In what is widely considered a de-valued draft, the San Francisco 49ers are trying to get a discount in signing the top pick.
The 49ers, according to a source familiar with negotiations, want Utah's Alex Smith or fellow quarterback Aaron Rodgers of Cal to accept a contract worth less than Eli Manning's deal with the New York Giants if they're going to use the first choice in this weekend's draft on one or the other.
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Smith's camp is balking but Rodgers's camp has expressed a willingness to accept a contract worth less in the final two seasons than Manning's deal, said the source, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because deliberations are at a sensitive stage.
Manning's wildly complex six-year, $45 million contract with the Giants was negotiated last July by agent Tom Condon, who also represents Smith. Manning's deal contains $20 million in bonus money, plus $9 million in additional incentives that possibly could push the overall value of the contract to $54 million.
The Manning deal has salaries of $3.5 million and $3.9 million in its final two seasons, 2008 and 2009. But those salaries jump to $8 million in 2008 and $8.5 million in 2009 if the Giants are forced to "buy back" those years, under provisions in the deal, after Manning voids them by meeting playing-time benchmarks. The Giants also would have to pay Manning a $5 million bonus to exercise that buy-back provision, making the final two years of the contract worth as much as $21.5 million to Manning.
The 49ers apparently don't want to pay that much to their quarterback in the late stages of a contract. According to the source, Rodgers's agent, Michael Sullivan, has expressed a willingness to be flexible in that area, but Condon has told the 49ers that Smith wants a contract worth more than Manning's. Condon has told the 49ers, according to the source, that Smith would be content being drafted by another team if the 49ers don't want to pay him market value. And market value generally means a contract worth slightly more than the player selected in the same draft slot the previous year received.
That complicates matters for the 49ers. If they keep the pick, the 49ers would like to agree to a contract before the draft with the player they plan to choose, as NFL rules permit. That would eliminate the possibility of a nasty contract dispute in the summer spilling over into training camp.
A source said Monday that the 49ers intended to use the choice on Smith if they could agree to a contract with him beforehand, but they'd have to reconsider their options if they couldn't strike a deal with Condon. An NFL head coach who is friendly with 49ers Coach Mike Nolan reinforced that notion Tuesday, saying that Nolan bases player evaluations largely on intangibles and is enamored with Smith's intelligence and leadership, along with the quarterback's size and athleticism.
Sullivan said by phone Tuesday he hadn't been told by the 49ers that Smith would be their choice over Rodgers. He declined further comment.
The 49ers also still seem receptive to the idea of trading the pick if the right offer comes along, and several clubs appear highly interested in Smith.
Texans Get Buchanon
The Houston Texans agreed Tuesday to trade second- and third-round selections this weekend to Oakland for Raiders cornerback Phillip Buchanon. The Washington Redskins also had made a bid to acquire Buchanon, a first-round choice by the Raiders in 2002 out of the University of Miami.
The trade is contingent upon Buchanon passing a physical with the Texans, who will team Buchanon at cornerback with Dunta Robinson, a first-round pick last year, and veteran Aaron Glenn. Houston ranked 24th in the NFL in pass defense last season.
The Raiders also have shopped cornerback Charles Woodson, who was given the club's franchise-player tag in February. . . .
The relatively high price that Oakland received for Buchanon perhaps could affect the Miami Dolphins' asking price for cornerback Patrick Surtain. The Dolphins have been shopping Surtain and the Kansas City Chiefs are thought to be the team most likely to land him if a trade is completed. . . .
Denver re-signed veteran defensive end Marco Coleman, an unrestricted free agent . . . Tampa Bay and Philadelphia reportedly have joined Arizona among the clubs talking to the Buffalo Bills about trading for tailback Travis Henry. . . .
Tampa Bay and Minnesota appear to be among the few teams interested in possibly trading up in the first-round draft order Saturday. The Buccaneers have the fifth overall choice, and the Vikings have the seventh selection. . . .
Detroit obtained offensive lineman Kyle Kosier when the 49ers declined to match the Lions' one-year, $980,000 offer sheet to the restricted free agent. The 49ers receive a seventh-round draft pick from Detroit as compensation Kosier alternated between playing guard and tackle in San Francisco. He probably will play tackle for the Lions. . . .
Tennessee likely will match Detroit's one-year, approximately $1 million offer sheet with linebacker Brad Kassell, a restricted free agent. The Titans must make a final decision today. . . .
Green Bay must make a decision today about defensive end Aaron Kampman, who signed a one-year, $1.2 million offer sheet with the Vikings last week in restricted free agency. The Packers appear poised to retain Kampman. . . .
Seattle reportedly is prepared to release linebacker Chad Brown. He has refused to accept a pay cut proposed by the Seahawks, and became expendable when the club signed free-agent linebacker Jamie Sharper last week. The Seahawks reportedly want Brown to reduce his salary for next season from $4.2 million to $1 million, with a chance to earn some of the difference through incentives. ...
Baltimore signed linebacker Jim Nelson, an unrestricted free agent formerly with Indianapolis.