Inside the 49ers

The 49ers landed an extra fifth-round selection on Tuesday when the NFL handed out compensatory picks for the April draft. The Niners, who also received two seventh-round compensatory picks, will have seven of the top 175 picks in the college lottery.

A total of 32 compensatory choices in this year's draft were awarded to 14 different teams, with the St. Louis Rams and Philadelphia Eagles leading the way with four picks each. The biggest winner, however, was Denver. The Broncos received just two compensatory picks - but one was a third-rounder and the other a fourth-rounder.

Carolina and New England joined the Niners as teams with three picks. Oakland, Dallas, Indianapolis, Seattle, Tennessee and Denver each had two.

Under the terms of the NFL collective bargaining agreement, a team losing more or better compensatory free agents than it acquires in a year is eligible to receive compensatory draft picks. The number of picks a team receives equals the net loss of compensatory free agents up to a maximum of four.

Compensatory free agents are determined by a formula based on salary, playing time and postseason honors. The formula was developed by the NFL management council. Not every free agent lost or signed by a club is covered by the formula.

The 49ers received their picks for losing cornerback Jason Webster, defensive tackle Travis Kirschke and receiver Tai Streets in 2004 free agency.

The compensatory picks awarded the 49ers are the Nos. 174, 248 and 249 in the draft.

--- WITH THE EXTRA sixth-rounder the Niners will have this year as part of the deal that sent receiver Terrell Owens to Philadelphia, San Francisco will have 11 picks in the draft. After the compensatory picks were added to the draft order Tuesday, the Niners now know exactly where each of their picks are over the two-day lottery.

The 49ers own the first pick in the first round (No. 1 overall), first in the second round (No. 33), first in the third round (No. 65), first in the fourth round (No. 102), first in the fifth round (No. 137), 38th in the fifth round (No. 174), first in the sixth round (No. 175), 31st in the sixth round (No. 205), first in the seventh round (No. 215), 34th in the seventh round (No. 248) and 35th in the seventh round (No. 249).

--- THE 49ERS RETAINED versatile defensive back Dwaine Carpenter on Tuesday when they signed the exclusive rights free agent to a one-year, $380,000 deal.

In his second season with the team last year, Carpenter was inconsistent but certainly had enough quality moments in one of the 49ers' weakest areas to be asked back by the team.

As he did in 2003, Carpenter played both safety and cornerback last season, starting six consecutive games at cornerback beginning with the team's Nov. 11 clash with Carolina.

The 6-foot-1, 203-pounder ranked 10th on the team with 49 tackles last year and ranked fifth with two sacks. He also had five passes defensed, one interception and one fumble recovery.

The athletic Carpenter turned both of his takeaways into big-play events. He returned his interception 31 yards against New England - the 49ers' longest interception return of the year. He returned his fumble recovery 80 yards for a touchdown against Chicago - also San Francisco's longest return of the season and one of just two touchdowns produced by the Niners' defense in 2004.

--- THE 49ERS RELEASED first-year wide receiver/kick returner Wendall Williams, who originally was signed by the team last June. The Rhode Island product then was waived and re-signed again three different times before training camp was over.

--- IT'S OFFICIAL: THE 49ers will participate in the NFL's first regular-season game outside the United States when they play the Arizona Cardinals on Oct. 2 in Mexico City.

The league confirmed the matchup - which was first reported last week - earlier this week at the annual NFL meetings. ESPN will televise the Sunday night game from Azteca Stadium. As host team, Arizona forfeits one of the home games on its 2005 schedule at Sun Devel Stadium.

The 49ers are both anxious and excited to play in the game.

"This organization has always embraced the opportunity to serve as ambassadors of the NFL," 49ers owner John York said. "We have played in eight American Bowl games - the second-most in league history - and we are excited about the prospect of playing the first regular-season game on foreign soil. Having this opportunity speaks to the popularity of the 49ers worldwide. The fans in Mexico are tremendous, and we look forward to being a part of it."

Said 49ers coach Mike Nolan, "We are honored to have the chance to play the first regular-season game outside the United States. It is a big game against a division rival in prime time. We have all heard about the rabid sports fans in Mexico, and they will fill the stadium. It's going to be an exciting environment. We are looking forward to the opportunity."

Arizona was an obvious choice to switch a home game to Mexico because the Cardinals rarely sell out Sun Devil Stadium. They can expect a crowd of more than 100,000 at Azteca Stadium for the game against the 49ers. On Aug. 15, 1994, a crowd of 112,376 - the largest in NFL history - saw a preseason game between the Dallas Cowboys and Houston Oilers in Mexico City.

"Mexico is the country with the most NFL fans outside of the United States," NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue said. "Our fans in Mexico are knowledgeable and passionate and they are ready for this next step. They have supported our American Bowl games in record numbers and NFL programming has been part of television in Mexico for many decades.

"The Cardinals and 49ers play in markets with large Hispanic communities, including many people of Mexican descent. This game will generate new excitement both in Mexico and in Hispanic communities throughout the United States, and it promises to become a milestone in the NFL's history as a global sport."

--- THE 49ERS' FIRST minicamp is scheduled for April 1-3, with the veterans getting a head start on learning from the new coaching staff.

Coach Mike Nolan said he would like for incumbent starting quarterback Tim Rattay to be ready, but there are questions whether he will be cleared to participate. Rattay underwent forearm surgery after the season. He is also recovering from plantar fasciitis in his right foot, which ended his 2004 season with four games still remaining on the team's schedule.

Although the minicamp is scheduled a full three weeks prior to the draft, Nolan said what he sees during that time will likely not impact which positions will be targeted in the draft.

--- CENTER JEREMY NEWBERRY will not participate in the April minicamp because of surgery unrelated to his problems of last season. Newberry underwent surgery this week to remove his tonsils and soft tissue from his throat to relieve symptoms of sleep apnea.

Offensive tackle Kwame Harris (shoulder), defensive end Andre Carter (back), defensive tackle Isaac Sopoaga (back) and linebacker Julian Peterson (Achilles) will not take part in practices.

--- DURING HIS PRO Day workout last week, Cal junior Aaron Rodgers showed more athleticism, arm strength and accuracy than any quarterback the 49ers currently have on their roster, making many onlookers believe that he has risen to the top of the board.

Nolan said the club has not made its decision on the No. 1 overall pick, and probably will not solidify its plan until a week or two prior to the April 23 draft. If the 49ers hold onto the No. 1 pick, they will try to get the top selection signed prior to the draft, Nolan said.

Rodgers clearly is the more polished of the quarterbacks in the draft because of his exposure to the pro-style offense that Cal coach Jeff Tedford runs at Cal. Alex Smith, the other top quarterback prospect, spent most of his time at Utah in the shotgun formation. However, Nolan said that aspect is minimized because he would go into the draft expecting the top pick to play his entire career with the 49ers.

"Really, it's who is going to be the best player in three years, as opposed to who is the best today," Nolan said.

One reason the 49ers are inclined to take a quarterback with the No. 1 pick is because third-stringer Cody Pickett might be the most physically talented of the group the team already has on its roster.

Rattay, who was in his first season as the full-time starter last year, has an acceptable throwing arm but he lacks mobility and last season struggled with injuries. Backup Ken Dorsey is a hard worker and a student of the game, but he lacks mobility and arm strength. Pickett rarely saw any action as a rookie. All three quarterbacks on the 49ers' roster last season entered the league as seventh-round draft picks of the 49ers.

--- THE THOUGHT OF being the No. 1 pick of the 49ers is enough to excite Rodgers, who grew up watching the 49ers from his home in Chico, Calif., about 150 miles from San Francisco.

"They were my childhood team growing up, so that would be awesome," Rodgers said. "But I have no preference. I just want an opportunity to compete for a job and help an organization."

--- EMBATTLED WIDE RECEIVER David Boston remains on the radar screen for the 49ers. The only thing that is likely to keep him from being added to the team at some point in the next three weeks would be if his expected face-to-face meeting with Nolan does not go well.

Nolan wants to meet with Boston and ask him some tough questions. He said he wants to make sure Boston will be a good fit for the organization.

"David can certainly bring a lot to the table," Nolan said. "I have to get involved to make sure it's going to work. It has to be a mutual thing. It'll have to be as much on our terms as his."

--- THE 49ERS HELD internal discussions on the possibility of trading for Indianapolis running back Edgerrin James but decided it was not worth pursuing, Nolan said.

"If you look at the whole picture, it's not a good fit today as we speak," Nolan said. "There are other restraints that are part of the decision, whether it's (salary) cap or depth issues."

The 49ers are committed to Kevan Barlow after paying him a $6.5 million option bonus last week. The club could not afford to trade or cut Barlow because of the hefty acceleration.

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