Free-agent influx begins with Flanigan

The 49ers' revolving door opened Wednesday, and Jim Flanigan was the first one through it. The veteran defensive tackle, who has 45 career sacks in eight NFL seasons, worked out for the Niners as they began a three-day minicamp. Several other free agents figure to follow him into team headquarters during the next week as the Niners prepare to do their final roster shopping with June 1 looming.

Niners general manager Terry Donahue said the team would be "interested in everything" after the calendar turns the page on Saturday, the date when several veteran players throughout the league will be released for salary-cap purposes. That interest began a few days early with Flanigan, one of the better defensive tackles on the open market.

The Niners are most interested in bringing in a veteran offensive lineman and veteran receiver to strengthen those positions and add competition to those areas of the team. But defensive tackle also is a place the Niners wouldn't mind getting better before training camp.

If the price is right, the Niners have some interest in the 6-foot-2, 290-pound Flanigan, who has the wide body to plug the run but also can provide some nice inside push on the pass rush. He was a six-year starter in Chicago, where he had 11 sacks in 1995 and 8.5 in 1998. Flanigan played in Green Bay last year, where he had 40 tackles and 4.5 sacks while rotating with starting tackles Santana Dotson and Gilbert Brown.

Flanigan sees himself fitting in with the Niners in a similar role.

"A third guy swinging in there and playing as much as a starter," Flanigan said. "I'd push as hard as I could in training camp. The way the NFL goes nowadays, you need three or four defensive tackles to make it through a game and keep everybody fresh. I think that's kind of what my role would be."

The Niners currently have Reggie McGrew and John Schlecht behind starting defensive tackles Bryant Young and Dana Stubblefield on the depth chart, with end Sean Moran also available to play tackle and rookie tackle Josh Shaw expected to be ready to return from a knee injury in August.

Considering his experience and past performance, Flanigan ostensibly would be in a favorable position to compete for the No. 3 role behind Stubblefield and Young, whom Flanigan started next to for three years on the defensive line at Notre Dame.

"Obviously Dana and B.Y. on the D-line are established veterans," said Flanigan, who visited Jacksonville last week and continues to talk with other teams. "They're great leaders and great players, and I think I can contribute in my capacity. This is a playoff team. I'd just like an opportunity to be part of a winning team. That's probably the most important thing right now for me - to get a shot at maybe going to the Super Bowl. Now I'm just trying to wait until June 1 and see where everything stands."

So are the 49ers.


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