FAs under Nolan: The hits, misses and TBD
THE HITS CB Walt Harris (2006): Signed to a two-year deal at a bargain rate, the 11-year veteran was one of the biggest steals in free agency last year, producing the best season of his career and playing at a Pro Bowl level while being honored as the team's co-MVP. Harris led the NFC with eight interceptions, provided veteran experience and leadership and - most important of all - gave the 49ers a legitimate playmaker at what was one of the team's weakest positions before he arrived. OG Larry Allen (2006): Sure, he's not the player he once was, but the player he once was is arguably the greatest offensive lineman in NFL history. Allen still was pretty good in his 13th season - make that, pretty darn good - and he made the Pro Bowl again despite missing almost six full games to injury. The team's power running game would be lacking a main source of its power if this guy weren't around. DL Marques Douglas (2005): Has started 31 of the 32 games the team has played since his arrival and has become one of San Francisco's top every-down defenders. And overachiever who, while not flashy, has established himself as a legitimate NFL starter. K Joe Nedney (2005): Came at a bargain rate in 2005, then produced one of the most efficient seasons ever by a San Francisco kicker to earn team co-MVP honors and a new four-year deal. Has solidified what had been a problem area for the team and has become San Francisco's best at the position in the past decade. FB Moran Norris (2006): Signed at a bargain rate to compete for a starting position, Norris soon beat out incumbent Chris Hetherington and became an integral factor in the team's success running the football with his powerful blocking. Got a three-year contract extension from the team last month, then showed that he also can help the 49ers with the football in his hands. S Mark Roman (2006): It didn't take him long to beat out incumbent Tony Parrish for a starting role, and he progressed in the system throughout the season before being awarded with a three-year extension from the 49ers before he could become a free agent again in March. OL Tony Wragge (2005): A fringe undrafted free agent when he originally was signed by the team in 2005, Wragge became a key reserve along a rising offensive line this year when he saw time as a starter at left guard and ended the season as the team's starting center, becoming a factor on the unit as the 49ers move forward. WR Bryan Gilmore (2006): He only had eight receptions as the team's marginal third receiver, but he averaged 18.8 on those catches and also provided a change-of-pace threat on reverses, was a positive veteran presence and contributed on special teams. FB Chris Hetherington (2005): Became a nonfactor this past year after Norris took his starting job early in the season, but he stepped up in 2005 to take the starting job from a fading Fred Beasley and has been worth the veteran's minimum salary the team has paid for his services. S Chad Williams (2006): He played a significant role in several San Francisco victories and was a contributor throughout the season in secondary coverage packages and special teams. He made a woeful secondary better by his presence. THE MISSES WR Antonio Bryant (2006): Perhaps Bryant's success as a free-agent pickup with the 49ers still is to be determined, but since his first season with the team began with such promise and ended with such disappointment, he currently goes down as a miss since there's a possibility he may never play another snap for the team. Bryant came out of training camp being lauded as one of San Francisco's top talents, but he let the team down with his arrest in November and subsequent four-game suspension that will carry into next season. For this, the 49ers paid him $13.9 million over four years with $5.25 million guaranteed. DB Donald Strickland (2006): The veteran, signed in November, immediately was thrust into the starting lineup after picking up the system, but he proved fragile and ended up on injured reserve after three games. He's unlikely to return in 2007. WR Johnnie Morton (2005): He filled a stopgap role as a third receiver on what some considered the worst receiver corps in the NFL in 2005, but the former star had trouble separating from defenders and managed only 21 catches in his only season with team. LB Andre Torrey (2006): Fringe free agent didn't look like he was going to make the team before a knee injury during training camp placed him on injured reserve. THE STILL-TO-BE-DETERMINED OT Jonas Jennings (2005): The big guy has played very well at times as the team's starting left tackle. The problem is that he doesn't always play that way … and he doesn't always play, period. Jennings has missed 16 games - a full season - to injuries during his first two years with the team. Considering the 49ers gave him a $36 million deal that included a $12 million signing bonus, they'll wait a while before they consider that a good investment or not. OT Harvey Dahl (2005): The undrafted free agent showed some real promise this year while making and spending the entire season on the 53-man roster. LB Roderick Green (2006): Was with the 49ers only two games before being released in September, but then came on as a pass rusher in a second stint that began in mid-November. Contributed 4.5 sacks over the second half of the season - the third-highest total on the team in 2006 - and would be a hit if he can keep up that production over an entire season. LB Hannibal Navies (2006): Did some nice things for the 49ers after being picked up as a street free agent in late November. Started three of San Francisco's final five games - displaying the versatility to play both inside and outside linebacker - and also contributed on special teams. Needs to carry that over to 2007 to be considered a hit. DT Damane Duckett (2006): The big guy has been around the NFL a bit and he has some talent, but he had trouble staying active on game days after beginning the season on the team's practice squad. He didn't cost the 49ers much, but he'll have to do more this year for a weak area of the team to be considered as a free agent of any consequence. S Deke Cooper (2006): Street free agent was picked up in late December and only played in the season's final game. He's unlikely to be asked back in 2007. LB Jay Foreman (2006): Foreman's audition with the team was cut short after he went on injured reserve after playing in only two December games. He has a chance to be asked back this year. LB T.J. Slaughter (2006): Made some contributions on defense and was one of San Francisco's better special teams players before landing on injured reserve at the end of November. Is probably leaning toward the miss category unless he can make the team and play better in 2007. QB Shaun Hill (2006): Is probably the best No. 3 quarterback the 49ers have had in several years, but with Alex Smith playing every snap last season and Trent Dilfer also in front of him, Hill doesn't get a chance to show it. OL Nick Seitz (2006): Was signed as line insurance and depth after Eric Heitmann was injured in December, but was inactive for the final two games of the season. Could get a look this year for a backup role along in the offensive interior.
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