Notebook: Offensive line a top draft priority

Coach Mike Nolan does not rule out many options for the 49ers' early picks in the draft. The Niners seem to feel satisfied with their starters, but there are plenty of positions in which the club could use some depth. That is why about the only position that appears to be off-limits early in the draft are quarterback, running back and tight end.

Coach Mike Nolan does not rule out many options for the 49ers' early picks in the draft. The Niners seem to feel satisfied with their starters, but there are plenty of positions in which the club could use some depth. That is why about the only position that appears to be off-limits early in the draft are quarterback, running back and tight end. Nolan said offensive line, defensive line, linebacker and cornerback were the strongest possibilities to consider when the 49ers get ready to use the No. 29 overall pick. The 49ers' second-round pick is No. 39 overall.

It has been one year since the 49ers traded away their first-round pick to the New England Patriots in this draft to move up to select offensive tackle Joe Staley with the No. 28 selection. The Patriots will select No. 7 after the 49ers finished the season with a disappointing 5-11 record.

But the 49ers do not regret the decision to get Staley. He played every snap as a rookie at right tackle, and the club plans to move him to the left side this season. The 49ers have repeatedly said they do not regret the decision to acquire Staley. After all, they're getting a player earmarked for left tackle without the kind of salary commitment it would take to secure a player in the top 10 picks of the draft.

"I think Joe Staley will prove out to be a top-10 type caliber pick at a position that is very hard to find," McCloughan said. "It's not only from a standpoint of athleticism and his football potential, he's also a great guy, one of those guys you can build your offensive line around. I'd make the trade in a heartbeat again -- to get an offensive lineman, an offensive tackle, one year before."

The 49ers could look to land another offensive lineman early in the draft. The 49ers' tentative starting offensive line is Staley, left guard Adam Snyder, center Eric Heitmann, right guard David Baas and right tackle Jonas Jennings.

Jennings signed with the 49ers in 2005 as a left tackle. But injury problems have limited his time with the club. The 49ers might use two of their six picks on offensive linemen.

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The 49ers on Monday waived wide receiver C.J. Brewer, who came to the team as an undrafted rookie free agent in 2006 and spent that entire season on San Francisco's practice squad.

Brewer made an impression with his play in practice on the scout team as a rookie and was having a good spring session and training camp last season before he tore a ligament in his knee and was placed on injured reserve.

Though a promising young player, Brewer didn't figure in the team's plans at receiver as it moves forward. With Brewer out of the picture, the 49ers now have newcomers Isaac Bruce and Bryant Johnson slated as their starting receivers, with three-year starter Arnaz Battle, veteran Ashley Lelie and youngster Jason Hill behind them.

The 49ers appear likely to add another receiver through the upcoming NFL draft and will certainly bring in at least a few more players at the position before training camp begins at the end of July.

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The 49ers have lined up several pre-draft visits with prospects, including five players who could conceivably go to the club in the first or second round. The 49ers plan to meet individually with defensive ends Derrick Harvey (Florida) and Phillip Merling (Clemson), as well as receivers DeSean Jackson (Cal) and Malcolm Kelly (Oklahoma), and outside linebacker Quentin Groves (Auburn).

Others reportedly set to meet with the 49ers are cornerback Dwight Lowery (San Jose State), quarterback Dennis Dixon (Oregon), receiver Cam Colvin (Oregon), linebacker Shane Simmons (Western Washington) and center Ryan Wendell (Fresno State).

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During a fundraising event at Lake Tahoe, new 49ers offensive coordinator Mike Martz was asked about the criticism that the quarterbacks take too many hits in his offensive system. Martz defended his approach, saying the more accurate measure is sacks per pass play. The Lions ranked 28th in the league last season in giving up sacks per play. The 49ers were last.

"In Detroit we were not a good football team," Martz said. "We were last in the NFL on defense and when you have to throw the football to win, that's not a good thing. We weren't good enough on the offensive line to protect (quarterback Jon Kitna) and throw the ball like we did.

"When I was with the Rams, we were. The number of hits on the quarterback when I was with the Rams near the end of my time there was about the middle of the pack. In the early goings, it was actually very low and we were ranked near the best in the league."

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Niners defensive coordinator Greg Manusky expects Justin Smith, Aubrayo Franklin and Isaac Sopoaga to start at the team's three defensive line spots. Smith would start at right end, while Franklin would line up at nose tackle. Sopoaga, who split time last year at nose tackle, is penciled in at left defensive end.

Sopoaga signed a five-year, $20 million contract prior to the start of free agency to remain with the 49ers. Based on the contract alone, Sopoaga will start. He started five games last season when Franklin was out with an injury.

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The 49ers have plenty of cap room, so they've started to look into signing of their younger players to extensions. The 49ers officially reached a contract extension with running back Michael Robinson through the 2012 season. Originally signed through 2009, Robinson had three seasons added to his deal.

The next contract extension could be reached with tight end Delanie Walker, who is signed through 2009. Walker and the 49ers have been working on a new deal that might be similar to the new deal Robinson signed.

The 49ers are also believed to be interested in adding years to the contracts of outside linebacker Parys Haralson and guard David Baas.


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