49ers Clubhouse 

Free Agency Update

March 07, 2002

by Jeff Shaffer
Clubhouse Staff Writer

Prudence is the Mantra this year, with all teams moving cautiously and not so lavishly on contracts, they are slowly picking off the sure quality players from the free agent pool. What does this mean for the 49ers? They seem willing to bide their time, let their free agents establish their market value and them make an offer when the players are coming to a decision.

Newberry Resigned - as predicted by many, Newberry was the 49ers priority resigning and was wrapped up just hours after hitting the market, never really testing the waters. Good Move.

Hearst and Beasely - Rumor is Hearst and Beasely would like their mutual agent to place them together in the free agent market - is that a first? Hearst is generating some interest from the likes of Cleveland and Miami. But there hasn't been much news about Beasely, which is surprising. At this rate, at least it looks like the 49ers will have a fair shot at getting Beasely back, but Hearst may command too much money.

Schulters - Schulters is visiting teams this week, and looking for a big contract. He may just well get it, but the free agent pool is deep with safeties. The 49ers seemed resigned to losing him, and made the pre-emptive move to lock up their FS Zack Bronson with a contract extension. He wasn't a free agent, but he was entering the last year of his contract. Bronson had a stellar year, snagging several key interceptions and playing "centerfield" like a hawk, he never appeared out of position, and his run support was excellent. The 49ers likely made a critical judgment that although unsung and less flashy, Bronson was the key safety in a greatly improved secondary. If Schulters moves on, the 49ers have some good options. They were rumored to have contacted Robert Griffith (Minnesota), but he signed with Cleveland. Blaine Bishop (Tennessee) and Victor Green (New York Jets) are still available, but might be as expensive as Schulters. Ron Rice was just released by Detroit because they signed Brian Walker from Miami to replace him. He isn't known as a playmaker, but he is recognized as solid and might fit the 49ers budget well.

Offensive Line - Talks with Ray Brown on restructuring his contract appear on hold for now, and Terry Donahue has only confirmed that Mike Wahle from Green Bay will visit this week. Other top guard have already been snagged from the free agent pool - Steve McKinney (Indianapolis) signed with the Houston Texans, and Kerry Jenkins (NY Jets) signed with Tampa Bay (Damn, it seems like the Jets are losing their entire starting line-up!!)

Defensive Line - DT Jason Frisk is rumored to be visiting the Niners this week. It is interesting to note that more than one commentator has noted that the Niners may go for a big, active DT and move Bryant Young to the DE position this year. This may be more possible than most would think because the DE free agent pool and draft pool seem thin this year. The Niners defensive line needs to improve its pass rush and stoutness at the point of attack against the run. Picking of the right tackle and rotating BY between tackle and end, or even converting him outright to DE (a la John Randle), might solve the defensive line problem with one move, rather than trying to improve the DT rotation and DE position with two moves. Could be interesting.

Give the free agent process a few weeks to settle some things and it will be time to look at the 49ers drafting possibilities.

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