The Niners weren't about to let Schulters and his agent, Brian Levy, play their hand. The team was offering Schulters a $3.5 million signing bonus - firm. Schulters was demanding something in the $6 million range. That was the biggest sticking point in negotiations, and the "very large gap" that general manager Terry Donahue referred to last week that prevented progress toward a possible deal.
Instead, the Niners filled two defensive holes and got a safety comparable to Schulters - perhaps even better in the long run - for less of a signing bonus than what they were offering Schulters. Parrish received a $3 million signing bonus as part of his five-year, $12.025 million deal, and versatile defensive lineman Sean Moran - who adds depth across the line and will be an inside rusher on passing downs - who received a $400,000 bonus as part of his three-year, $2.4 million contract.
"We have a budget built for a cap model and we're not going to deviate from it," Donahue said.
The move once again shows the clear vision and decisiveness of Donahue as he continues to build the organization and lead it into the future. Parrish also was one of the top free-agent safeties available, and the Niners would have lost leverage had he signed elsewhere while negotiations continued to drag on with Schulters. And after reeling in both Parrish and Moran, the Niners' draft wish list just shrunk and became more focused.
Schulters is a take-charge guy and an intense leader in the locker room, but he had two knee surgeries before the 2001 season and may need shoulder surgery before the 2002 season begins. Perhaps because of his injuries, Schulters was not the player in coverage last season that he was in 1999 and 2000.
While Schulters was the big hitter of San Francisco's secondary, Parrish can match Schulters with his aggressiveness in run support and physical play along the line of scrimmage, and Parrish is regarded as the quicker player in coverage. The Niners made the right decision. They definitely made the deal that's best for themselves.