SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- The 49ers named All-Pro linebacker
Julian Peterson their exclusive franchise player on Monday, keeping
him with San Francisco for next season -- and practically
guaranteeing Terrell Owens' departure.
The 49ers also agreed to terms with running back Kevan Barlow on
a five-year contract extension, the first deal in what's sure to be
a difficult offseason for a team with 14 unrestricted free agents
and plenty of uncertainty.
Barlow's contract is worth $20 million and includes a $1.5 million signing bonus and a $6.5 million option, ESPN.com's John Clayton reports.
Peterson, a two-time Pro Bowler, will be offered a one-year deal
worth between $5.8 million and $7.2 million -- whatever turns out to
be the average salary of the NFL's top five linebackers after
various contracts are restructured.
The 49ers had hoped to sign Peterson to a contract extension
before the March deadline to place the franchise tag, but general
manager Terry Donahue and Peterson's agents quickly realized it
wouldn't be possible.
"We're just so far apart that there was no point in using up
any more energy on trying to get it done," said Donahue, who
hasn't met face-to-face with agents Kevin and Carl Poston for
"When you put the franchise tag on somebody, it isn't like they
aren't going to be paid handsomely. I think players love to play,
and I think Julian loves to play. I think he'll come to camp at the
Peterson earned his first All-Pro selection last season, making
seven sacks and two interceptions while playing several positions.
The 49ers credited him with 144 tackles, second on the team.
With Peterson under the franchise tag, Owens will be free to
sign with any team if he chooses to void the final two seasons of
his contract next month. The 49ers won't get anything higher than a
third-round draft pick as compensation for losing Owens, a
four-time Pro Bowl selection who has spent all eight of his NFL
seasons in San Francisco.
Owens' departure has been expected since Donahue named Peterson
the 49ers' top priority shortly after their 7-9 regular season
Barlow was a restricted free agent after rushing for 1,024 yards
and six touchdowns last season. After sharing time with Garrison Hearst in his first 2½ NFL seasons, Barlow took over as the
full-time starter late last season, averaging 108 yards over the
last four games.
Hearst, an 11-year veteran, probably must agree to a dramatic
salary reduction to stay with the 49ers. Donahue and Hearst's
agent, Pat Dye Jr., were negotiating in Indianapolis on Monday.
Hearst resurrected his career with the 49ers in 2001 after
missing all of the previous two seasons with a serious leg injury.
The 33-year-old has rushed for 2,946 yards over the past three
"We're hopeful that there's a possibility that we can get to
where we're comfortable and Garrison's comfortable, and he'll
remain with the team," Donahue said.
The 49ers also are hoping to restructure the contract of
quarterback Jeff Garcia, who's entering the fourth season of a
six-year contract. Donahue admits the process has been difficult,
but he still expects Garcia to return.
"Certainly, Jeff has the right to be concerned about his own
career, short-term and long-term," Donahue said. "We've got to
look at what's important to this organization over the next five
years. It's very important that we choose cap health over cap hell.
We can't make short-term decisions."
But Donahue said the 49ers haven't received any offers for
Garcia, and they haven't allowed the three-time Pro Bowl
quarterback to talk to other teams about a possible trade.
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.