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The memories of Nate Clements and Jonas Jennings live on with the 49ers. The organization has seemingly been reluctant in recent seasons to make multi-year, big-money free-agent acquisitions.
When the 49ers have doled out lucrative deals in recent seasons it has been to retain such players as Patrick Willis, NaVorro Bowman, Ahmad Brooks, Frank Gore, Vernon Davis, Joe Staley, Anthony Davis and Ray McDonald.
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Safety Donte Whitner was awarded the 49ers’ biggest multi-year deal to acquire a free agent when they signed him to a three-year contract in 2011 that averaged $3.85 million annually. Whitner is scheduled to be a free agent this offseason.
The 49ers signed cornerback Carlos Rogers to a one-year, $4.25 million deal in 2011. After the season, he was signed to his current deal, which averages $7.325 million through 2015. However, the 49ers are unlikely to pay Rogers his scheduled $6.6 million pay for 2014.
The 49ers acquired wide receiver Anquan Boldin in a trade with the Baltimore Ravens and paid him a $6 million salary. Now, the sides are negotiating a multi-year extension that could prevent Boldin from being available when free agents can begin negotiating with other teams on March 8.
There is little question the 49ers succeeded in free agency in 2008 with the six-year, $45 million signing of defensive lineman Justin Smith. Last offseason, Smith negotiated his own extension, which pays him an average $4.5 million annually through 2015.
Another Smith, Alex, received a three-year deal that averaged $8 million after the 49ers advanced to the NFC Championship game. (There was no signing bonus involved in the contract, which made it easy for the club to trade him to Kansas City after Colin Kaepernick took over as the starter.)
Before Justin Smith, the 49ers did not fare well with big-money free-agent deals. Jennings lasted just four injury-marred seasons of his seven-year, $36 million deal in 2005. And Clements was a good player for four seasons – but certainly not good enough to warrant the reported eight-year, $80 million deal he signed in 2007.
Obviously, the 49ers have had success with their approach of recent seasons to reward their own players.
And it’s difficult to argue too much with anything the Seattle Seahawks have done after their Super Bowl victory.
Two of the Seahawks’ three highest-paid players got their big deals from outside the organization. Wide receiver Percy Harvin was acquired in a trade with the Minnesota Vikings and signed a deal that averages $12.8 million a year. Harvin saw action in just three games, and his only touchdown came on a kickoff return in the Seahawks’ blowout if the Denver Broncos in Super Bowl XLVIII.
Another wide receiver, Sidney Rice, appears to be in line for a huge pay cut or he’ll likely be a cap casualty due to his $8.2 million annual average. Rice’s most production in three seasons with the Seahawks has been his 50-catch, 748-yard season of 2012.
The Seahawks’ second-highest paid player is defensive end Chris Clemons, who originally signed with Seattle as a free agent in 2008. He signed an extension in 2012 that pays him $9 million annually. He might also be released if he does not agree to adjust his contract.
The Seahawks signed tight end Zach Miller away from the Raiders in 2011 with a deal that averages $6.8 million a year. His status for 2014 also appears to be in question.
Seattle has done a good job of wrapping up their own players with extensions, too. Running back Marshawn Lynch ($7.5 million), defensive lineman Red Bryant ($7 million), safety Kam Chancellor ($7 million) and center Max Unger ($6.5 million) have signed lucrative extensions in recent seasons.