In need of LBs, 49ers release Parrish, sign Foreman

In need of help at linebacker, and apparently convinced that free safety Tony Parrish would not regain the form that once made him one of the NFL's best players at his position, the San Francisco 49ers released the nine-year veteran late Tuesday, making him a free agent.

Tony Parrish Parrish

Jay Foreman Foreman

San Francisco signed veteran free agent Jay Foreman, who has not played at all this season, to help address a linebacker corps weakened by injuries.

The timing of Parrish's release was somewhat surprising, but the fact he became expendable when the club needed to create a roster spot for Foreman was not altogether shocking, given that he had not been active in any of the past three games. Parrish appeared in nine games, with five starts, and had 17 tackles in 2006.

"I would have liked to finish my career here," said Parrish, a nine-year veteran. "But in this league, you don't always get what you want, and you can't dictate the terms of how things occur. So you just move forward. I still think I've got some good football left in me. This isn't the end for me."

Indeed, on Wednesday morning, potential suitors had already begun contacting Parrish's agent about the possibility of signing him. Parrish may elect to sit out the final month of the season, allow his body to heal, and sign with someone for 2007. But if a team with playoff potential calls, and offers him a chance to play, he will listen.

Among such possible teams are Dallas and Chicago. The Cowboys have struggled all season as the free safety position. The Bears, with whom Parrish began his NFL career, are battling multiple injures at safety.

"I still think I've got some good football left in me. This isn't the end for me."
--Tony Parrish

Parrish, 31, has played in 130 games and has 640 tackles, five sacks, 30 interceptions, 45 passes defensed, 10 forced fumbles and eight fumble recoveries. The former University of Washington star combined the deep range of a free safety and the hitting ability of a strong safety. Five times in his career he registered three or more interceptions, and he totaled 16 pickoffs in 2002-2003, including nine in 2003, when he tied for the league lead.

His problems began when he broke his right fibula in a Nov. 13, 2005 contest, his 121st straight game. He missed the balance of that season after undergoing surgery that included the insertion of several screws into his leg. In camp this season, San Francisco coaches hinted that Parrish, despite diligent rehabilitation, wasn't up to his normal speed.

Parrish opened the season as the starter, then began splitting time with Mark Roman at free safety, and then he eventually lost his starting job altogether.

If he is healthy, which Parrish claims he is, the veteran could be an intriguing late-season addition for a team seeking experience in its secondary.

Foreman has played in 82 games in stints with Buffalo (1999-2001), Houston (2002-2004) and the New York Giants (2005). With inside linebacker Derek Smith sidelined by a hamstring injury, Foreman could be quickly pressed into service.

Len Pasquarelli is a senior NFL writer for ESPN.com. To check out Len's chat archive, click hereInsider.