become starter?‬ (Hillory Broussard)
If Colin Kaepernick returns, it will not be as a no-questions-asked starter. Just read what Lynch said on KNBR this week about the team’s needs:

“Do we have some places – probably the ultimate position, quarterback – where we need to improve? Absolutely. And we’re committed to doing that.”

That statement can easily be interpreted that Lynch does not believe the 49ers had a starting-caliber quarterback on the roster last season.

But if the 49ers were to go out and swing a trade for Kirk Cousins or Jimmy Garoppolo, it’s going to take a big commitment – in terms of draft picks and a suitable new contract. Then, the 49ers would have that player.

Cousins or Garoppolo would unquestionably fill the 49ers’ need at quarterback for 2017 and beyond -- at least in the minds of the 49ers' new decision-makers. There would be no reason for the 49ers to then draft a quarterback with the No. 2 overall pick – if the 49ers even had the No. 2 overall pick at that point.

 

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.