Huff puffing his way into 49ers' view?

Could University of Texas senior Michael Huff be working his way all the way to the top of the draft where a team such as the 49ers might be willing to grab him as the best defensive back available? Huff, who turned in a scorching 40-yard dash time of 4.35 seconds at the NFL Combine on Tuesday, is displaying a combination of speed along with his known hitting ability that is indicating to scouts that he can play either cornerback or safety with a high degree of excellence at the next level.

At 6-foot-1 and 205 pounds, he had the size to play both. After his workouts at the combine, there is no doubt he also has the speed to excel in the NFL at both positions. Huff's time was second among defensive backs only to the 4.31 turned in by Clemson cornerback Tye Hill, a much smaller man.

Huff, also a track star, is the type of athlete that takes the game seriously, as noted in his workouts.

"We know Huff can run, isn't afraid to mix it up in run support, and has that knack of finding the ball," one NFC scout said. "This kid works as hard as any in the Texas program and coach (Mack) Brown has had only glowing things to say about his work ethic and mental approach to the game."

Despite their desire to keep visits and intentions quiet, Scout.com has learned the Detroit Lions, Atlanta Falcons, and Houston Texans have talked with Huff recently, with the Lions and Falcons showing a keen interest in the multi-faceted defensive back. The 49ers also are known to have interest in the versatile DB, who now is challenging Virginia Tech senior Jimmy Williams for consideration as the top defensive back available in the 2006 college lottery.

The 49ers are considering other big-name defensive players at their current No. 6 slot in the first round - including North Carolina State defensive end Mario Williams and Ohio State linebacker A.J. Hawk, to name two - but one of the team's most pressing needs is at defensive back, and San Francisco might not hesitate to pull the trigger on a player who can come in and start immediately in a secondary that needs upgrading.

COMBINE NOTES

Denver Broncos: According to a source with knowledge of the situation, the team is leaning toward not picking up the $1.5 million roster bonus due for tight end Jeb Putzier at the scheduled start of free agency on Friday. The 49ers are one of the teams waiting in line to take a stab at Putzier on the open market if he indeed becomes available as an unrestricted free agent.

Arizona Cardinals: Scout.com has confirmed that the team has interest in Pittsburgh Steelers WR Antwaan Randle El, who would take the place of Bryant Johnson as the team's No. 3 receiver. He would also handle special teams returns for Arizona if he signed there. However, it's doubtful Randle El would be agreeable to that situation as he's looking to sign for starter's money and he wants to be in that type of role, not coming off the bench.

Kansas City Chiefs: According to a source with knowledge of the situation, several veterans - as many as seven or eight - have until the scheduled start of free agency on Friday to accept pay cuts or face being released. Among those who are believed to be on that list are G Will Shields (cap figure of close to $7 million), S Jerome Woods (scheduled to make $1.6 million), S Greg Wesley (scheduled to make $2.5 million), LB Shawn Barber (scheduled to make $2.75 million), and CB Eric Warfield (scheduled to make more than $3 million).

Philadelphia Eagles: According to a league source with knowledge of the situation, the team has a close eye on what the New York Jets will do with C Kevin Mawae, who has turned down a pay cut. Mawae has a cap value of more than $4 million which the team wants to reduce. If Mawae is cut loose, look for the Eagles to make a run at signing him. If they do wind up signing him, that would likely mean the end to veteran C Hank Fraley who has one season left on his contract.

The Eagles have a passing interest in Seattle Seahawks DT Rocky Bernard, but according to a team source, they're concerned that he may be a one-year wonder and likely won't pursue him.

The Eagles do have an interest in Pittsburgh's Randle El, but they want to see what his market price will be so they may wait a little bit after free agency starts to make him an offer.

Seattle Seahawks: According to a source with knowledge of the situation, there has been some progress in contract negotiations between the team and RB Shaun Alexander's agent Jim Steiner. However, it's believed both sides still have a long way to go in regard to the guaranteed money that Alexander's looking for.


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