SFI's takes: Veterans in limbo
Except for Hicks, a restricted free agent, these holdover veterans who played for San Francisco last season were not offered new contracts this year after their 2006 deals expired with the team, and each became an unrestricted free agent free to negotiate with any team on the open market, including the 49ers. RB/KR Maurice Hicks: The flashy fourth-year veteran can help the 49ers in many ways and is a player the team needs to bring back. The 49ers took the first step in that pursuit by tendering Hicks a one-year offer at $850,000 as a restricted free agent, but Hicks has not yet signed that deal to return to the team. After turning down a contract extension from the 49ers last season, Hicks is looking for a better offer sheet from another team, and if he gets it, the 49ers would receive no compensation should they decline to match the offer because Hicks came to the team as an undrafted free agent. Hicks has until April 20 to sign an offer sheet with another team. LB Jay Foreman: The late-season addition injured a knee in his second game with the team and finished the year on injured reserve. The 49ers are looking to fortify their linebacker corps and Foreman could be asked back later in the year to compete for a roster spot in training camp. The team is likely to wait until it sees how things shake out in the draft before considering whether it needs to make an offer to Foreman, but his return certainly is not essential with the flood of other veteran linebackers available that are similar to him. FB Chris Hetherington: The vested veteran saw no action on offense after losing his starting job to Moran Norris in Week 3 and played in only three games the entire season. At age 34 with 11 NFL seasons behind him, the 49ers don't need to - or figure to - ask him back as they look for a younger backup in the draft to groom behind Norris. LB T.J. Slaughter: He made some contributions in his first year with the 49ers before his 2006 season was cut short by a finger injury that required surgery. Like Foreman, the eighth-year veteran is a solid role player who could be asked back to fortify a position that's looking for both talent and depth to supply the team's conversion to a base 3-4 defensive scheme. The chances of both Foreman and Slaughter being asked back took a blow earlier this month when the team re-signed Hannibal Navies, a veteran linebacker who displayed his versatility after being signed by the team late last season. Slaughter is a decent player who can make the team and contribute in 2007, so the 49ers figure to try and bring him back after the dust settles following the draft. S Chad Williams: The sixth-year veteran was a solid role player who made plays - including 2.5 sacks and an interception he returned 43 yards - while seeing plenty of action in the team's coverage packages. If he doesn't sign elsewhere, there's a good chance Williams will be signed back by the 49ers to compete for a roster spot and role in the secondary. He'll face stronger competition than last year, however, to retain his spot on the roster. S Mike Adams: It wasn't long ago that Adams appeared to be carving out his niche on this team as one of the 49ers' young core players. But after the fourth-year veteran turned down millions in a contract extension offered by the team early last season when Adams was establishing himself as the team's starting free safety, Adams eventually lost that job and plummeted down and out of San Francisco's plans. So much so, that the team did not tender him an offer as a restricted free agent, essentially a message that the team no longer wants him. Once a player on the rise, Adams appears to have tapped his upside and is unlikely to return. He'll find another home in the NFL, but probably will have to prove himself all over again with his new team. LB Andre Torrey: The second-year linebacker tore knee ligaments in training camp and spent the season on injured reserve. Though he did display some athleticism and promise before being hurt last summer, Torrey was not tendered as an exclusive rights free agent and appears unlikely to return in 2007.
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