49ers future at WR could be shaped around draft

Rumors remain that the 49ers still are attempting to trade receiver Tai Streets for draft picks or to move up in Saturday's NFL draft. Who the 49ers select with their top picks would hinge greatly on any movement of Streets, but coach Dennis Erickson insists, "Tai is going to be here next fall. We aren't going to trade Tai Streets." Even if they don't, the Niners plan to draft a receiver early, and they continue to look at other options with Marcus Robinson visiting the team facility Thursday.

The Niners attempted to trade Streets for draft picks earlier this year, but a possible deal with the New York Jets fell through. However, with Streets an attractive restricted free agent after a breakout 2002 season - who has expressed a desire to play somewhere besides San Francisco after the upcoming season - his name still is swirling in NFL rumor circles as the dealing frenzy before draft day intensifies.

"There's been a lot of talk about Tai Streets, obviously," Niners general manager Terry Donahue said. "I think our joint feeling is there's no reason for us to trade Tai Streets. He's a good player, he caught over 70 passes last year, he has a chance to be a starting football player on our team, which he was last year at certain periods. We're not interested in that. If someone wants to get us interested in that, we'd certainly be receptive to listening. But it would have to be a very appealing offer for us to consider doing that."

When asked for the bottom line, Donahue said, "I think Tai Streets will play here and play really well with us, and then he'll test the free-agent market (as an unrestricted free agent in 2004)."

With star receiver Terrell Owens also becoming an unrestricted free agent in 2004, the Niners future at receiver could seriously be shaped by what transpires at the position in the upcoming week. There's a good chance the team will take a receiver with its No. 26 pick in the first round even if there is no roster movement at the position before Saturday.

The most likely scenario is that the Niners will take a top receiving prospect with their No. 1 pick, or wait until the second round to grab a receiver because the draft is deep in quality prospects, then hunt for a viable veteran free agent to come in and compete for a role in the receiving rotation.

Robinson is such a candidate, but its doubtful he ever can get back to the player he was in 1999 when he caught 84 passes for 1,400 yards and nine touchdowns with the Chicago Bears. Since then, he has had surgeries to repair knee and back problems that have limited his playing time and effectiveness in recent seasons. Still, if the Niners deem him healthy, he could be the type of veteran they are looking to add this season.

Donahue reiterated that it is almost certain veteran J.J. Stokes won't be back with the 49ers this season. "It's unlikely J.J. will be back on the team," Donahue said. "The odds are he won't be on the team."

With Owens, Streets and third-year player Cedrick Wilson, the Niners have a solid core of veteran receivers they hope to complement with one or more draft picks and a possible free agent to form a topflight unit for the 2003 season, when the team expects to be more dangerous and productive through the air now that Erickson is running the offense.

"We've got a couple of real good receivers," Erickson said. "That combination might be as good as there is in the league. Myself, I'm just looking forward to what's going to happen this fall. It's hard for me to project what's going to happen down the road. I do think a receiver in the draft is something we're looking pretty heavily at. But what round or who, I don't know. It all depends on what happens."

Added Donahue, "We're looking at all our different scenarios now. I think we have to wait, see what happens on draft day, where we're at. There's a lot of different things that can happen."


Niners Digest Top Stories