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NFL Draft preview: 49ers refocus after tumultuous offseason

The SportsXchange

SANTA CLARA -- The start of the offseason conditioning program couldn't come soon enough for the San Francisco 49ers.

After having dealt with trade rumors involving head coach Jim Harbaugh and numerous off-the-field incidents involving key players, general manager Trent Baalke has to be feeling a sense of relief knowing his players are returning to the team facility this week.

But first comes the draft. San Francisco has 11 picks to work with, including six of the first 100 selections. They have one first-round pick, two second-rounders and three thirds. The team has set itself up nicely for the draft and could field all 22 starters before the first pick is made next month.

After considerable turnover in free agency, particularly in the defensive secondary, the 49ers are not without needs.

Gone is former strong safety Donte Whitner, who signed a four-year, $28 million deal with the Cleveland Browns. In turn the 49ers brought in veteran Antoine Bethea of the Colts, who also received a four-year contract, but for a cheaper $22 million. There's also less guaranteed money in Bethea's new deal than Whitner received, giving San Francisco more flexibility going forward.

San Francisco also lost former starting cornerbacks Tarell Brown and Carlos Rogers, both signing one-year deals with the Oakland Raiders.

Prior to the start of free agency, the 49ers addressed one of their biggest needs in the offseason, bringing back wide receiver Anquan Boldin.

Boldin had one of the best seasons of his storied career in 2013 with the 49ers after coming over in a trade for a sixth-round pick from the Ravens. He caught 85 passes for 1,179 yards and seven touchdowns. Boldin's yardage total was his highest since 2006 -- his fourth year in the league with the Arizona Cardinals. The 33 year-old received a two-year, $12 million extension that includes a $4.55 million signing bonus and fully guaranteed base salary in 2014. He also has three voidable contract seasons from 2016 to 2018 with beneficial salary cap implications.

San Francisco was also able to extend some key players on team-friendly contracts. Offensive lineman Daniel Kilgore received a three-year contract extension prior to the start of his final season under his rookie deal after getting drafted in 2011. Kilgore has never started a game for the 49ers, but he's the favorite to become the team's starting center after electing not to bring back Jonathan Goodwin, who anchored the middle of the offensive line over the last three seasons. Kilgore's three-year extension is reportedly worth $5.25 million.

Fullback Bruce Miller also received a three-year extension worth $5.4 million. And the 49ers brought back free-agent corners Eric Wright and Perrish Cox on one-year deals for the league minimum.

San Francisco made a pair of trades for notable players as well. They sent a conditional draft pick to the Dolphins for embattled tackle Jonathan Martin, a former player under Harbaugh at Stanford. Martin had originally been selected by the Dolphins in the second round (42nd overall) in 2012. He went on to start his first 23 games as a pro before becoming tangled in the bullying scandal involving Richie Incognito.

Martin, 24, is viewed to have plenty of upside. He's returning to Northern California to play under his collegiate coaching staff. The 49ers will work him as a reserve tackle initially, but could also get him to play guard. Standout left guard Mike Iupati is entering a walk year and could earn franchise-type money on the 2015 free-agent market. If Martin can adapt to guard, then the 49ers could already have an affordable replacement for Iupati on the roster.

Continuing the carousel of backup quarterbacks to wear red and gold over the last 12 months, San Francisco traded another late-round pick to Jacksonville for Blaine Gabbert. Gabbert was taken 26 picks ahead of Colin Kaepernick in the 2011 draft and will make more this season than Kaepernick, although that could change if negotiations continue for a highly-lucrative contract extension this offseason. Gabbert is slated to make just over $2 million in 2014, fully guaranteed, while Kaepernick will make $976,766 in base salary. Both players are in the final years of their rookie contracts.

Aldon Smith's name resurfaced in headlines for all the wrong reasons, again, after he was detained at Los Angeles International Airport April 13 for making a false bomb threat. It's yet another misstep off the field for Smith, who faces a discovery hearing on April 29 regarding charges for possession of assault weapons and a misdemeanor DUI.

The 49ers have until May 3 to decide whether to pick up Smith's 2015 option, which would pay him a non-guaranteed $9.754 million. Reports indicate the team is not inclined to pick up the option, despite the minimal risk, although it's more likely the front office will wait to learn about Smith's legal future in the discovery hearing later this month.

Cornerback Chris Culliver, coming off an ACL tear that caused him to miss all of 2013, was arrested for felony hit-and-run along with weapons possession charges March 28. He pled not guilty and the case is ongoing. Culliver was a favorite to land a starting job opposite Tramaine Brock in 2014. Prior to Culliver's last game, the Super Bowl loss to the Ravens, he made ill-advised anti-gay comments to a radio host during media day. His latest incident hurt his chances at earning a contract extension this offseason.
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