Sims in as OT insurance

After adding some fringe free agents to the roster during the spring to address their serious need for depth at offensive tackle, the 49ers secured the established veteran they desperately needed at the position on Monday when former Oakland Raider Barry Sims agreed to a contract with the team, giving the Niners some security behind the enigmatic Jonas Jennings.

In fact, Sims - who started 119 of the 136 games he played the past nine seasons with the Raiders - could push Jennings for the starting job at right tackle, and at the very least light a fire under a player who has not lived up to expectations since signing a seven-year, $36 million deal in 2005 as the first big-ticket free agent of the Mike Nolan era.

Sims, who was due a $4.5 million base salary this season in Oakland, was released by the Raiders on Feb. 26.

After recently visiting with the Baltimore Ravens - one of the three finalists for his services - Sims opted for the 49ers over the St. Louis Rams and agreed to terms on a two-year, incentive-laden contract to remain in the San Francisco Bay Area and substantially fortify an offensive line that has lost starting guards Justin Smiley and Larry Allen and former starting tackle Kwame Harris since the end of last season.

Ironically, Harris - the 2003 first-rounder whom the 49ers let walk this year in free agency - was signed by the Raiders during the offseason to a fat three-year, $14 million deal to replace Sims, even though Harris was beaten out by rookie Joe Staley last year and only played a handful of snaps at tackle during his final season in San Francisco.

The 49ers were aggressive in their pursuit of the 33-year-old Sims, offering him a richer financial package and also a chance to compete for the starting job with Jennings, though the Niners made no promises in that regard.

"The decision was not made until this morning, and San Francisco was definitely not a foregone conclusion," said Ken Vierra, Sims' agent, in an e-mail Monday afternoon. "It came down to his belief that San Francisco offered the best chance to compete for a starting job/significant playing time and the money was better, potentially a lot better if he hits some playing-time incentives."

Sims fills a significant void the 49ers were unable to patch earlier in free agency or during the April college draft. Now the 49ers can have veteran Adam Snyder - their top backup at tackle - focus on replacing Allen as the starting left guard and rookie Chilo Rachal can concentrate on learning the guard position. Rachal, the team's second-round draft pick in April, was tried at right tackle during San Francisco's organized team activities this month.

The 49ers were precariously thin at tackle behind Staley and Jennings before landing Sims. During the team's spring drills, the top backup tackle - besides Snyder - was Damane Duckett, a converted defensive lineman.

The Niners brought in journeyman Quasim Mitchell - who has previous NFL starting experience - during the offseason, but Mitchell was unimpressive and was released after the team's May minicamp.

The other top reserve tackle prospects on the roster both are recent additions. Alan Reuber, who has seen action in three NFL games, was signed at the start of organized team activities earlier this month and got his feet with the team the past three weeks. The Niners recently acquired Joe Toledo, a University of Washington product who was a fourth-round draft pick of the Miami Dolphins in 2006 but has not got on the field yet in a regular-season game because of injuries.

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