Notebook: The interview process begins

Mike Nolan has begun the interview process to fill the three vacancies on his 49ers' coaching staff.

Nolan was scheduled to interview veteran NFL coach Al Everest on Friday for the special teams coordinator position that became available when Larry Mac Duff left the 49ers on Sunday to join the staff at the University of Texas.

An interview also was set up Friday with Jim Tomsula, a candidate for the team's vacant defensive line coaching position.

Everest, who has 10 years of NFL experience as a special teams coach, was out of coaching this past season following a six-year stint with the New Orleans Saints from 2000-2005, when his units were perennially some of the strongest in the league.

Tomsula, known for his energy and enthusiasm, became the youngest head coach in NFL Europe history in November 2005 when he was named coach of the Rhein Fire at 38. He was defensive coordinator for the Berlin Thunder the past two seasons, winning a World Bowl championship in 2004.

Nolan then is scheduled this weekend to interview former coaching comrade Donnie Henderson's for the team's vacant defensive coordinator position. The two defensive positions opened on the San Francisco staff when Nolan fired defensive coordinator Billy Davis and defensive line coach Gary Emanuel on Jan. 2.

Henderson also was fired on Jan. 2 after just one season as the Detroit Lions' defensive coordinator. Henderson - who was Nolan's defensive backs coach in Baltimore in 2002-2003 when Nolan was the Ravens' defensive coordinator - was defensive coordinator of the New York Jets in 2004-2005. Henderson has eight years of experience as a NFL assistant coach, the past three as a coordinator.

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Former 49ers defensive ends Fred Dean and Richard Dent are among the 17 finalists that will be considered for election to the Pro Football Hall of Fame when the Hall's 40-member Board of Selectors meets in Miami on Feb. 3 to select the Hall's Class of 2007.

Both players, each of whom has been on the Hall ballot several years, advanced from a list of 111 preliminary nominees that earlier was reduced to a list of 25 semifinalists. This is the first time the finalists list numbers 17, an increase of two over previous years.

To be eligible for election, modern-era players must be retired at least five years while a contributor need not be retired. At the February meeting, the selectors will thoroughly discuss the careers of each finalist before narrowing the field to six candidates. At least three candidates must be elected but the total class cannot number more than six.

Joining the two former 49ers on the list of finalists are retiring NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue, 14 other modern-era players and two players nominated earlier by the Hall of Fame's Senior Committee.

The Senior Committee nominees, announced in August 2006, are former Cleveland Browns guard Gene Hickerson and Detroit Lions tight end Charlie Sanders.

The other modern-era finalists include Tagliabue; running back Thurman Thomas; guards Bruce Matthews, Russ Grimm and Bob Kuechenberg; punter Ray Guy; wide receivers Michael Irvin, Art Monk and Andre Reed; linebackers Derrick Thomas and Andre Tippett; cornerback Roger Wehrli; and tackle Gary Zimmerman.

To be elected, a finalist must receive a minimum positive vote of 80 percent. The last 49er selected to the Hall was quarterback Steve Young in 2005.

While Dean was a Pro Bowl star with the 49ers who helped lead the team to two Super Bowl championships during his time in San Francisco from 1981-1985, Dent spent only the 1994 season with the team, and he was injured during most of it.

Dean led the 49ers in sacks three consecutive years from 1981-1983 and was named first-team All-Pro in both 1981, when he had 12 sacks in 11 games, and 1983, when he had 17.5 sacks, tied for the second most in franchise history. Dean had six sacks in a November game against New Orleans that season, which at the time set a new NFL record.

Dean's 151.5 yards in losses on his sacks in 1983 are a franchise record. Dean, who also played with the San Diego Chargers from 1975-1981, ranks seventh in franchise history with 40 sacks, even though he played only three full seasons with the 49ers.

This is Dean's first year as a finalist. Dent, Grimm, Guy, Hickerson, Irvin, Kuechenberg, Monk, Derrick Thomas, Thurman Thomas, Wehrli, and Zimmerman all have been finalists in previous years.

Dean and Dent were the only former 49ers to advance as finalists from the 13 who were among the preliminary list of 111 candidates. That list included former 49ers owner Eddie DeBartolo along with running backs Ricky Watters and Roger Craig, quarterback Jim Plunkett, tight end Brent Jones, defensive linemen Chris Doleman, Charles Haley and Charles Mann, linebackers Rickey Jackson and Kevin Greene and punter Reggie Roby.

Enshrinement of the Class of 2007 will take place at the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio, on the weekend of August 4-5.

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The 49ers have two additional fourth-round picks in the 2007 draft as a result of lopsided trades pulled off by coach Mike Nolan last year with the Washington Redskins and New York Jets.

Prior to last year's draft, the 49ers dealt one of their biggest headaches, receiver Brandon Lloyd, to the Redskins for a third-round pick last year and a fourth-rounder this year. In August, the 49ers traded running back Kevan Barlow, whom Frank Gore beat out for the starting job during training camp, to the Jets for a fourth-round selection.

Lloyd caught just 23 passes for 365 yards and no touchdowns despite starting 12 games for the Redskins this season. Barlow averaged 2.8 yards a carry in 12 games for the Jets. He was inactive several times late in the season, including in the Jets' playoff loss to New England.

The 49ers also expect to gain two compensatory picks, including a third-round selection for losing Pro Bowl linebacker Julian Peterson via free agency to the Seahawks. They hope to gain a fourth-rounder as compensation for losing defensive end Andre Carter to the Redskins.

"Right now, that's what we're hoping for," Nolan said. "I think we're in a 'hope' stage with that until they tell us what it is. As it gets closer and all the numbers come in, we might get to the expect stage. I hope it does."

The 49ers will have the 11th overall pick in the draft, a spot that has produced some quality players in recent years.

In the past nine years, Jay Cutler, DeMarcus Ware, Ben Roethlisberger, Marcus Trufant, Dwight Freeney, Dan Morgan, Daunte Culpepper and Tra Thomas were chosen No. 11. The only disappointment during those years was the Giants' Ron Dayne.

"I'm really excited about that spot," Nolan said.

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The 49ers have been in talks with running back Frank Gore's agent, Drew Rosenhaus, about the possibility of signing Gore to a contract extension.

Gore's original rookie contract is set to expire after the 2007 season, at which time he would be a restricted free agent.

Gore led the NFC in rushing with 1,695 yards, and said his goal for next season is 2,200 yards, which would break Eric Dickerson's NFL record of 2,105 yards set in 1984 while playing for the Los Angeles Rams.

"It's a priority," Nolan said of a new contract for Gore. "It was talked about since before Frank started to show up on all of your radar screens because of what we knew about Frank."

While Rosenhaus is likely to seek a contract that makes Gore among the top-three backs in the league, the 49ers are believed to see Gore being compensated along the lines of the top 10 backs.

That could create a sticking point as the two sides try to get a new contract ironed out this year.

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The details of the three-year contract extension signed by safety Mark Roman during the final week of the regular season include a $2 million signing bonus as part of a $4.5 million package.

Roman, who signed a one-year deal with the team in August, was set to become an unrestricted free agent in March, and the 49ers signed the seven-year veteran to the deal to prevent him from reaching free agency.

Roman played well for the 49ers and had put himself in position to be one of the top three safeties in free agency, the team believed.

The 49ers figure to be active in free agency with approximately $38.5 million left in salary-cap room after the Roman deal. They are expected to place much of their emphasis in free agency on beefing up the defense.

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The contracts of five players that ended the 2006 season on San Francisco's practice squad expired earlier this week without the 49ers offering them new contracts, allowing all five players to become free agents.

Fullback Zak Keasey, linebacker Jared Newberry, defensive end Russel Rabe and cornerbacks Harrison Smith and Jerron Wishom each are now free to negotiate with any NFL team.

The other three players who ended the season on San Francisco's practice squad - wide receivers C.J. Brewer and Marcus Maxwell and offensive tackle Tavares Washington - each signed new deals with the team last week. All three then were allocated by the 49ers to play in NFL Europe this spring.

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