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49ers GM Trent Baalke Talks Alex Smith, Franchise Tags & More At NFL Combine

San Francisco 49ers GM trent Baalke has been keeping a very low profile since the end of the team's season, but surfaced in Indianapolis for the Scouting combine this week, and had a catalog of questions to answer concerning the team's offseason, their plans during the upcoming draft, what to do with the quarterback situation, and whether or not they'll use the franchise tag this year.

Baalke was all business, as usual, taking question from the media after arriving in Indiana:

What is the team's approach to the offseason?

Baalke: Very methodical, like we were in the past. Our approach isn't going to change that way. There are certainly a lot of players out there, and a lot of players that fit us and can help us get better. We're always going to try to take care of our own first. And we're working through that process now. And, then, we'll look to what else is available.

As for the combine itself, Baalke thinks it's changed a lot:

What is the biggest value of the combine for you?

Baalke: When it's over (laughs). . . no . . . Getting a chance to see how they interact with each other on the field, watching the dynamics they have within their own group. Seeing how they go through the interview process and getting to know them a little bit better. How well can you get to know somebody in a 15-minute interview? Now days these guys are prepped and they go through the process. They know the questions they're going to be asked. It's a lot different than it was 15 years ago at my first combine.

The Niners desperately need some wideouts, which Baalke was asked about as well:

Regarding the wide receiver position, both in free agency and the draft, what's your opinion?

Baalke: Obviously, there's some depth in the free-agent market this year. I'm not going to speak about any players individually. And I think really what I said about the O-line group really falls through with the receiver group. There are good players at every level of this draft. Some of those guys at the bottom end are going to end up being good players. You got to find out which of that group at the bottom of those 15 or 20 guys, which three or four are really going to springboard up and improve as a professional? That's why we're all here, to try to find that nugget that's going to lead us to one of those guys.

When asked about Carlos Rogers, Baalke noted that the team is working hard to bring all their players back:

What do you feel about getting Carlos Rogers back? Is he a priority?

Baalke: All our guys are a priority. All the guys who went into us having the success that we had last year, they're all a priority. Unfortunately, it is a business so you can't have everybody back. We're going to do everything we can with Carlos as we will with our other unrestricted free agents because we want to keep that locker room together. The one thing that I can't overstate enough is the locker room and those guys in it. That's what gets you to 13-3. It's the coaching staff and the players coming together and believing in one another, and everybody believes in one another. So the more we can keep together, the better we're going to be moving forward.

As for the franchise tag, Baalke noted he'd like to hang on to it:

"That's a possibility. We'd prefer not to use it, but we're not opposed to using it. So there are positives and negatives any time you use those tags. And we'll look at all of our options, like we always do, and be methodical in our process, like we always are."

Baalke tried to tackle the question what's next after the large improvement in 2011:

After making a big jump from 2010 to 2011, what's the key this year?

Baalke: Last year's success doesn't mean any thing moving forward. We have a lot of work to do. I feel very good about the systems that we have in place and the coaching staff having a full offseason to really work with these guys and to take the systems and the schemes to a new level and the understanding of those schemes to a new level. There's a lot of work to do, and the locker room isn't going to be the same. There are going to be new faces, guys are going to have to come together. That process, every year, you try to bring in a group of guys that can come together like last year's group did. And there's no guarantees, but we're going to work hard at it.

As for Alex Smith, it will all come in due time:

How do you see the Alex Smith contract situation shaking out?

Baalke: No different than any of these other guys. We're working hard to keep our guys in place.

For an audio clip of this interview, click here.

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