Tip sheet: Niners all over the NFL news

Len Pasquarelli's weekly NFL tip sheet is heavy with 49ers news, including Donte Whitner's flip-flop maneuver on his way to San Francisco, the Niners re-making their secondary, Deion Sanders bringing Prime Time to Canton this weekend, why sheer numbers say Terrell Owens should be there after his career's over, along with the open market going soft this year for cornerbacks. Just ask Carlos Rogers.

Whitner leveraged Cincy to get deal with 49ers

During the NFL lockout, even the cockeyed optimists in the media kept warning that a deal isn't done until it's signed.

The flip-flop maneuver executed on Thursday by free agent safety Donte Whitner certainly bore that out.

After announcing on his Twitter account that he was headed to Cincinnati, Whitner instead signed a three-year, $11.5 million deal with San Francisco. Not bad for a guy who only three or four days ago, The Sports Xchange has confirmed, found the market wanting and had his agent reach out to the safety-needy Bengals to initiate talks and see if they might provide a life-line.

Needless to say, Bengals officials are a little miffed about the situation.

On a per-year basis, the money in the deal is basically a wash. In fact, the average in Cincy may have been offering was a little better, although the guarantees in San Francisco were thought to be worth more. At any rate, it figures to make for good theater when the 49ers visit Paul Brown Stadium in Week 3 of the schedule, Sept. 25.

Whitner still has yet to practice with the 49ers, nor has the team officially announced his signing. Whitner said via twitter early Friday that he was in flight to San Francisco, and he was scheduled for a physical with the team later in the day.

Niners re-making secondary

With the additions of the aforementioned Whitner and Madieu Williams earlier in the week (ironically, a former underachieving Cincinnati starter), San Francisco continues to rebuild its secondary.

The team won't re-sign Dashon Goldson, a player some people felt was the 49ers' best safety, and is trying to trade Taylor Mays. Others contend the best safety on the team is Reggie Smith, and the Niners will keep him around, but it's clear first-year coach Jim Harbaugh is remaking the secondary.

The 49ers cut Nate Clements and signed Carlos Rogers as a free agent, and the only 2010 starter who might keep his job is corner Shawntae Spencer.

Prime Time in Canton

With Deion Sanders set to be enshrined in the Hall of Fame this weekend, it's worth reiterating a point made here previously, and in our presentation of the Hall presenters five months ago: It may be difficult to separate Sanders the player, the performer, and the personality, but there is no denying the guy set the standard as a cover defender and playmaker.

In his first six seasons in the NFL, Sanders averaged five interceptions, despite the fact quarterbacks usually threw to the other side of the field and avoided him. The two premier corners of this era, Asomugha and Derrelle Revis, had zero interceptions combined in 2010.

Jets coach Rex Ryan loves to emphasize that teams don't throw at Revis. But no one threw at Sanders, either – "Even in practice he would embarrass you," said former NFL quarterback Bobby Hebert, who played both against and with Sanders – and "Prime Time" still found a way to get the ball in his hands and make plays.

"I always felt like, if I could get the ball, I could score," Sanders told The Sports Xchange. "I had to basically invent ways to get (the football), but I did it."

One of the best years of Sanders' Hall of Fame career came during his lone season with the 49ers in 1994, when Sanders was named NFL Defensive Player of the Year despite joining San Francisco a month into the season and playing in just 12 games.

Sanders was nothing short of spectacular as the 49ers went 10-2 in those games, including a 10-game winning streak to help them capture the top seeding in the NFC playoffs. Despite teams trying to stay away from his corner of the field, Sanders recorded six interceptions and returned them 303 yards, taking three of them back for touchdowns.

Hall pass

The retirement this week of Randy Moss, coupled with the possibility that knee surgery could force former 49ers All-Pro Terrell Owens to retire as well (which agent Drew Rosenhaus, aka "A League Source," has denied), has prompted considerable discussion about the Hall of Fame credentials for both wide receivers.

Neither player can be nominated before the Class of 2016 is discussed, and that means, perhaps fortunately, that this Hall selector will be retired, and not a part of what could be an interesting debate.

Everyone knows the obvious numbers: Assuming neither guy ever plays another snap, Owens currently has the fifth most catches in NFL history (1,078 – 592 coming with the 49ers) and the second most receiving yards (15,934 – 8,572 with San Francisco).

Moss is tied for No. 8 in catches (954) and is fifth in yards (14,858). But both Moss and Owens, tied for second place in touchdown receptions, with 153 each, also knew where the end zone was.

And that should not go unnoted. There are a dozen wide receivers with 900 or more catches entering the 2011 season, and seven of them averaged a touchdown every 10 catches or more. By comparison, Moss averaged a touchdown catch every 6.23 grabs and Owens every 7.05 receptions.

Among the players with 900-plus receptions, no one has a better quotient than either. The incomparable Jerry Rice, for instance, scored every 7.86 receptions. In fact, of the 21 wide receivers currently in the Hall of Fame, only four – Paul Warfield (5.02), Bob Hayes (5.23), Tommy McDonald (5.89), and Pete Pihos (6.110) – have better touchdowns-per-catch averages than Moss. Just seven Hall of Fame wideouts top Owens in the key category.


When the Raiders signed pending free agent Stanford Routt to a three-year, $31.5 million extension before the lockout began – an inexplicable deal given the six-year veteran's thin resume – the feeling was that every cornerback in the free agency class would benefit from Oakland's largesse.

They didn't.

With the exception of Nnamdi Asomugha, arguably the top overall unrestricted free agent at any position who was pursued briefly by the 49ers, the other big-name cornerbacks who signed contracts to date have failed to touch Routt's deal.

Asomugha got $12 million a year from Philadelphia. Jonathan Joseph (Cincinnati to Houston), will average just under $10 million per season. Antonio Cromartie (New York Jets) and Chris Carr (Baltimore), got $8 million and about $6 million, respectively, to return to their incumbent teams.

But the guy who really gave his club a "hometown discount" after adamantly denying he would, was Pittsburgh's Ike Taylor. In light of Routt's deal – after starting double digit games in only two of six seasons and combining for just nine starts in the other four campaigns – Taylor and his camp thought the eight-year veteran would net offers in the $10 million per year range.

Either Taylor didn't generate that kind of market or he decided that staying with the Steelers was a priority. He ended up re-signing for $7 million per year. He wasn't the only one who tested the market and found staying with the Steelers a more attractive option.

Tackle Willie Colon, who re-signed for five years, $29 million, took $3 million less than Chicago offered him. A lot of people in the league felt that, his shaky hands notwithstanding (11 interceptions in eight years), Taylor was the second-best cornerback option in free agency. At least financially, it didn't work out that way for Taylor, who has a very strong relationship with the Rooney family.

Six-year veteran Carlos Rogers – considered at the low end of the top cornerbacks available in free agency this year – had to settle for a one-year deal with the 49ers.

Niners Digest Top Stories