Battle to Steelers; Redskins talk with Sims

Various reports claim that 49ers free agent WR Arnaz Battle, has signed a three year deal with the Pittsburgh Steelers after visiting with them over the weekend. Battle fell out of favor in the team's receiver rotation last season, finishing with just five receptions for 40 yards in 2009 and both sides were ready to move on.

San Francisco already had Michael Crabtree, Josh Morgan, Brandon Jones and Jason Hill ahead of Battle on its depth chart and Offensive Coordinator Jimmy Raye's playbook rarely even calls for three wideouts on the field, let alone four. Battle's biggest contribution last season, if you could call it that, came on special teams where he averaged a woeful 2.9 yards on 21 punt returns and had several fumbles and muffs as well.

49ers Head Coach Mike Singletary made it clear the team is looking for an upgrade in its return game and it will in all likelihood come from the draft. Battle meanwhile reunites with Special Teams Coach Al Everest, who held that same role with the Niners last year.

Meanwhile, in other news...

Is FA OT Sims the next to go?

The Washington Redskins already courted one former 49ers backup tackle during this free agency period, and now they apparently have their eyes on another. It has come out that the Redskins, as well as the Seattle Seahawks, have expressed interest in free agent OT Barry Sims, although no visits have been scheduled or offers made.

Washington has already hosted now ex-49er OT Tony Pashos, who ultimately chose to sign with the Cleveland Browns, but the 49ers were never all that serious about retaining Pashos because he's strictly just a right tackle. They are far more intent on keeping Sims, who is versatile enough to play both sides and who performed well last year in relief of injured LT Joe Staley, starting seven games.

Sims is 35 years-old however, and hasn't been a regular starter since 2007, so it's not as though he's in the position to demand any long term contract offers for big money. The 49ers won't offer him much more than the veteran's minimum to return as a backup and it's doubtful anyone else will promise a more prominent role or a much heftier paycheck.

49ers pursuing FA TE Baker?

The 49ers went through the whole season last year with just two tight ends, Vernon Davis and Delanie Walker. Davis is a dominating blocker, but his strengths there were less emphasized in Raye's offense as the team wanted to take advantage of his athleticism in the passing game. Walker, meanwhile, poses a number of mismatch problems for opposing defenses as a second tight end, but he's not overly enthusiastic about blocking and a bit of a lightweight besides.

To rectify the situation the 49ers are looking for a traditional blocking-specialist third tight end. They already signed Tony Curtis after the season ended, but he's far from an established player. Now sources report that they're talking to TE Chris Baker, whom the New England Patriots released recently, but that no visits have been scheduled just yet.

Baker, a sturdy blocker at 6'3 and 260 lbs., is also nimble enough to have caught 14 passes last year for New England in a reserve role and had a 41-catch season for the New York Jets in 2007.

Also, 49ers fans, another reminder to join me for a chat on Thursday, March 11th, at 7 p.m. PST (10 p.m. EST) on We'll talk about free agency, the draft, and whatever else you've got on your mind about the 49ers. See you there.

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