Heard aboard; Farr overboard
The Niners did right by snapping up Heard, who not only was a valuable swing safety for them last year, but also has been one of the team's best special teams players since he joined the 49ers as an undrafted free-agent rookie in 2000. The Niners took a chance by not tendering a contract to Heard at the end of February, which turned the restricted free agent into an unrestricted free agent free to negotiate with any other team. That obviously was a salary-related move in which the team had hoped Heard wouldn't find any other takers and would be available at a salary lower than his tender would have been, as was the case earlier this year with safety John Keith. Bingo. After realizing after their first May minicamp two weeks ago that there still is a place for Heard in their scheme, the Niners smartly moved to bring him into the fold instead of waiting into the summer. There was a chance Heard still would be available after training camp began in July, but the Niners were correct in not taking that chance and making Heard a part of the team again. Able to play both safety positions - he was the NFC's Defensive Player of the Week last October after a three-interception game against Arizona in place of injured free safety Zack Bronson - Heard immediately moves into the No. 2 slot on the depth chart at strong safety behind Tony Parrish. The Niners now appear set at the safety position two months before training camp with Bronson and Parrish as the starters followed by Heard, Keith and second-year player Kevin Curtis, who missed all of his rookie season with a knee injury but is again showing plenty of promise. All five should make the team, because Keith and Heard also are standouts on the specialty units, where Curtis also can contribute. The only surprise about Farr's release is why the Niners waited so long. Farr looked like he still had some of his old moves during the first two days of minicamp earlier this month, but he came up lame on the final day of the event. He told coach Dennis Erickson then that his knees couldn't take the pounding, then cleared his locker of personal belongings. Erickson said then he didn't expect Farr to be back. Then, the coach said earlier this week that Farr wouldn't be back, setting the stage for his release, which cost the Niners nothing since Farr received no signing bonus when he was picked up in March and the team had no obligations to him should he be forced to quit because of injury. Farr was a longshot to make the roster anyway, and even if healthy he didn't figure into the rotation at tackle where every other player at the position was both younger and healthier. The waiting finally ended Thursday for receiver Tai Streets, too. Streets, tendered a one-year contract at $1.318 million at the end of February, said on May 3 he expected to sign that contract "in the next couple of days." Make that 12 days, as it turns out. The Niners announced Streets finally has inked that deal. Streets, of course, had no other alternatives since, under the terms of the NFL's collective bargaining agreement, he had no choice but to sign with the Niners if he wanted to play this season. Next year, he becomes an UFA free to negotiate with anybody if the Niners don't sign him to a deal before then.
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