Edwards could be 49ers' new No. 1 WR this season
Braylon Edwards wasn't wanted by the Jets any longer, and Larry Fitzgerald was unsuccessful in his bid to get Edwards to join him in Arizona. Edwards instead opted to sign a one-year deal with the 49ers on Thursday night, and he was on the field for an evening training camp practice with the team along with two other recent free-agent pickups, cornerback Carlos Rogers and center Jonathan Goodwin.
The Niners conducted their first full-squad workout of the summer, welcoming all their signed free agents that had to wait until Thursday to practice with the team. It was the first practice for quarterback Alex Smith, defensive end Ray McDonald, kicker David Akers and several other veterans who either re-signed with the team in the past week or joined the team in free agency during the same span.
The newcomer getting the most attention was Edwards. The veteran receiver was a big catch for the 49ers, but Rogers and Goodwin also are expected to slide in as starters with the team, perhaps as soon as this week. Rogers signed a one-year deal earlier this week and Goodwin, who played for the NFC in the Pro Bowl the past two years, signed a three-year deal worth a reported $10.9 million.
Edwards gives the 49ers another playmaker on offense, and at 6-foot-3 and 214 pounds provides a dimension the team is looking for at the position.
"He is a big receiver. We were looking for that big stature receiver," coach Jim Harbaugh said. "I think that, another experienced guy who (averaged) 17 yards a catch last year. A NFL pro receiver and I think he's hungry. He wanted to be here and that was exciting for us."
The goal is to pair Edwards with Michael Crabtree for a pair of playmaking wide receivers once Crabtree returns from a foot injury that has him on the physically unable to perform list. Four-year veteran Josh Morgan is also in the starting mix, and the 49ers have speedster Ted Ginn, Jr.
While the Niners have some good young developing talent at receiver, Edwards immediately moves to the front of the pack and could become the team's No. 1 wideout this year, particularly with Crabtree getting a late start.
"My role is to maybe just compete with those guys and make those guys that much better," Edwards said. "But make no bones about it, I’m here to be the guy. I’m here to make plays. I’m here to compliment whoever’s on the other side or whoever’s inside, which would be Vernon (Davis). I didn’t come to accept the choir robe. I’m here to make some noise. I’ll definitely look to do all I can to help those guys along the way.”
The Jets didn't pursue Edwards as a free agent after he catch 88 passes for 1,445 yards and 11 touchdowns in 28 games after being acquired from Cleveland in October of 2009. He was reportedly viewed as a diva by the Jets, who opted for Plaxico Burress and potentially Derrick Mason to play alongside Santonio Holmes. He also has been involved in some issues off the field, including a DUI arrest during the offseason, and could face a possible NFL suspension this season.
A Cleveland judge spared Edwards jail time last month, but extended his Ohio probation by one year for violating terms by driving drunk in New York City last September. In January 2010, he pleaded no contest there to aggravated disorderly conduct after being accused of punching a friend of NBA star LeBron James.
While on his 18-month probation from the Cleveland case, Edwards was charged with driving while intoxicated in his Land Rover in Manhattan in September 2010. Police said his blood-alcohol level was twice the legal limit. He also has been linked to a bar fight in Michigan on Monday night, though Edwards didn’t want to go into details of what transpired, saying, “At the end of the day that situation will take care of itself.”
Harbaugh, who has a personal history with Edwards and his family, defended the character of his new wide receiver, who will receive $3.5 million from the 49ers this season.
"We got some of a similar background. We both grew up in Michigan. We both went to the University of Michigan," Harbaugh said. "I know how Braylon was trained at the University of Michigan. I know his family, know his dad. One of the real class guys that ever went through the Michigan football program.
"I think Braylon knows that some of the things, that you know, he needs to get back to that kind of training. That kind of atmosphere. That kind of accountability. He's hit some potholes here and you don't want that to spiral further down. So it's time to start doing all the little things right, that he knows that, that he's capable of. He's a good guy and I'm looking forward to working with him."
In San Francisco, Edwards will have an opportunity to once again be a consistent big-play threat. He hasn't reached the Pro Bowl since 2007.
Rogers, a first-round pick by the Redskins in 2005 who also signed a one-year contract, also took part in his first practice with the team. He is expected to start at right cornerback, replacing Nate Clements, who was released last week and signed with Cincinnati.
Rogers is the second veteran starter the 49ers have added to their secondary in as many days - they agreed to a one-year deal with safety Madieu Williams that was officially announced Tuesday.
The 49ers also reportedly has signed free-agent safety Donte Whitner, but the team has not officially announced that transaction. Whitner, however, confirmed via his Twitter account that he has signed with the team. ESPN reported that Whitner has signed a three-year, $11.75 million deal with $4 million guaranteed.
Whitner's imminent arrival would seem to suggest that neither Dashon Goldson or Taylor Mays will be with the 49ers this season. Goldson remains unsigned as a free agent, and Harbaugh confirmed Thursday night that the 49ers are shopping Mays around the league. The 49ers reportedly sent out an e-mail to the league’s other 31 teams to advertise that Mays was available in a trade.
Goldson, who played his first four seasons with the 49ers, was originally believed to be a high priority for the team to re-sign. But he told his Twitter followers Thursday that he has played his final game with the 49ers.
"Sorry guys thanx for all ur support but not gonna be back. See ya,” Goldson wrote.