Niners decline to re-sign four veteran UFAs

As the 49ers continued the first stage of organized June workouts at team headquarters, the team made it official that four holdover veterans would not be returning to the roster in 2007.

Unrestricted free agents Jay Foreman, Chris Hetherington, T.J. Slaugher and Chad Williams were not offered contracts to return to the team by this week's deadline.

All four players had supplementary roles with the team last season - which was the only season in San Francisco for Foreman, Slaughter and Williams.

Hetherington, signed by the 49ers in the first year of the Mike Nolan regime, took away the starting fullback role from veteran Fred Beasley midway through the 2005 season and carried that role into the 2006 season. But the 11-year veteran lost his starting job to newcomer Moran Norris in Week 3 last year and barely got on the field the remainder of the season, making it apparent he would not be offered a new deal when his contract expired in March.

Slaughter, a seven-year veteran, was brought in during free agency last year and Foreman was signed in December after Slaughter suffered a finger injury that required surgery. Both of the linebackers ended the season on injured reserve. Slaughter appeared in 10 games and Foreman was injured in just his second game with the team.

There was some belief that both veterans had a chance to be offered new contracts by the team because of the 49ers' need for linebackers in their 3-4 system, but the team added talent and depth at the position during the offseason with veteran free agents Tully Banta-Cain and Colby Bockwoldt, first-round draft pick Patrick Willis and fourth-rounder Jay Moore. The team also re-signed unrestricted free agent Hannibal Navies, who played well for the 49ers last year after being signed in November.

Williams, who was signed after the draft last year, probably was the most productive of the four players for the 49ers last year. He saw action in 15 games, starting one at nickel back, and recorded 25 tackles on defense and seven more on special teams. He also had an interception that he returned 43 yards - the team's longest pick return of the season.

But Williams became expendable when the 49ers re-signed holdover veterans Mark Roman and Keith Lewis, acquired safety Michael Lewis in free agency and drafted defensive backs Dashon Goldson and Tarell Brown to add to their secondary coverage packages.

While Hetherington doesn't have any future with the team, it's still possible Williams, Foreman or Slaughter - if they don't catch on with other teams - could get a call later this year depending on how San Francisco's roster shakes down this summer.

In other Niners'news, the team has agreed to terms on a one-year, $595,000 deal with four-year veteran defensive lineman Sam Rayburn, who plans to join the squad for the beginning of the second week of organized team activities Monday.

Rayburn, who will challenge for playing time in the defensive line rotation, was released by the Philadelphia Eagles on May 11.


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