Harbaugh: 'It feels great to have that many draft picks'
Michael Crabtree is one of five important players that become a free agent after the 2014 season. (USA TODAY IMAGES)
Many of the 49ers' pre-draft questions have been answered after the first couple weeks of the new league year.
Any situations with prospective free agent acquisitions remain in holding patterns. The 49ers are continuing to formulate their plan for the draft. With 14 picks, expect a lot of movement from the 49ers. They can move up or move back in this year's draft. And they can certainly be expected to move back into next year's draft, too.
Let's go to our friends on Facebook, who supplied questions for this 49ers Mailbag, to see what else is on the minds of 49ers fans:
Do you think we end up giving Crabtree an extension before his contract expires? (Joey Gándar)
The 49ers have five big-ticket players whose contracts expire after the 2014 season. Wide receiver Michael Crabtree is one of them, but he might be down the list because of the position he plays.
By the way, this is the reason the 49ers are very reluctant to sign any free agents to lucrative, long-term contracts. Any long-term deal they award to someone probably means the 49ers will not be able to keep one of their own young players.
So, anyway, back to Crabtree. . .
He definitely ranks behind quarterback Colin Kaepernick. The 49ers must sign Kaepernick to a long-term contract. And if he continues to play like he did in his 10 starts last season, Kaepernick will get a huge deal to make him among the highest-paid quarterbacks in the NFL. The 49ers had a lot of trouble signing Crabtree as a draft pick. If he keeps the same representation of agent Eugene Parker, it's going to be extremely difficult to get Crabtree signed after he's experienced some NFL success.
Aldon Smith, Anthony Davis and Mike Iupati are also players signed through 2014. Each of those players is likely to command big dollars, too. And each of those players might rank ahead of Crabtree on the list of priorities.
With the emergence of LaMichael James after Kendall Hunter got hurt, do you see the 49ers platooning three running backs next season? (Jim Scales)
The 49ers, obviously, consider Frank Gore as their starter for 2013. And if Kendall Hunter comes back strong from his Achilles surgery (he's expected to be ready for the opening of training camp), he will be the clear No. 2.
But, unlike last season when James did not suit up for games until Hunter's injury, James factors into the 49ers' active 46 this season from Day 1. He'll be a change-of-pace offensive weapon. James will also be the 49ers' main kickoff returner. And he has a chance to be the team's punt returner to replace Ted Ginn, if he proves he can comfortably field punts.
What positions will they target most with the first 4 picks in the draft? (Rick Chlopicki)
The 49ers are scheduled to have five selections in the top 93 selections. I'd be very surprised if the 49ers keep those picks without any kind of movement -- up, down or even to next year's draft.
Free safety is the only spot where the 49ers will be expected to select a player capable of starting immediately. But that does not mean they'll take a safety with the No. 31 overall pick -- or even at No. 34.
This is a great draft at the safety position. At the NFL owners meetings, I repeatedly heard that a lot of teams believe there are five or six immediate starting safeties coming out in the draft.
Tight end, defensive line and cornerback are other positions where the 49ers can be expected to pounce, depending on which players are available at the times they make their selections.
As a fan, I love extending Bowman's contract but do the Niners have too much money invested in the ILB position? (Teddy Verdun)
That is exactly why a year ago at this time I thought it was a real possibility that NaVorro Bowman would not get a long-term contract with the 49ers.
Teams generally invest their money on defense in pass-rushers and cornerbacks. It's very rare that a team such as the 49ers, who play a 3-4 defense, would have two inside linebackers as their two highest-paid players.
Patrick Willis averages $10 million in annual pay through 2016. Bowman is signed through 2018 at $8.9 million annually. That's why it was inconceivable that the 49ers would be competitive against the $8.25 million annual offer that safety Dashon Goldson got from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Why didn't we work out or re-sign Josh Johnson? (Derrick NinerEmpire Lackey Senior)
The 49ers had Josh Johnson for the entire 2012 offseason, training camp and four exhibition games. The 49ers knew exactly what they'd be getting with Johnson, who played quarterback for Jim Harbaugh at the University of San Diego. The 49ers cut Johnson in favor of Alex Smith, Kaepernick and Scott Tolzien.
When the 49ers released Johnson, they made no mention about the possibility of ever bringing him back. Clearly, they turned the page on Johnson. Even with Kaepernick and Tolzien as the only quarterbacks on the roster, the 49ers thought they could do better. Johnson signed a two-year contract Saturday with the Cincinnati Bengals. Meanwhile, the 49ers are likely to bring in at least one rookie to compete with Tolzien for the backup job.