Recent cuts add options to SF's shopping list

The 49ers are preparing to go shopping on the open market, and the shelves were conveniently stocked with an abundance of veteran talent over the past few days as NFL teams made roster cuts to get their salary caps in compliance with the re-scheduled start of free agency looming at 12:01 a.m. (EST) Monday. Here's a brief analysis of all the recent cuts so far that the Niners can add to the list of free-agents buys they are considering.

OFFENSE

QUARTERBACKS

Tony Banks (Houston): Banks has been a backup to David Carr in Houston and should only expect to serve in a reserve capacity at this point in his career. Still athletic, Banks still has a strong arm, but inconsistency and a knack for turning the ball have hampered him throughout his career.

Jay Fiedler (Jets): Brought in to serve as insurance in the event starter Chad Pennington was injured, Fielder went down with a shoulder injury minutes into his first opportunity in New York. Has had some success as a starter, but is now in the twilight of his career and should be looked upon as a backup or emergency type starter.

Tommy Maddox (Pittsburgh): Appears to have lost all confidence in his ability. Often throws into coverage and has proven to be very erratic. Unlikely he will suit up in 2006, unless a team comes calling for a veteran type to step in.

RUNNING BACKS

Mike Anderson (Denver): Looking to clear cap space and provide Ron Dayne a greater opportunity (as a backup), Anderson was a somewhat surprising cut for the Broncos. Not the fleetest afoot, Anderson has proven to be a powerful inside, downhill type rusher. On the downside of his career, Anderson has the ability to play, but shouldn't be counted on as a feature back at this point.

Stephen Davis (Carolina): At one time Davis was as good as any back in the league. Knee injuries have robbed Davis of his surprising quickness and upper-body shiftiness. Still retains power, but is too great an injury risk to count on.

Rod Smart (Carolina): Simply a reserve at the running back position, Smart has had some success in the return game and should catch on with a team seeking a better than average kick return specialist.

Tony Hollings (Houston): Never reached the potential many scouts believed he possessed when coming out of Georgia Tech. Knee injury in college robbed him of playing time and quite possibly took some of his game from him. Hollings is a reserve at best at the professional level.

Cal Murray (San Diego): Strictly a special teams-type player.

FULLBACKS

Jerald Sowell (Jets): Has one role, of a blocking back. Good blocker that understands his role of sacrificing himself. Teams which utilize the two-back or H-back sets with a need should express an interest.

TIGHT ENDS

Jeb Putzier (Denver): Has turned into a solid tight end in the Broncos offensive system. Putzier release was in an effort to reduce the Denver salary-cap issues and no other reason. His blocking has improved, but should be deemed average, while excelling as a receiver. The interest in Putzier will immediate when the free agent signing period commences, with the 49ers one of the leading contenders for his services if they can convince him that he will eventually be the No. 1 option at the position.

Mark Campbell (Buffalo): As the Bills sought to gain salary-cap relief, Campbell was an easy target for the team. Has battled injuries throughout his career, when healthy has shown the ability to get open, and is a sufficient run blocker. Campbell should be looked at as a depth player for a team looking to fill out the roster with a veteran presence type player willing to play special teams.

WIDE RECEIVERS

Johnnie Morton (San Francisco): Nearing the end of his career, he still runs routes well, but has slowed and does not catch the ball nearly as well as in his days in Detroit. Can offer help as a reserve, but shouldn't be counted on to be a major contributor. Though he still would be good enough on the receiver-weak 49ers, the team figured his role could easily be filled in 2006 by a youngster who needs the experience.

Cedric James (New England): Nondescript, special teams type of player at best.

Harry Williams (Jets): Special teams type player.

TACKLES

Damion McIntosh (Miami): Age, size, and physical limitations make McIntosh a risky proposition at the tackle position. Due to the lack of top-flight talent in the NFL at the tackle position, McIntosh should remain in the game as a reserve.

Brad Hopkins (Tennessee): He may be getting up in age (35), but Hopkins still possesses the ability and consistency sought at the left tackle position. At one time, He was close to being a dominant tackle, utilizing quickness and excellent handwork, now he depends on experience and desire to play the position at a high level. Due to age, Hopkins shouldn't be counted on to be much more than a two-year stopgap player.

Matt Morgan (St. Louis): Reserve, special teams type player.

Matt Hill (Carolina): Reserve, special teams type player.

Jason Fabini (Jets): Fabini was a solid, workmanlike tackle for the New York Jets prior to a pectoral muscle tear midway through the 2005 season. Capable of manning either the left or right tackle position, Fabini has been a consistent lineman without significant injury concerns. Fabini remains strong at the point of attack due to a wide base and leg strength. Released as a salary-cap relief measure, Fabini will garner serious looks from teams seeking an above average, experience lineman.

Mike Williams (Buffalo): A classic underachiever inside a mammoth frame. Williams was a highly touted lineman coming out of Texas, but has never achieved at the level expected of a high first-round draft selection. Overall play is inconsistent and sloppy, does not move well, and cannot reach the second level of defense. Williams can start on a team which can hide his deficiencies and will receive some looks based off his size and experience.

GUARDS

Ron Stone (Oakland): This cagey veteran will not wind down his career in Oakland. A marginal, fringe type player now, Stone still has the ability to run block well, but struggles against quicker defensive linemen. Inconsistent in getting to the second level of the defense and can be beat without help over the duration of a game. May get some looks from teams wanting to add depth, especially in training camp.

CENTERS

Joe Iorio (Giants): Deep backup, special teams type player.

DEFENSE

ENDS

Trevor Pryce (Denver): The one-time dominating player is that no longer. Injuries and age have robbed Pryce of some of the speed, quickness, and power for which elevated him to the elite pass rusher standard. Still displays the ability to compete, but should not be expected to produce more than average numbers for a defensive end or tackle. Due to his track record and team necessities in the game today, Pryce could command more than the standard for a player at his position.

Kenard Lang (Cleveland): Was a better than average defensive end for the Redskins and Browns prior to the 2005 season. In 2005, Lang dropped weight and learned a new position (outside linebacker), all which played into his lackluster season of a year ago. If Lang can add weight, he can be a viable mid-range option for a team seeking a steady player heading towards the closing chapter of his career.

Chris Cooper (San Francisco): Marginal depth type player. The 49ers simply didn't see him making a big enough contribution to keep him and his veteran's salary around in 2006.

Brady Smith (Atlanta): A foot injury sidelined this high-motor, lanky defensive end. Plays every play like it's the last one and is a solid team player in the locker room. If healthy, Smith has the ability to help a team looking for run support and with a moderate pass rush. The Falcons were seeking some salary-cap relief and this move falls into that category. Will command attention in free agency.

TACKLES

Brentson Buckner (Carolina): Age, injury, salary-cap issues, and a drop in production all played into the former 49er's release. While still displaying the strength and ability to play the defensive tackle, he has lost mobility and quickness. Struggles against quicker, physical offensive linemen and could be at the end of the road.

Sam Adams (Buffalo): Remains a solid run-stuffing defensive tackle, but age and wear/tear on his large frame appear to be taking their toll. Not as dominant at the point of attack in 2005 and appeared to wear down as the season went on. Should have a few miles left in the tank, but don't expect the same stellar Adams of years gone by.

Ted Washington (Oakland): Much like Adams, Washington is on the short end of his career. Not nearly as effective in 2005 as in the past, Washington struggled. A few short years ago, one blocker rarely could get the best of Washington. In 2005, however, age and years of punishment at the point of attack appear to have caught up to him. Still can be effective in a spot role, but shouldn't be depended upon to play 35-50 plays a game any longer.

La'Roi Glover (Dallas): Glover simply is not a good fit in the Dallas defensive scheme. Released for that and salary-cap reasons, Glover can expect to draw some significant interest from teams looking for a defensive lineman that plays the run well and can get to the quarterback on occasion in the right scheme (needs athleticism around him).

Lance Legree (Jets): Legree is a serviceable defensive tackle that will give effort, but is not physical or athletic enough to make an impact. Due to his desire and effort, Legree will play somewhere on Sundays, though as a backup.

MIDDLE LINEBACKERS

Chris Claiborne (St. Louis): Though athletic, Claiborne just doesn't make plays and can't stay healthy. Claiborne was believed to be one of the special type linebackers when entering the league out of USC, but has been relatively average at the professional level. Runs well, tackles adequately, but doesn't make plays with any consistency. After a non-descript career with the Lions, he moved to the Rams and continued his trait of being average.

Jeremy Loyd (St. Louis): Special teams/backup type player.

Na'il Diggs (Green Bay): Definitely the type of linebacker that plays better in space. Diggs is much better in coverage than at the point of attack. Teams like linebackers that display speed and quickness, Diggs will garner his fair share of interest due to his athletic ability.

Barry Gardner (Jets): Marginal backup inside linebacker type and special teams ace.

OUTSIDE LINEBACKERS

Shawn Barber (Kansas City): Injuries have robbed this very athletic player from significant parts of seasons throughout his career. Still runs well and is coming off knee surgery. Barber is a serious medical risk and should only receive a very team friendly contract (one-year deal) to see if he can play an entire season, which is questionable at best at this time in his career.

Gary Stills (Kansas City): Very good special teams player.

Brandon Short (Carolina): Productive linebacker that has had some issues with teammates and coaches in the past, Short is on the outside looking in. While this release can be acknowledged as a salary-cap cutting move, his overall play was inconsistent and the team is looking for a more balance and chemistry. Short will draw interest in free agency due to his ability to play at a better than average level at times.

Howard Hodges (San Diego): No impact, special teams type player.

Jamie Sharper (Seattle): Salary-cap cutting move, though performance and injury plays into the equation. Sharper was a disappointment for the Seahawks and appears to have slowed down. Once was a very durable and tough linebacker, in the 2005 season he was easier to neutralize. If healthy (knee surgery), he could command some looks in free agency, but there should not be a large payday offered.

CORNERBACKS

Ahmed Plummer (San Francisco): When healthy, Plummer is a very solid cornerback. The past two seasons have been difficult for the former Ohio State star as neck and ankle woes have limited his playing time, which helped lead to his release (as well as the salary-cap savings). Again, if healthy, Plummer can be a significant player at the corner position, but that is a big "IF". Will draw serious interest as teams are always seeking cornerback that can cover, and Plummer does that well, when healthy.

Eric Warfield (Kansas City): Very inconsistent and does not do a good job in positioning himself between the ball and receiver. Can be easily fooled and does not play to his size. Could get a look as a starter somewhere, but the odds are he will be a backup in 2006.

Dexter McCleon (Kansas City): McCleon doesn't cover well, is better in run support, but a cornerback is paid to cover and execute. Can still contribute, but is not starter material any longer.

Reggie Howard (Miami): Appeared to have the ability to become a better than average cornerback when with the Panthers. In two-seasons with the Dolphins, Howard was a complete bust. Free agency should be relatively quiet for him, as he is a depth type player at this point.

Sam Madison (Miami): Has slowed over the past two seasons, but still regarded as a quality cornerback. Madison reads and reacts well and is smooth in coverage. He relies more on experience and instincts, rather than speed and quickness, though Madison possesses adequate speed. Still, despite some slippage, Madison can still play the position at a high level of consistency, but has not shown the ability over the past couple seasons to be the shutdown cornerback he once was.

Denard Walker (Oakland): Smallish stature and a loss of speed and quickness make Walker a nickel or dime type cornerback at this point in his career.

Andre Dyson (Seattle): Salary-cap cutting move after a very disappointing 2005 season for the Seahawks. Injuries and inconsistency hampered Dyson throughout the season and he was replaced when relatively healthy. Based on his history, Dyson will get an offer to start in the league in 2006, but may have to prove the 2005 season was a fluke. Must do a better job against bigger receivers to taste success, is aggressive, and has a nose for the ball.

Duane Starks (New England): This one-time big-time cornerback has struggled since suffering a serious knee injury a couple years ago. Whether the knee isn't healthy or the player is suffering from confidence issues, Starks is far from the player he was just a few seasons ago. Relatively young, Starks may still have a place in the game, but will have to start from the bottom up.

Michael Lehan (Cleveland): Has shown some coverage ability, but is always injured. At this time a player which should not be counted on to be anything more than a special teams/reserve type player.

Ty Law (Jets): Coming off a serious foot injury, Law played his way into shape during the 2005 season and was named to the Pro Bowl. A truly outstanding cornerback and playmaker in the defensive backfield, Law will command significant interest in free agency. Still can man-up with the best of them, positions and handles himself well against large receivers, and displays consistency getting between the ball and receiver.

Michael Harden (Seattle): Could be a reserve and special teams type player.

Willie Williams (Pittsburgh): The Pittsburgh Super Bowl victory could be the final farewell for Williams. Smallish is stature, he has lost the speed and quickness necessary to play the cornerback position. The Pittsburgh defensive scheme helped minimize deficiencies. A definite salary-cap move, production also plays a factor in his release. A backup at best now and may end his career with the ‘ring.'

SAFETIES

Lawyer Milloy (Buffalo): Not the dominant defensive back he once was, Milloy can still play the game at a high level and provides a great deal of experience. Over the years Milloy has lost a step and may not cover as much ground, but he makes up for this due to his ability to be in position. Any team looking for a safety for a couple years will seriously consider this former New England Patriots and Buffalo Bills standout.

Tebucky Jones (Miami): Jones has never played to the level expected when he was a first-round draft selection. Poor fundamentals and a lack of urgency leaves Jones on the sideline.

Marcus Coleman (Houston): Was starting in Houston until he violated team rules and fell out of favor with the coaching staff. Coleman still has the ability to be a serviceable safety if above average talent surrounds him in the defensive backfield, due to questionable pass coverage skills at this point in his career.

Brent Alexander (Giants): Considering retirement and coming off a poor season with the New York Giants, this option may be best served, as Alexander appears to have nothing left.

Oliver Celestin (Jets): Reserve player with potential. A definite special teams player which should play on Sunday somewhere in the 2006 season.

Jerry Wilson (San Diego): A step slow, average at best in coverage, and will not intimidate a receiver, Wilson's days of starting in the league are over. At best, now a backup and special teams type contributor.


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