Niners notebook

The first wave of candidates to replace fired general manager Terry Donahue have been through the doors at 49ers headquarters in Santa Clara to interview for the opening. The 49ers have yet to say whether the position will be called general manager or some other derivative of a head of football operations.

Broncos director of pro personnel Rick Smith, Charles Bailey - who holds the same position with the Jaguars - and Colts assistant general manager/football operations and pro personnel Chris Polian were the first three official candidates for the job.

Others believed to be on the 49ers' radar screen are: Atlanta's Ron Hill, New England's Thomas Dimitroff, Seattle's Scot McCloughan, Chicago's Greg Gabriel and the New York Giants' Jerry Reese.

Brian Gardner, a 49ers national scout who has been with the club for 10 seasons, also has emerged as a candidate and is scheduled to interview on Saturday. McCloughan was scheduled to interview with team officials today.

The Niners' current director of player personnel Bill Rees is not a candidate for a promotion. It is not known whether the club will fire him after a new personnel chief is hired.

--- New coach Mike Nolan spent three days this week at the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Ala., where he scouted some of the top draft-eligible players in the country while also working toward assembling his coaching staff.

Nolan and the new personnel man will collaborate on putting together the team's roster. The No. 1 priority this offseason is to find an immediate impact player with the top overall pick in the draft.

--- Nolan said he expects the 49ers to be a lot more aggressive this season in free agency. It has been three years since the 49ers signed a veteran free agent for more than just a minimum contract. In 2002, they signed safety Tony Parrish and guard Ron Stone.

The 49ers should be in good salary-cap shape this offseason, as they have $12.9 million in cap room with 54 players signed. Included in that total is an inflated $5 million salary for CB Jimmy Williams, whose deal voids next month. But the 49ers will have to spend at least $7.3 million if they plan to use the franchise tag again on linebacker Julian Peterson.

Peterson said he hopes with the changes that have been made in the front office, the climate might be more conducive for him to come to terms on a multi-year contract.

"It's been a big turnaround," Peterson said. "I know it's the first time they've given a coach this much power in a long time. It should be interesting to see how we go about the situation. Right now, they seem to be doing a lot of great things, so hopefully we can keep on turning it around and get into a positive mode."

--- Assistant head coach/linebackers Mike Singletary said he was impressed when he had a chance to look at the 49ers' group of linebackers. The linebackers are considered the strength of the team, with Peterson, Derek Smith, Jeff Ulbrich and Jamie Winborn.

"I see some guys that are good athletes, some guys who can run and some guys who can make plays," Singletary said. "I don't think any of these guys will every hear me talk about the linebackers that we had in Baltimore. We had some great linebackers in Baltimore, but I think you have some great linebackers here and it's just a matter of them being willing to pay the price and being willing to learn."

--- The 49ers were one of Singletary's biggest rivals during his 11 seasons in the NFL. The 49ers twice defeated the Bears in the NFC Championship game, posting a 23-0 win in 1984 at Candlestick Park, and a memorable 28-3 victory in 1988 in 26-below wind chill at Soldier Field.

Singletary said he began to think of that rivalry when Nolan handed him a 49ers shirt to wear.

"So I was putting it on and all of those memories were coming into my mind," Singletary said. "I think the guys here, all of the ballplayers that are here, should really appreciate (the 49ers' past) -- even if they can't understand what this organization was. Mike Nolan is here and has really trusted me to come alongside him and help bring that back. The past will always be the past. But you have to learn it and draw from the past to bring about a new present. So I'm excited from that perspective, from what the 49ers have always meant to me. Whenever I think of the 49ers even to this day, I think of greatness, I think of excellence, I think of tradition."

Singletary initially came into the NFL at the 49ers' draft position. The Bears traded with the 49ers to select Singletary in the second round. The 49ers ended up selecting cornerback Eric Wright, who was in the back of the room during Singletary's press conference, two spots later with the pick they received from the Bears. The 49ers also got a fifth-round pick, which was used on fullback Arrington Jones, who played one season with the 49ers.

--- Reports that the 49ers might be willing to release running back Kevan Barlow, thus refusing to pay his scheduled $6.5 million roster bonus, are not very realistic. If the 49ers do not pick up the option bonus, approximately $18 million of his contract would then be guaranteed. He's already been paid roughly $2 million of his five-year, $20 million contract.

However, the team could try to work a trade to send Barlow to another team. The problem is that the 49ers would have to find a suitor willing to pay Barlow the $6.5 million bonus.

Now-fired GM Terry Donahue came under fire for signing Barlow to the big contract. He also signed cornerback Ahmed Plummer to a five-year, $25.28 million deal, in which he receives $11 million in guaranteed money.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

UNIT-BY-UNIT ANALYSIS OF CURRENT ROSTER

QUARTERBACK: Starter -- Tim Rattay. Backups -- Ken Dorsey, Cody Pickett.

RUNNING BACKS: Starters -- RB Kevan Barlow, FB Fred Beasley. Backups -- RB Maurice Hicks, RB Terry Jackson, FB Steve Bush, FB Jasen Isom.

TIGHT END: Starter -- Eric Johnson. Backups -- Aaron Walker, Steve Bush.

WIDE RECEIVERS: Starters -- FL Cedrick Wilson, SE Brandon Lloyd. Backups -- Curtis Conway, Rashaun Woods, Arnaz Battle, P.J. Fleck, Derrick Hamilton.

OFFENSIVE LINE: Starters -- LT Kwame Harris, LG Eric Heitmann, C Brock Gutierrez, RG Kyle Kosier, RT Scott Gragg. Backups -- G Justin Smiley, G Rob Murphy, G Scott Peters, T Jerome Davis. Returning injured starter -- C Jeremy Newberry.

DEFENSIVE LINE: Starters -- LE John Engelberger, LT Anthony Adams, RT Bryant Young, RE Andrew Williams. Backups -- DE Tony Brown, DT Chris Cooper, DE Corey Smith, DT Daleroy Stewart. Returning injured starters -- DE Andre Carter, DE Brandon Whiting.

LINEBACKERS: Starters -- LOLB Jeff Ulbrich, MLB Derek Smith, ROLB Jamie Winborn. Backups -- OLB Saleem Rasheed, OLB Ray Wells, MLB Richard Seigler. Returning injured starter -- ROLB Julian Peterson.

DEFENSIVE BACKS: Starters -- LCB Jimmy Williams, RCB Shawntae Spencer, SS Tony Parrish, FS Ronnie Heard. Backups -- CB Joselio Hanson, CB Mike Adams, S Keith Lewis, S Dwaine Carpenter. Returning injured starters -- CB Ahmed Plummer, CB Mike Rumph.

SPECIAL TEAMS: Starters -- K Todd Peterson, P Andy Lee, KR Maurice Hicks, PR Arnaz Battle, LS Brian Jennings, H Andy Lee. Backups -- KR Battle, PR/KR Cedrick Wilson, PK Kirk Yliniemi, PK Chace Long.


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