Niners developing contingency plans at safety

Safeties Chad Cota and Tony Parrish are among three free agents the 49ers will host at their Santa Clara headquarters on Thursday, further evidence the team is making contingency plans for the possible loss of starting strong safety Lance Schulters.

Schulters - now the only unrestricted free-agent starter that hasn't re-signed with the team - and the Niners remain far apart in contract negotiations. But Niners general manager Terry Donahue said Wednesday the impasse does not mean the team has terminated its pursuit of Schulters.

"We have not given up in our quest and our desire to bring Lance Schulters back to the 49ers," Donahue said. "But we have to be realistic that at any moment other teams can make an offer to Lance that will take him away from us. We believe as an organization right now that there is a considerable difference between our position and Lance's representative's position. They know full well that we want Lance back if we can work it out. At the same time, we feel that we need to develop a contingency plan if we are unable to bridge that distance between us."

Enter Cota and Parrish, who is considered by several publications as one of the top free agents on the open market. Both veteran safeties will be at 49ers camp Thursday along with defensive lineman Sean Moran, who played last year for the St. Louis Rams. Cota, an eighth-year NFL veteran, started for the Indianapolis Colts the past three seasons and had started 63 consecutive games with the Colts and Carolina Panthers entering last season. Parrish has started every game the past four seasons after being drafted by the Bears in the second round of the 1998 draft - two rounds ahead of Schulters.

Atlanta and Tennessee are among the teams actively pursuing Schulters, who could make a decision by the end of this week, according to his agent, Brian Levy, who recently indicated the Niners are becoming a longshot to retain Schulters' services.

"Until Lance either re-signs here or signs with another team, you just don't know what's going to happen," Donahue said. "But we're still optimistic. We're continuing to have dialogue with Lance's representatives. We're continuing to explore positive ways we can bridge the gap between us and them."

Niners Digest Top Stories