Soon-to-be-busy Baalke addresses 49ers' hot topics

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Soon-to-be-busy Baalke addresses 49ers' hot topics

July 15, 2011MAIOCCO ARCHIVE
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Matt MaioccoCSNBayArea.com

With a new labor agreement looming on the horizon, it will not be long before 49ers general manager Trent Baalke's plan for the 2011 season is put into action.Baalke shared some of his thoughts on free agency and other matters Thursday with Tim Kawakami, San Jose Mercury News columnist and frequent guest on CSN Bay Area's Chronicle Live.RELATED: Trent Baalke's interview with Tim Kawakami
Here are Baalke's most salient comments from the lengthy interview: FREE AGENT SPENDING
"We're not going to be major players. From a philosophical standpoint, we're not going to be major players in free agency. Does that mean we will never go out and pursue a high-end free agent? No. But philosophically, we're going to build this team through the draft. And when the right time arises and the right player's available, that we feel sets us up for a different level of play, we'll be in a position hopefully to make that move."Reading between the lines: Does a starting cornerback set the 49ers up to produce their first winning record and playoff appearance since 2002? The 49ers have had plenty of time to consider that question. This certainly does not rule out the possibility the 49ers will pursue a top-level free agent. It's always wise to under-promise and over-deliver. THE CLEMENTS QUESTIONWhen asked whether Baalke considers Nate Clements a cornerback or a safety, Baalke answered, "I'm quite confident in the thought process that Nate's a corner. Is he a guy that can lock down on the perimeter or move inside? The thing that's always been a strength of Nate's is his versatility. Could he play safety? Could someone envision him playing safety at some point? Certainly. He's smart enough, he's certainly physical enough, and he has the skills to play back there. But that's not what we're looking at him as."Kawakami points out that Clements would be a "pretty expensive safety." Baalke responds, "Right."MAIOCCO: Exploring the Clements-to-safety question
When asked if Clements is a player whose salary the club might want to "ratchet down," Baalke answered, "I've said this a long time ago, I'm not in a position or would I want to discuss the details of contracts with the media relative to any player on our roster."Reading between the lines: If the 49ers plan for Clements to return at his scheduled salary, Baalke would've said something much different to that last question. "Nate Clements will be on this team," he could've said. Instead, he left Clements' future with the 49ers in doubt. The 49ers view Clements as a cornerback. In their budget, it seems apparent that they'd like to reduce his salary and put that money into re-signing one of their own players. KEEPING THE TEAM TOGETHEROn re-signing as many of the 49ers' 15 free agents as possible, Baalke said: "I'm a guy that likes to believe that you're far better off dealing with the known than the unknown, right? You know your guys the best and if they are guys that you think are 49ers and 49ers moving forward, you're going to try to everything you can to keep them, realizing it's still a business and you can't keep everybody. You can't make everybody happy."I think it's always important to keep good football players and we're doing to do everything we can to keep as many of them as we can. But the fact remains, it's a business. And you can't keep them all, you can't pay them all, you can't make everybody happy.MAIOCCO: Uncertainty abounds on 49ers' defense
"So we're going to do the best we can within the budget that we have, within the cap space that we have, and that's all any team can do. You just can't keep them all together. We wish we could. But we can't," Baalke concluded.Reading between the lines: Outside linebacker Manny Lawson and nose tackle Aubrayo Franklin will get some free-agent attention around the league. The 49ers drafted Lawson's replacement, Aldon Smith, with the No. 7 overall pick. And the 49ers have contingency plans to place a priority on re-signing defensive end Ray McDonald, starting him at left defensive end, and shifting Isaac Sopoaga to nose tackle to replace Franklin. GOLDSON TOP PRIORITYKawakami asked Baalke, ". . . would (Dashon) Goldson be maybe the highest priority because of his age, his experience, and his key position in the middle of the secondary?"I think that's fair to say," Baalke said.Reading between the lines: The most money the 49ers are going to spend to re-sign a defensive player will be on Goldson. He is their best defensive back and, not surprisingly, he's their top priority on defense to re-sign. VETERAN COMPETITION FOR SMITHQuarterback Alex Smith is coming back, but would the 49ers also bring in another veteran quarterback who has started in the NFL?"We've got scenarios that will address it in different fashions," Baalke said. "The goal has always been to bring in the best possible players we possibly can. It's going to be an open competition, whether it's the quarterback position or the linebacker position."Because of a new staff and because of all the changes that have taken place, nobody's guaranteed the right to start. They're going to have to come in here and earn their jobs. Now granted some have a better chance of doing that than others, we all know that."Reading between the lines: The 49ers aren't going to get into bidding wars to add another quarterback to their roster. But if a veteran that fits becomes available and the right price, the 49ers would not hesitate to bring him to training camp.
49ERS 'ABSOLUTELY' WANT BAAS
The team's stance on re-signing center David Baas, a pending unrestricted free agent . . . "He's the type of individual that you want," Baalke said. "He's got the intangibles, the characteristics you want. And he's a good football player. You don't want to lose good football players. And once again, you can't keep 'em all. Those are things that have to play out. Would we like to keep him? Absolutely. Will we be able to keep him? I hope we can."Reading between the lines: He was a top priority for a contract extension during last season, and his value to the team has only increased with veteran Eric Heitmann
out for the season following recent neck surgery. The 49ers drafted two centerguard prospects, but neither is expected to be ready to be a starting center this season.

Cam Newton benched to start game vs Seahawks for breaking dress code

Cam Newton benched to start game vs Seahawks for breaking dress code

SEATTLE — A missing necktie led to Carolina quarterback Cam Newton getting benched for one series on Sunday night.

Ron Rivera didn't expect it to last just one play.

Carolina's miserable night was capped by a 40-7 loss to Seattle following the most awkward of starts. With Newton being punished for not having a necktie for the team flight to Seattle, the Panthers' starting QB watched backup Derek Anderson throw an interception on the first play of the game.

The turnover only led to a field goal for Seattle, but it was the start of an otherwise forgettable performance by the Panthers that provided another blow to the dwindling playoff hopes of the reigning NFC champions.

Newton missed just one play, but was also just 14-of-32 passing for 182 yards and one touchdown. After pulling within 10-7 in the second quarter, Carolina let Seattle score the final 30 points.

Seahawks lose Thomas, but run all over Panthers in Seattle

Seahawks lose Thomas, but run all over Panthers in Seattle

BOX SCORE

SEATTLE -- Thomas Rawls ran for 103 yards and two touchdowns in the first half, Tyler Lockett took a reverse 75 yards for a score to open the second half and the Seattle Seahawks routed the Carolina Panthers 40-7 on Sunday night.

Another prime-time game in Seattle was clouded with odd story lines right from the outset when Carolina quarterback Cam Newton was benched for the first play, only to watch backup Derek Anderson throw an interception . It was the start of miserable night for Carolina (4-8) and a laugher that moved Seattle (8-3-1) one step closer to the NFC West title.

Rawls and the run game set the tone for Seattle, gashing the second-best run defense in the NFL for 240 yards. Carolina entered the week giving up less than 80 yards per game on the ground.

Rawls finished with 106 yards on 15 carries, quiet in the second half after briefly being checked for a concussion. He was just the second 100-yard rusher for a run game that has lagged most of the season. Rawls' 8-yard run gave Seattle an early 10-0 lead and his 45-yard sprint early in the second quarter pushed it to 17-7.

Russell Wilson was 26 of 36 for 277 yards and a 1-yard scoring pass to Jimmy Graham in the fourth quarter. The Seahawks rolled up a season-high 534 yards and kept a three-game lead over Arizona in the division with four remaining.

Seattle safety Earl Thomas broke a bone in his lower left leg during a first-half collision with teammate Kam Chancellor while trying to intercept Newton's pass. Thomas hobbled off the field putting no weight on the leg and X-rays revealed a "cracked tibia," coach Pete Carroll told Seattle's radio broadcast.

On the play after Thomas' injury, Newton hit Ted Ginn Jr. on a 55-yard touchdown pass to pull the Panthers to 10-7. It would be the only highlight for Carolina.

Rawls immediately answered, darting through the Carolina defense for the 45-yard touchdown run and a 17-7 lead. Steven Hauschka added two more field goals before halftime and Lockett raced 75 yards on a reverse on the first play of the second half. In less than 10 minutes of game time, Seattle extended the lead to 30-7.

Newton's benching was for a dress code violation, according to the NBC broadcast and the single play he missed could not have gone worse. Anderson rolled out to throw a pass to Mike Tolbert. It bounced off Tolbert's hands and into the arms of Mike Morgan, a disastrous result for that only added to questions about coach Ron Rivera's intention with the punishment.

Newton finished 14 of 32 for 182 yards.

LOPSIDED RESULT

It was seventh meeting in the past five years between the Seahawks and Panthers, playoffs included. It was the first time of the seven the game was decided by more than 14 points. Five of the previous six were decided by seven points or less. The biggest win during the stretch was Seattle's 31-17 win in the 2014 playoffs.

BATTERED PANTHERS

Carolina's injury list grew again.

The Panthers were already without starters Kurt Coleman and Luke Kuechly (concussions), and defensive end Mario Addison (foot) on defense, and right tackle Daryl Williams (ankle) on offense. Carolina then lost cornerback Daryl Worley and linebacker David Mayo to concussions against the Seahawks.

THOMAS TWEETS

One of the most emotional players on Seattle's roster, Thomas hinted at retirement in a tweet sent just before halftime.

"This game has been so good to me no regrets. A lot is running through my mind including retirement thanks for all the prayers," Thomas tweeted from the Seattle locker room.

Thomas missed the first game of his career last week at Tampa Bay due to a hamstring injury.

UP NEXT

Panthers: Carolina returns home and hosts San Diego.

Seahawks: Seattle travels to Green Bay.