Team representatives spoke with Schulters agent, Brian Levy, on Tuesday, and the only thing clarified by that conversation was just how far apart the two sides actually are from working a deal to bring the starting safety back to the team.
"We continue to be long way apart, and I just don't know if there's going to be much hope to bridge the gap that exists between where they are and where we're at," Niners general manager Terry Donahue said late Tuesday afternoon. "We're not giving up and we're not to a point where we think it's futile to continue to talk. But at this time, we do clearly see that there's a very large gap between where we are and where they'd like to be."
Levy, when contacted after his Tuesday discussion with the Niners, was much more succinct in his appraisal of the situation. "(Schulters) feels like he's being devalued by the team," said Levy, who called Tuesday's offer by the Niners "absurd." "We've been clear. We're not budging."
Schulters, one of the top safeties available in free agency this year, is looking for top dollar. He is seeking a deal comparable to those signed this month by safeties Shaun Williams and Robert Griffith.
Williams received a seven-year, $24.5 million deal with a two-tiered $6.5 million signing bonus to re-sign with the New York Giants, while Griffith got a four-year deal worth $15 million with a $3 million signing bonus from the Cleveland Browns to leave his original team, the Minnesota Vikings.
Though details of the Niners' latest offer were not revealed, it is believed they are offering a package in the range of what veteran Brock Marion recently received from the Miami Dolphins. Marion, who at age 31 is five years older than Schulters, signed a five-year, $10 million contract with a $2.75 million signing bonus.
"That's the name (the Niners) come up with every time when I talk to them," Levy said. "This was supposed to be their last offer. They have to sign (free-agent safety) Chad Cota, I guess." Said Donahue, "It just appears they have a number in mind, they have kind of contract formula in mind that is just very difficult for us to entertain. We can only go so far and only do so much. We're just not willing to go very much beyond where we basically feel we can go. We can't take Lance where he doesn't want to go and he can't take us where we don't want to go."
Levy said the possibility exists that Schulters could sign a one-year deal and then test the free-agent market again next year. But Schulters won't sign such a deal with the Niners, Levy said. "I'd rather see him sign a one-year contract with another team and try again next year," Levy said. "I'd rather see him sign something where we can bring it up after the season. But I'll tell you this - Lance will not sign a one-year deal with the 49ers."
Said Donahue, "Brian said he wouldn't do a one-year deal with the 49ers and I didn't quite understand that. We're interested in working out something. If he has an interest in doing a one-year deal with all other teams except the 49ers, that would be hard for us to understand."