49ers Mailbag: Brooks' replacement already on team

February 22, 2012, 8:11 pm
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Programming note: 49ers Insider Matt Maiocco is headed to Indianapolis for this week's NFL scouting combine -- stay logged on all week log as Matt files his reports from Lucas Oil Stadium in Indy!

EN ROUTE TO INDIANAPOLISOn Thursday, 49ers general manager Trent Baalke and coach Jim Harbaugh are scheduled to speak to the assembled media in Indianapolis at the NFL scouting combine.Baalke and Harbaugh, each of whom takes a lot of pride in being forthright with the media, will undoubtedly lay out the organization's offseason plan.Will they make a spirited run to sign Pittsburgh receiver Mike Wallace to an offer sheet if the Steelers, as expected, place a first-round tender on the restricted free agent?Baalke will definitely answer that question -- though he might have to be careful to avoid any potential tampering charges. So he'll probably speak in code, perhaps referring to Wallace as "Ecallaw" or something clever like that.Until Baalke and Harbaugh give us a peek behind the curtain, we'll go to the 49ers Mailbag to answer some of the more burning questions. . . Do you think the Niners will draft an outside linebacker with their first pick this year and waive goodbye to Ahmad Brooks? (John Drummond)
The 49ers have the No. 30 overall pick in the draft. At this point they might be able to narrow their first pick to any position other than a kicker, punter or long-snapper.RELATED: Ahmad Brooks 2011 game logs
The 49ers are not going to pay Brooks big money. The reason is because they already have his replacement at every-down outside linebacker on the roster.Perhaps you've heard of him. He's a guy who goes by the name Aldon Smith.In Smith's second NFL season, the 49ers plan for him to be an every-down player. Smith will work this offseason to get ready to play outside linebacker on base downs. Then, he'll move to defensive end to rush the passer in nickel situations.The 49ers believe Parys Haralson can continue in the same role that he filled last season as an outside linebacker on first and second downs to set the edge in the run game.Haralson, who has been an every-down player in the past, could be an every-down player again in 2012. But he'll have to win that job. The 49ers will sign a pass-rush specialist in free agency and draft someone who would fill a role similar to what Aldon Smith played last season as a rookie.What's the situation with Anthony Dixon? Will they bring him back or add another back? (John E. Commons)
Both.Dixon will be back for training camp to compete for a roster spot, but the competition will be much more stiff this season. The 49ers can be expected to draft a running back who is capable of being more of an every-down presence. Look for the team to focus on a player in the 220-pound range who is a one-cut, north-south runner.RELATED: Anthony Dixon 2011 game logs
The 49ers tried to light a fire under Dixon early last season when the team brought in three veteran running backs for a workout in October. Jim Harbaugh loves to create competition, and Dixon will have to bring his "A" game to remain on the roster next season.Are the Niners more apt to fill their need at wideout through the draft or free agency? Is there talent in the draft they deem worthy of a 1st round pick? (Axel Selapen)
The 49ers will draft a wide receiver. It won't necessarily be in the first round, but they will draft a wide receiver.But, first, the 49ers will sign a couple wide receivers after free agency begins on March 13. The 49ers need to add a wide receiver (or two) who can take some of the heat off Michael Crabtree, who led the team in receptions and receiving yards last season.RELATED: Michael Crabtree 2011 game logs
The market will dictate what the 49ers are able to do in free agency. Last year, they signed Braylon Edwards to a low-risk deal. Edwards got injured early in the season and never produced. He became disengaged and he was released.Remember what the 49ers did last season at cornerback? That could be the template the 49ers use to find a receiver, too.The 49ers drafted a cornerback (Chris Culliver), and they also kicked the tires on some of the top free agents, such as Nnamdi Asomugha and Johnathan Joseph.Once the prices for those players exceeded what they had budgeted for the position, the 49ers moved on. Veteran Carlos Rogers fell through the cracks, and the 49ers landed him on a one-year contract.The 49ers will undoubtedly be interested in receivers Vincent Jackson and the aforementioned Mike Wallace. Chief negotiator Paraag Marathe and Baalke have determined the price at which the 49ers can pay those players while not throwing the salary structure of the entire team out of whack.RELATED: Maiocco -- 49ers' free-agent options at wide receiver
If the prices get too high, the 49ers will move on to the next player on their list.And who might be a second-tier receiver on their list? One player to keep an eye on his Pierre Garcon.Garcon isn't particularly big (6-foot, 210 pounds), but he's relatively young (turns 26 in August), and he somehow had his best season in 2011 in spite of the Indianapolis Colts' mess at quarterback. Garcon caught 70 passes for 947 yards, averaging 13.5 yards a catch, while grabbing six touchdowns.RELATED: Pierre Garcon 2011 game logs
And, remember, Joshua Morgan remains very much in the 49ers' plans as he returns from a season-ending broken leg -- just above the ankle. He has been working out regularly at the 49ers' practice facility.