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No one expected superstar linebacker Julian Peterson to last as an unrestricted free agent with the San Francisco 49ers after six years of service. In fact we expected him to go sooner rather than later so to speak with the notion that his notorious agents being the Poston Brothers would fight for the biggest mega-deal contract they could possibly land for the premium playmaker of the now and future.
The slow interest in the two-time Pro Bowl linebacker drew a hint of a possibility that he really was contemplating making a possible decision in staying with his teammates for a work-in-progress lucrative contract with the 49ers.
But that was farther from the truth then anyone could have realized. Mike Nolan made statements that he would have liked to have kept Julian Peterson based upon his past performances and his uncanny ability to rush the quarterback almost at will when he was healthy and playing at 100%.
But the problems he sustained after Peterson tore his left Achilles tendon in Week 5 of the 2004 season against Arizona, really ended his career especially after he performed poorly all throughout the 2005 season in which at one point he pulled a hamstring trying to get back to 100% too quickly so to speak.
He never was the same the Julian after the injury in 2004 and he struggled with that injury and the rehabilitation from that injury for a very long time. San Francisco selected Julian Peterson in the first round of the 2000 NFL draft. And it was with the intention of making a statement about our defense that instantly paid huge dividends right from the very beginning.
Losing Julian Peterson hurts no matter what anyone thinks because he is a playmaker and he will make a full recovery as a Seattle Seahawk our division rival after he was offered a seven-year deal worth $54 million dollars. The contract is gigantic in every sense of the word and will be a price that the Seattle Seahawks are really hoping will pay off big time.
In that contract there is $18.5 million that is guaranteed money and he received another $10 million dollars in a bonus just to sign the darn contract.
All in all the Seattle Seahawks may have broken open the piggy bank for this athlete that needs to be more than just an every down player but a sack artist and a half to boot. Do not get me wrong though that Julian does not still have absolute wonderful abilities because he does in every sense of the word.
But he never was able to duplicate his performances of the past before 2004 after he sustained that devastating injury at the hands of the Arizona Cardinals. He lacked the explosiveness he was so well known for and that extra special nutrient that elevated him above all others that play the same position.
His transition to the 3-4 defensive system under Mike Nolan was a learning experience and one he struggled with, but it was intended to highlight his impeccable strengths as a pass rusher and target his skills as a playmaker but it sort of backfired on him in being able to deliver results game in and game out.
Instead the San Francisco 49ers retained Derek Smith and Jeff Ulbrich even earlier. Both had made a statement in continuity and consistency over the course of the careers as San Francisco 49ers and they were both rewarded for that dedicated service.
And in came Brandon Moore (6-1, 242) who is entering his fifth NFL season and was the top back-up linebacker for the 49ers and played in spot of Jeff Ulbrich after he sustained a season-ending injury.
He actually was one of the top back-up linebackers and a special teams standout in his first three seasons with the team. Then when he received his starting papers after Jeff Ulbrich was placed on injured reserve with a biceps injury he made a big splash with his teammates and his coaches.
He started in 10 games last season for the San Francisco 49ers and finished the season second on the team with 93 tackles (59 solo) and five sacks. Moore had five sacks and ranked fifth among all NFC linebackers in fact.
Brandon Moore saw his opportunity turning into reality when heading into the off-season the 49ers were looking at having four of their starters at linebackers testing the waters in free agency and moving on to bigger and better money. Moore has been working hard on elevating his performance especially after undertaking the starting position that Jeff Ulbrich held right before sustaining an injury.
After securing Derek Smith the 49ers then lost linebacker Andre Carter to the Washington Redskins and of course now Julian Peterson to the Seattle Seahawks. Moore originally joined the 49ers as a rookie free agent out of Oklahoma in 2002.
Moore was then waived by the 49ers prior to the start of the regular season and spent two weeks on the New England Patriots practice squad before being signed to the 49ers 53-man roster.
What I was able to take from the 2005 season was watching Brandon Moore deliver impressive results out on the field. He has a knack for locating and attacking the football wherever it may end up to be. He filled a tremendous void left by Jeff Ulbrich and his departure and filled in admirably and I saw an opportunity for this athlete to get a fair shake.
As the free agency period neared and the options at linebacker materialized in knowing we were going to lose a crop of talented defensive playmakers such as Andre Carter and Julian Peterson, retaining Brandon Moore just made absolute sense to me. I am very happy from a personal standpoint that the franchise was able to come to a conclusion with Brandon and making him an offer worthy of his services.
Brandon Moore signed a five-year deal worth $8 million dollars with a signing bonus of $794,067. Moore realized that his entire sights were always set on remaining in San Francisco and becoming a starter on defense.
This has been a dream for him come true in every sense of the word and I am confident that he will be fierce competition for anyone drafted to try and fill the void left by Julian Peterson.
"I love the system, I love the organization and I love everything about the 49ers," said Moore. "I grew a lot as a man and a player last season. I think Coach Nolan and specifically Coach Singletary had a lot to do with that."
Coming in as a starter after five years and making a name for himself Moore is eager to continue learning from on of the best I believe in the business in Mike Singletary. It is a turning point in his life that he is grateful for and embraces everyday of his life.
"Being here for me, it feels like waking up in the morning," explained Moore. "It is a new day. It is a new chance for all of these opportunities that I have. I view it as another opportunity, another point of my career. Not everyone had to start out as a free agent. Being a rookie free agent and a guy on the bubble all the time, and being a guy who could really be fired at any moment is no fun. It is really, really a stress mentally whereas I do not think that stress is here anymore."
"I think the stress now is to prove myself as a linebacker in this league and to prove myself to my teammates and to the fans of San Francisco, and to make an impact on the team and the league," said Moore. "It is not just to make the team anymore. It is to be a great player."
Could not have said it better myself and I am confident in Brandon Moore or his abilities and skills to bring the heat at his position under superb coaching in Mike Singletary. He is literally at the tip of the iceberg in his development as a premier linebacker and a breakout season is waiting in the offering for him to grasp.
Other bargain basement deals for the San Francisco 49ers included the signing of unrestricted free agent wide receiver Bryan Gilmore. His roots were with the 49ers right from the very beginning in having a relationship with 49ers wide receiving coach Jerry Sullivan.
Sullivan helped Gilmore land a spot on the practice squad as an un-drafted free agent with the Arizona Cardinals in 2000. He saw limited action with the Cardinals in 2000-2001, and then spent two more seasons with Arizona before being released.
He made the move with Jerry Sullivan then to the Miami Dolphins in 2004. And it is through Sullivan who he owes a great deal of credit for him coming into being a San Francisco 49er.
"Our wide receivers coach, Jerry Sullivan, has a history with Bryan," Nolan said in a statement. "He feels he is a young receiver with a huge upside. He is a big, strong receiver with speed who is physical and will contribute."
Bryan Gilmore while with Miami last season caught 15 passes for 105 yards and one touchdown in 2005. He was an un-drafted free agent out of Midwestern State University in Wichita Falls, Texas.
Bryan Gilmore caught Mike Nolan and his eyes in practice based upon his work ethic and he was looking to bring competition against the other young wide receivers in Derrick Hamilton, Marcus Maxwell and Rashaun Woods for the No.#3 wide receiving slot.
The San Francisco 49ers then made a big splash announcement for their ailing secondary by adding 10-year veteran cornerback Walt Harris to compete for the other side vacated after the release of Ahmed Plummer earlier in the off-season.
Harris brings instant veteran leadership and experience to a line of defense infused and overflowing with youth and inexperienced athletes jockeying for playing time and status.
Walt Harris started 12 of 13 games at left cornerback last season with the Washington Redskins and finished the year with 68 total tackles, one interception and one forced fumble.
He has loads of experience and enough talent to come into training camp and compete against the youngsters for the coveted starting position next to cornerback Shawntae Spencer.
The San Francisco 49ers were absolutely paper thin in their secondary last season as they had to rely upon a group of youngsters to defend against some of the best wide receivers in the business. Youngsters in Bruce Thornton and B.J. Tucker so to speak that were acquired after the final round cuts throughout the league last year.
Finding a starting cornerback to start opposite Shawntae Spencer is viewed as a real necessity and a priority with the club and they still believe Walt Harris still has enough left in his tank to do just that.
Walt Harris has a lot of experience that he brings to the forefront and discovered a sort of rebirth while in Washington last year. He has played in 147 games and has been the starter in 127 of them. His career has seen stops in Washington, Indianapolis and Chicago where he played alongside Tony Parrish from 1998-2001.
He broke back into the starting lineup at cornerback for the Washington Redskins after spending the 2004 season as a reserve in his first full season there as a Redskin. Before that, Walt Harris transmitted his reputation as a starting cornerback by starting 30 of 32 games in two seasons while in Indianapolis and 83 of 87 games while he was a Chicago Bear.
His career totals include 690 tackles, 20 interceptions, three touchdown returns, 14 forced fumbles, 10 fumble recoveries and 100 passes defended. Although he is a seasoned veteran who will turn 32 in August he still will compete for the starting position in training camp alongside Shawntae Spencer.
"I always see myself as a starter coming in and definitely a contributor in helping this team get to where it needs to be," said Harris, the 13th player selected overall in the first round of the 1996 draft. "Anything less from my standpoint and how I see myself just would not be up to par."
Being a teammate to safety Tony Parrish for four years back in Chicago will help Walt Harris become a bond on the team and encourage him to apply all that he has to the overall task at hand. He will bring a winning attitude with him to mini-camps and training camp as the competition to be picked for slots begins to materialize.
Shortly after Mike Rumph injured his foot very early in the season, the 49ers were forced to turn to a trio of youngsters in the secondary in Shawntae Spencer, Derrick Johnson and Bruce Thornton.
As injuries continued to decimate the secondary B.J. Tucker and even Mike Adams played at cornerback from time to time to provide a band-aid over a bleeding wound that opposing quarterbacks took full advantage of.
With the release of veteran cornerback Ahmed Plummer earlier in this off-season the 49ers opened the door to not only look at free agency for a seasoned cornerback but will be looking at the up and coming draft as well. Walt Harris is ready for that and has vast experience dealing with competing for a starting role.
When you really think about it you cannot help but be satisfied that Walt Harris is now a part of the equation in turning around the horrific season we had last year in giving up a franchise-record 4,427 passing yards just last season.
Harris also fits the Mike Nolan profile on how a player should react and behave as a fellow teammate. He comes into the organization with a great deal of expertise and should be a role model for the youth transforming right before our eyes on this secondary. He will play an intricate role in helping mold these individuals and he'll inject a sense of accountability back into the ranks of this particular unit.
So the San Francisco 49ers did do some bargain shopping and came away a winner in more ways than one. Mike Nolan has made some pretty intriguing decisions thus far; the real treat still awaits us with the up and coming draft. I believe that we certainly have upgraded our personnel thus far in every particular unit on this football team.