SFI's takes: Veterans re-signed
WR Bryan Gilmore: After cutting their losses with Antonio Bryant, it was a wise decision to bring back unrestricted free agent Gilmore with a one-year, $595,000 deal. Even though he contributed only eight receptions as the team's No. 3 receiver in 2006 - the upside of that was his team-leading 18.8-yard average per catch - the 49ers need Gilmore's knowledge of the system and veteran experience at a position that still has several holes. He also is a team player who averaged 13.4 yards on seven reverses and can contribute on special teams. P Andy Lee: The fourth-year veteran hit the open market as a restricted free agent, and the 49ers wisely wasted no time in matching the six-year, $7.1 million offer sheet Lee signed with the Pittsburgh Steelers, a deal that included a $1.66 million signing bonus. That's a lot to pay for a punter, but Lee's 44.8-yard average in 2006 ranked seventh in the NFL and was the best produced by a San Francisco punter in the last 41 years. After significantly helping the 49ers in the battle for field position last season, Lee is worth the money, and locking him up for the future further solidifies San Francisco's improving special teams units. S Keith Lewis: The heavy-hitting fourth-year veteran is a Pro Bowl-level special teams standout who worked his way into the starting lineup at safety last season with his fiery intensity and aggressive, opportunistic play. Lewis was scheduled to become a restricted free agent this year, but he made it clear he wanted to remain a 49er, and the team made the no-brainer decision to sign him to a three-year contract extension at the relative bargain rate of $2.935 million with a $650,000 signing bonus. Lewis is the kind of unsung player who provides substance to a team's foundation and can help the Niners get to the next level whether he remains a starter or not. LB Hannibal Navies: The versatile ninth-year veteran saw significant action after signing for the final six games, three of which he started. He offers the 49ers an experienced player with the ability to play several LB positions in their 3-4 scheme, and he also can contribute on special teams. Navies could challenge for a role as the team's top backup on the outside and maybe even push his way into contention for a starting role. FB Moran Norris: The bruising seventh-year veteran came on strong last season to establish himself as a key cog in San Francisco's developing offense, and he also displayed his loyalty to the 49ers and virtue as a stand-up guy when he recently signed the three-year, $3.285 million contract extension that he had agreed to with the team late last season. Because of the details of the one-year deal Norris signed with the 49ers last year, NFL rules prevented him from signing that new contract until March, and he probably could have gotten more millions on the open market as an unrestricted free agent this spring had he backed out of his agreement with the team. Another great deal all-around for the 49ers. S Mark Roman: The eighth-year veteran would have been one of the top safeties available on the open market this year as an unrestricted free agent, so the 49ers never let him get there. Roman pushed Tony Parrish to the bench and ultimately off the roster last year, and he emerged as a steady and disciplined performer who played within the structure of San Francisco's defensive system. The 49ers were happy to get him back with a three-year, $4.5 million contract extension that included a $2 million signing bonus, and that looks like a good, fair deal for both sides. CB Donald Strickland: The 49ers released the fifth-year veteran, who ended the season on San Francisco's injured reserve list, with the intention of signing him back to the team with a new one-year, $595,000 contract. Strickland has one-on-one coverage ability and will vie for a roster berth in what looks to be a considerably improved secondary. OL Tony Wragge: The 49ers wasted no time in tendering an offer to the exclusive rights free agent, meaning Wragge could negotiate only with San Francisco on a 2007 contract, then the team rewarded the third-year veteran with a two-year, $1.34 million deal. The unheralded Wragge established himself as a legitimate NFL offensive lineman last year, starting games at both guard and center, and he's another young, rising player who is happy to be here and is coming back as a bargain to the team. DE Bryant Young: It goes without saying that bringing back the stalwart veteran for a 14th season with the team is nothing but positive for the 49ers. The four-time All-Pro and undisputed team leader still has gas left in the tank and can be an impact force in the defensive trenches despite his advancing age. At $4.25 million for one year, which includes his roster bonus, Young also is a bargain when it's taken into consideration everything he offers the team.
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