Donahue divulges deal details

The 49ers aren't trying to play hardball with Julian Peterson. In fact, general manager Terry Donahue revealed Wednesday, the deal the team has offered the All-Pro linebacker is the largest in franchise history, a package that includes a team-record $15.5 million signing bonus and would make Peterson the second-highest paid linebacker in the NFL. But the GM also said that is about as high as the Niners can – or are willing – to go.

With Peterson a no-show at the Niners' final spring minicamp this week, just as he was for the team's first two minicamps, Donahue was asked if one of his biggest concerns this summer was getting Peterson into training camp.

"Getting Julian Peterson into camp is important to us," Donahue replied. "We're hopeful that he comes in. But at the same time, it is what it is."

And so began a lengthy dialogue surrounding just exactly what it is with Peterson, his agents, the Niners and the deal that the two sides apparently are nowhere even close to getting done.

Negotiations with Peterson and his agents, Kevin and Carl Poston, have been at a standstill since the Niners placed the exclusive franchise tag on Peterson in February. Donahue doesn't foresee any changes in that situation once the NFL's collective bargaining agreement allows the two sides to begin negotiating again on July 15.

For the first time, Donahue discussed the package the Niners are offering their two-time Pro Bowler and young defensive leader. Although the GM did not go into specific numbers other than the signing bonus, Donahue described the offer as "the second-best linebacker contract in the history of the league."

"We've made an offer that's the highest in the history of the franchise," Donahue said. "We've offered this athlete the biggest contract in the history of the 49ers. The only player at his position that has a higher contract than he does is Ray Lewis. And Ray Lewis is an MVP of the league, a perennial Pro Bowler."

The total deal, Donahue said, would surpass the contracts signed last year by Chicago linebacker Brian Urlacher and Washington's LaVar Arrington. Among NFL linebackers, the contract would trail only the seven-year, $50 million deal signed by Baltimore's Lewis in 2002. That deal included a $19 million signing bonus.

Urlacher signed a nine-year, $58 million deal last June that included a $13 million signing bonus. Arrington signed an eight-year extension worth a disputed $68 million in December.

During an interview with Sporting News Radio on May 19, Peterson said he "would like to be somewhere within the Urlacher and Ray Lewis frame and possibly even higher than that."

The most lucrative deal in 49ers history is the six-year, $38 million contract signed by defensive tackle Bryant Young in 2001. That package included a team-record $12.5 million signing bonus, and the deal being wagged at Peterson apparently would go well beyond those numbers.

"I think we've made our intentions really clear," Donahue said. "Obviously, with the offer that we made, we would like Julian Peterson here long term. That's pretty clear. Julian Peterson is an important part of the organization, and he is a player we would like to have here for the long term or we would have never made that kind of offer to him."

But Peterson's hard-line agents apparently turned their nose up at that offer. At that point, the Niners placed the exclusive franchise tag on Peterson, which prohibited him from negotiating with other NFL teams, a move that effectively broke off negotiations between the Niners and their defensive star.

Donahue isn't holding his breath that those will resume before, during or even after training camp.

"There really isn't a whole lot to discuss," Donahue said. "I do not expect us to be in heavy negotiations (after July 15) or anything like that. We've gone where we can go. We've made a very, very competitive offer."

Peterson has yet to sign the team's one-year tender, a $6.073 million offer that is the average of the five highest-paid players at Peterson's position. His agents, reportedly, were asking for a deal that included $30 million in guaranteed money before talks broke off in February.

When asked Wednesday if that figure was accurate, Donahue replied, "I don't know. I lost track."

Donahue doesn't realistically see any long-term deal on the horizon, which basically leaves him and the 49ers waiting on their best player this summer to sign his tender and join the team – whenever that might happen. Meanwhile, Peterson misses out on valuable preparation time with a team that is adding several new schemes to its defense.

"We're hopeful," Donahue said. "But we understand things. This isn't any animosity with Julian or the Postons. I love Julian. He's a great guy. He's been one of my favorite players since I drafted him. This is just part of doing business in the National Football League.

"We're anticipating now, (because) we couldn't come to an agreement, that the things I've just mentioned, they aren't good enough. Then, we did what the collective bargaining agreement calls for, which is to put a franchise tag on a player. And we expect the player to come in and play for the negotiated franchise number. Now when he gets here and all that, I really can't speak of that."

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