49ers dilemma: Jennings or draft pick?

Long-snappers such as Brian Jennings are hard to find. The 49ers began looking for another on Tuesday. What the Niners must decide by Friday is whether to match an offer Jennings recently received from Detroit, or take the seventh-round draft pick they'd get in compensation from the Lions. "We could have Brian back on the team if we so select, but it's a matter if we want Brian back or can we replace him adequately and get another pick," GM Terry Donahue said. "The money really isn't an issue."

The Lions - now headed by former 49ers coach Steve Mariucci - offered Jennings a one-year deal worth $805,000 that includes a $200,000 signing bonus. The Niners, who tendered Jennings a one-year deal at $605,000 back in February, have until Friday to match the offer sheet.

The Niners know well the value of a quality long-snapper, which Jennings certainly has been for them since the team selected him with a seventh-round draft choice in 2000. But the Niners also are intrigued with the possibility of gaining a seventh-round pick in return for losing Jennings, then finding a veteran to adequately fill the position. Thus, the Niners would end up paying a veteran's minimum salary for the position while gaining a valuable draft pick in the process.

To that end, the Niners brought in sixth-year veteran Aaron Graham to their Santa Clara facility on Tuesday for a workout. Graham, who has 41 NFL starts as a center, has played for Arizona, Oakland and Tennessee.

"We are going to bring in a couple of long-snappers and work them out," Donahue said. "There are a couple of long-snappers in the draft that we are looking at, but I don't believe that is the way we will end up going. I think we will sign a veteran to take his place or we will keep Brian. It's just a matter of us researching and deciding what we want to do."

Though the Niners obviously would like to increase the seven selections they currently hold in the draft, they'd be better off keeping Jennings, who has developed into arguably one of the top five long-snappers in the NFL. Donahue obviously is taking Jennings' talent into consideration.

"Brian is a very fine player," Donahue said. "We drafted him. We brought him here and developed him. Dennis (Erickson) and I share a common view that your long-snapper is very important. He is critical to the success of your team. You certainly don't want to be stuck without one. At the same time, the draft pick is attractive. If we can replace him and feel like we can replace him adequately, then we will go ahead and let him go. If we don't and feel like we are not going to be as good at that position, then we will resign him."



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