The McNown deal adds a sixth quarterback to the Niners' roster - and the team plans to take only four to training camp in Stockton next month.
But McNown's potential - he was 12th player selected in the first-round of the 1999 NFL Draft after an All-America career at UCLA - simply was something too good for the Niners to pass on when the Dolphins inquired to see if San Francisco was interested. Miami was planning on releasing McNown - who has been as much a bust in South Florida as he was in Chicago - but gave the Niners a heads-up in case they wanted McNown before he hit the waiver wire.
"Miami called and said they were going to release Cade," Niners general manager Terry Donahue said late Thursday afternoon. "They asked us if we might be interested in making a trade for his rites. In talking to everybody in the organization, we felt if he was released and we put a waiver claim on him, we wouldn't get him."
Donahue - who had a college Hall of Fame coaching career at UCLA before joining the Niners - recruited McNown to UCLA and started McNown as a true freshman in 1995, the last of Donahue's 20 seasons coaching the Bruins.
The Niners were very interested in drafting McNown when he came out in 1999 - he looked to be a prototype eventual replacement for Steve Young - but they had no chance at getting him with their No. 27 pick in the first round and weren't able to work a trade that could have moved them high enough in the first round to grab McNown. But McNown bombed in Chicago and didn't make a much better impression last year in Miami, where he never played in a game last season.
Interestingly enough, the Niners picked Florida defensive tackle Reggie McGrew with their No. 27 pick that year. Despite the considerable progress McGrew has made over the past year, the signing of Flanigan puts McGrew's roster spot in jeopardy, since Flanigan is an established NFL commodity who can do many of the same things as McGrew in San Francisco's system.
Flanigan, who visited and worked out with the Niners earlier during the team's spring minicamps and made a strong impression, signed a two-year deal that could be worth as much as $2 million if Flanigan reaches performance incentives. He received a $100,000 signing bonus and will have a 2002 base salary of $650,000 that could go as high as $1 million with incentives.
Flanigan was one of the top defensive tackles still available on the open market. A third-round pick by Chicago in 1994, the 6-foot-2, 290-pound Flanigan has 45 career sacks and also has demonstrated he can be stout against the run.