Niners CEO: You probably need ‘superstar QB’ to win Super Bowl

The football cognoscenti are in firm agreement: The Browns should and will take Myles Garrett first overall. But there is far less consensus surrounding the 49ers, who pick second overall and have just as many holes to fill as Cleveland.

Might San Francisco bolster its secondary with a sure-thing safety in Jamal Adams? Would the 49ers instead take the best player available in Solomon Thomas? How about trading down to accumulate extra picks in the second round, potentially with Cleveland, which has expressed interest in trading back into the top eight?

At this moment, the draft is Jed York’s oyster, but the 49ers CEO, longing to finally get it right with someone not named Harbaugh, is wary that San Francisco won’t make it back to the Big Game without a pearl at the game’s most important position.

“You need to get the best players, wherever they are, whatever you need to do, you need to find the best players,” York told NFL Network’s Steve Wyche at the 49ers’ facility Wednesday. “It’s proven that if you don’t have a superstar quarterback, you’re probably not getting to the Super Bowl and you’re probably not winning a Super Bowl.”

The new regime, led by Kyle Shanahan and John Lynch, has plenty of roster spots to fill, even after a lavish spending spree in free agency, but should San Francisco bypass top talent at No. 2 to reach for a quarterback? After all, the 49ers signed Brian Hoyer in the offseason, a competent signal-caller who has played under Shanahan before. Hoyer’s veteran presence makes it more reasonable for San Francisco to draft a quarterback at the right value — maybe at Nos. 34 and 66 — rather than use a top-10 selection on a position bound to be overvalued on Thursday night.

However, a team source told Wyche that the 49ers are interested in North Carolina quarterback Mitchell Trubisky, who has also earned interest from the Browns. There’s no telling whether this report is an accurate assessment of San Francisco’s interest or a smokescreen set up by the 49ers to leverage a potential trade with Cleveland or another suitor. It’s also not clear if San Francisco values Trubisky at No. 2 or a later position.

Is the next Joe Montana or Steve Young in this year’s crop of quarterbacks? It’s up to each team’s interpretation. The whole draft process is a subjective evaluation of an organization’s values.

In that vein, what avenue of team-building San Francisco pursues on Thursday night will be telling. If the 49ers pick Thomas, Adams, etc., no one will bat an eye as they attempt to rebuild the defense. But if San Francisco goes quarterback early, we’ll know that York and his young, ambitious regime are ready to set a course for Lombardi.

Falcons’ Taylor Gabriel signs second-round tender

Taylor Gabriel is officially under contract for the 2017 campaign.

Fresh off a breakout 2016 season, the unrestricted free agent signed his second-round tender worth roughly $2.8 million with the Falcons, the team announced Saturday.

Atlanta was never really at a risk of losing Gabriel to another team in exchange for a second-round pick. Gabriel said in February that he wanted to stay with the organization “forever”. The wideout even showed up to workouts this week having signed the deal.

Gabriel was a surprise star in his first season with the NFC champions, emerging as a speedy slot option for league MVP Matt Ryan, recording a league-best 139.9 passer rating when targeted and scoring a career-high seven touchdowns. The 5-foot-8 receiver signed with the Browns in 2014 after going undrafted out of Abilene Christian. Gabriel spent two years in Cleveland, scoring one touchdown and recording 862 receiving yards on 64 catches.

Whether new offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian uses Gabriel in the same way in the offense he inherited from Kyle Shanahan is a mystery. But whether the receiver will start training camp in a Falcons uniform no longer is.

Sashi Brown on Osweiler: ‘We expect Brock to be here’

The Cleveland Browns are taking a quarterback during next week’s draft in Philadelphia.

We don’t know what round — or who it will be — but it’s happening. Guaranteed.

That means competition for second-year passer Cody Kessler. It would also signal the end of the road for Brock Osweiler, the former Texans starter who was acquired through an unusual trade with Houston this offseason — right?

Well, not according to executive VP of football operations Sashi Brown.

“We expect Brock to be here. He’s in, done a good job, coming in the first couple days. Positive young man,” Brown said Wednesday during the team’s pre-draft news conference. “He’s got some ability and talent and we look forward to him trying to establish himself here and have a chance to compete to be the starting quarterback.”

Osweiler was obtained by the Browns for one reason: To net Houston’s second-round pick in 2018 in exchange for taking on the quarterback’s unruly $16 million guaranteed salary.

This isn’t a player the Browns scouted and desired — no matter what they say. Still, there is a scenario where Cleveland doesn’t wind up with the quarterback they want in the draft. If they enter May without a new hope under center, a closer look at Osweiler wouldn’t kill anyone.

But if the Browns do land their man in the draft — a distinct possibility considering they own the No. 12 pick and a boatload of additional ammunition — pretty words about Osweiler won’t amount to much. He was never in their plans to begin with.

Texans pick up 5th-year option on DE Jadeveon Clowney

HOUSTON — The Houston Texans have picked up the fifth-year option on defensive end Jadeveon Clowney, a source confirmed Friday.

Clowney, who was the No. 1 pick in 2014, was entering the last year of his four-year rookie contract. Now that the team has exercised his option, Clowney will remain under team control through the 2018 season.

The news was first reported by John McClain of the Houston Chronicle.

Clowney was a huge part of a Texans defense that ranked first in the league in fewest yards allowed per game. In 2016, he made the move from outside linebacker to primarily defensive end. His contributions were especially important given the absence of three-time Defensive Player of the Year J.J. Watt.

Clowney spent his first two NFL seasons dealing with injuries, playing in just 17 of 32 regular-season games. Last season Clowney played through wrist and elbow injuries, playing in 14 games and finishing the year with a career-high 52 combined tackles and six sacks.

In 2016, Clowney made his first Pro Bowl as the Texans’ only representative.

Dion Jordan joining Seahawks after poor run with Dolphins

Former No. 3 overall pick Dion Jordan has agreed to a contract with the Seattle Seahawks, a source confirmed to ESPN’s Adam Caplan.

The Miami Dolphins waived Jordan on March 31 after he failed a physical. The move saved Miami $3.225 million in salary for 2017.

Jordan projects as a strongside linebacker in the Seahawks’ base defense and a defensive end in their sub packages. It would be a role similar to the one that Bruce Irvin filled for Seattle before signing with the Oakland Raiders in free agency last year. Mike Morgan, last season’s starting strongside linebacker for the Seahawks, is an unrestricted free agent.

USA Today Sports first reported Jordan’s agreement with the Seahawks.

In 2013, Miami made a trade and moved up from No. 12 to No. 3 to draft Jordan. He had just three sacks in 2013 and 2014 and has had multiple suspensions for violating the NFL’s substance abuse policy. He didn’t play in a game in 2015 or 2016.

The Dolphins kept Jordan under contract the past two years because of his potential. He was eligible to return from suspension in 2016 but arrived at training camp with a knee injury the team was unaware of. Jordan never showed Miami’s coaching staff enough last season to get on the active roster.

Jordan, who turned 27 in March, was a star at Oregon from 2009 to 2012 under former NFL coach Chip Kelly.

Whether it’s Adrian Peterson or a rookie, RB a priority for Saints

METAIRIE, La. — Of course the New Orleans Saints’ interest in Adrian Peterson makes sense.

No. 1: He’s Adrian Peterson.

No. 2: The Saints have a bigger need at running back than many might realize after letting veteran backup Tim Hightower leave for the San Francisco 49ers.

I don’t think the Saints should break the bank for Peterson, because they already have a very good running back (Mark Ingram), they still have bigger needs on defense and a younger running back in the draft would make more sense as a potential future successor to Ingram.

And maybe New Orleans’ planned visit with Peterson next week is just one of those “due diligence” deals to find out where the 32-year-old is physically and what it might cost to sign him.

But it’s smart business to check him out, considering Peterson is one of the greatest running backs in NFL history and led the league with 1,485 rushing yards in 2015 before a knee injury derailed his 2016 season.

NFL teams haven’t gone overboard in trying to sign Peterson so far (though two pretty good ones — the Patriots and Seahawks — have brought him in for visits).

But if Peterson is healthy and available at a reasonable price, he certainly has the potential to be an upgrade over Hightower, whom I expected the Saints to re-sign after he played such a key role for them over the past two seasons. If re-signing Hightower seemed like a no-brainer, wouldn’t Peterson be the same?

Hightower gained 923 rushing yards and 329 receiving yards and scored nine touchdowns over the past two seasons as a backup and fill-in starter — including 100-yard rushing games in each season.

The Saints need someone else in that role, whether it’s Peterson, another free agent or a significant draft choice.

Ingram is still just 27 and has been playing the best football of his career over the past three seasons. But running backs get dinged up, and the depth chart is extremely thin beyond him. Inexperienced second-year pro Daniel Lasco would probably be penciled in as Ingram’s primary backup for now, since veteran Travaris Cadet is really more of a pass-catcher and kick returner.

Like I said, though, the draft probably makes even more sense than free agency to fill that void. Sean Payton has talked multiple times this offseason about how much he likes the running back depth in the middle rounds of this year’s draft class.

I don’t think the Saints should consider a running back in Round 1 — even if LSU’s Leonard Fournette somehow falls to them. I agree with what NOLA.com’s Jeff Duncan wrote, that such a pairing would probably be a bit of a waste for both sides, since the Saints aren’t a power-running team with Payton and quarterback Drew Brees, and running back is a part-time role in their offense.

Perhaps a dual-threat runner/receiver like Dalvin Cook or Christian McCaffrey would be even more tempting. But that would run counter to the Saints’ decision to trade away a dynamic playmaker like Brandin Cooks for a first-round pick to add resources for the defense.

After that, however, a running back could make a lot of sense, maybe as early as Round 2 or with one of the Saints’ two third-round picks — even if they do wind up signing Peterson as a Hall of Fame stopgap.

Martavis Bryant confident he’ll be reinstated soon

Are the Steelers adding a secret weapon in their quest to catch up to the Patriots as an AFC superpower?

Appearing on Thursday’s edition of Up to the Minute Live, NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported that suspended wide receiver Martavis Bryant believes he will soon be returning to Pittsburgh.

“When you speak to people close to him,” Rapoport said, “they are confident that in the near future he will get word that he has been reinstated to the NFL.”

Bryant is awaiting confirmation from Commissioner Roger Goodell after applying for reinstatement in mid-January.

As confident as Bryant’s camp might be, the Steelers organization has been hesitant to place full faith in his availability. General manager Kevin Colbert made that abundantly clear in early March:

Just this week, coach Mike Tomlin expressed a similar sentiment.

“From a professional standpoint, we understand the nature of this business, that the train moves on,” Tomlin said, via ESPN.com. “And we have been on it now for 12 months. Hopefully he will get the opportunity to maybe get onto the moving train.”

That said, the tide may be starting to turn. The Steelers now have legitimate hope that Bryant will be back for the start of offseason workouts on April 17, NFL Network’s Aditi Kinkhabwala reported Friday.

As complimentary as Tomlin has been about third-year deep threat Sammie Coates, Pittsburgh sorely missed Bryant’s dynamic presence opposite Antonio Brown last season.

Since Bryant entered the league in 2014, the Steelers have scored 30 or more points in roughly half of the games he has played. Without Bryant in the lineup, that percentage is closer to 30 percent.

The range of outcomes for Ben Roethlisberger’s attack might be as varied as any in football this season. If Bryant and Brown recapture dominant 2015 form, All-Pro running back Le’Veon Bell avoids injury and speedy tight end Ladarius Green overcomes concussion concerns, this offense’s ceiling is as high as any in the game.

If those ingredients aren’t in sync come playoff time, though, they can forget about matching the Patriots’ firepower.