49ers move swiftly to retain Jennings

The 49ers are no dummies. They took one look at journeyman long-snapper Aaron Graham on Tuesday, then moved swiftly on Wednesday to match the offer sheet Brian Jennings had signed with the Detroit Lions last week. The Niners had until Friday to match the offer - or receive a seventh-round draft pick from the Lions as compensation - but didn't need the extra time to make the right decision.

The Niners liked the idea of receiving the draft pick for Jennings and replacing him with a veteran performer at an NFL minimum salary. Financially, that would have been a wash for the team, and the Niners are extremely interested in adding another selection to their current cache of seven draft picks this year (one in each round).

Graham is about as good as it gets on what is available out there, and while he did nothing to embarrass himself  Tuesday in his visit to the 49ers' team facility, the Niners had the foresight to go with the sure thing that already is in their hands.

Quite simply, Jennings is one of the best long-snappers in the business, and the team fully realizes his importance, particularly after their 39-38 playoff victory over the Giants last year, when New York long-snapper Trey Junkin bothed two snaps that should have led to routine field goals late in the fourth quarter that would have given the Giants the victory.

It is not an overstatement to say that Jennings, a seventh-round pick from the team's 2000 draft bonanza, is one of the unheralded players who makes San Francisco's special teams tick and also holds them together. He's one of the homegrown players the team has taken pride in developing and is part of San Francisco's young nucleus.

"Brian Jennings is an integral part of our kicking game and we felt it was important for us to keep him," Niners general manager Terry Donahue said Wednesday. "We hope that he remains a 49er for a long time."

The Niners, who had tendered Jennings a one-year deal at $605,000 back in February, will now pay Jennings that contract and the $200,000 signing bonus that Detroit had thrown into the deal. The Niners will consider working a long-term deal with Jennings in the next year before he becomes an unrestricted free agent next February.

 


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