The Niners offered Streets, a restricted free agent, a one-year tender at $1.318 million when free agency began at the end of last month. At that level of tender, if another NFL team were to sign Streets to an offer sheet - and the 49ers declined to match it - that team would owe the 49ers a first-round draft pick.
That made it appear likely Streets would be back with the Niners in 2003 and then test the open market as an unrestricted free agent in 2004. The Niners already had made the likelihood of Streets' return a part of their plans for the upcoming season.
But on Monday, Streets visited with the New York Jets and reportedly will do the same this week with the Detroit Lions. And, as a possible negotiating ploy, Streets is making it known through his agent that he is not interested in being back with the Niners after this season.
Which also is a way of saying he's not interested in being with them this season.
In light of this recent development, the 49ers could work a sign-and-trade deal with a team such as the Jets, if the Niners are willing to take less than a first-round pick. NFL sources have indicated that San Francisco is shopping Streets to the Jets for a second-round pick, though Niners GM Terry Donahue said there has been no trade discussions involving Streets and that the Niners, in all likelihood, would match any offer sheet Streets might sign with another team.
That almost certainly is talkspeak, since the Niners would rather have the first-round pick that would come their way as compensation. But since it has become clear Streets wants out, the Niners should move quickly to deal him if they can get a third-round pick or more in return.
Sure, the Niners need Streets back next season to solidify their receivers corps opposite star wideout Terrell Owens. But if Streets plans on walking after the 2003 season anyway, the Niners should use the leverage they have with him right now instead of getting nothing in return.
The Niners need to seriously explore a deal with the Jets, who have until Wednesday to match a whopping $35 million offer sheet that their top wideout, Laveranues Coles, recently received from the Washington Redskins. That deal included a $13 million signing bonus, which will make it tough for the Jets to retain Coles. But New York would receiver Washington's first-round pick as compensation - the No. 13 overall - which might make the Jets more willing to deal a second-rounder or a package of picks for insurance at receiver to acquire a proven commodity such as Streets.