49ers cut Plummer; Raiders fill out staff


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Jan 22, 2006
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49ers cut Plummer; Raiders fill out staff
- Nancy Gay, Chronicle Staff Writer
Friday, February 24, 2006

Indianapolis -- While NFL combine invitees spent their first day getting weighed, measured and tested at the RCA Dome, the 49ers and Raiders made plenty of news Thursday away from the rookie scrutiny.

With the deadline for salary cap compliance looming, the 49ers finally cut their ties with high-priced, oft-injured cornerback Ahmed Plummer, the former first-round pick from Ohio State who played in only three games last season because of an ankle injury.

Already unpopular with coach Mike Nolan, Plummer's $25 million contract signed in 2004 -- which included an $11 million signing bonus -- also made him expendable. He was scheduled to earn $5.5 million in base salary in 2006.

The 49ers also waived defensive end Chris Cooper, a sixth-round pick of the Raiders in 2001 who spent last season on injured reserve, as well as veteran wide receiver Johnnie Morton.

The motives behind the moves were purely financial, Nolan said Thursday. Plummer in particular never was healthy enough for Nolan to evaluate him as a starter, the coach said.

"... Durability is part of the kind of player you have," Nolan said about Plummer. "You just don't evaluate the type of player on the field only. If a guy is not on the field very much, it is a huge chunk of the evaluation."

The return of a healthy Arnaz Battle made Morton difficult to keep.

"I have a lot respect for Johnnie and how he handled himself this season. He played more than I would have liked him to this year," Nolan said. "I think his body started to give out late in the year. I didn't intend for him to play as many snaps, but Arnaz got hurt. I envisioned him at about 20 snaps per game."

New Raiders coach Art Shell filled holes in his coaching staff, finalizing the hire of Tom Walsh, a former offensive assistant with the team, as his offensive coordinator. Walsh's Raiders roots run deep; he previously coached under Shell from 1982-94 in a number of capacities, including offensive coordinator.

Since then, Walsh has been largely out of pro football. He spent a year coaching minor league football in 1999 and compiled a 6-16 record as head coach at Idaho State before resigning there.

His new Raiders gig also requires him to resign his position as mayor of Swan Valley, Idaho, where he was running a bed-and-breakfast.

The Raiders also added Jackie Slater, a Hall of Fame offensive lineman who played 20 NFL seasons, as an offensive assistant working primarily with the linemen. The team also retained quarterbacks coach John Shoop, who they spoke to briefly about the head-coaching position, and hired former NFL defensive end Daryl Sims -- who had spent time coaching in NFL Europe -- as a defensive line assistant.

Woodson, Peterson not tagged: As previously reported in The Chronicle, the NFL's deadline for placing franchise or transition tags on players passed Thursday without the Raiders or 49ers retaining former franchise players Charles Woodson and Julian Peterson.

The Raiders declined to pay the $12.6 million required to place a third consecutive franchise tag on Woodson, officially cutting their ties with the former Heisman Trophy winner and first-round pick after eight seasons.

Peterson, whom the 49ers named their franchise player in 2005, would have commanded $8.6 million had the team tagged him a second consecutive year.

Franchised players a rarity: Across the NFL, teams were predictably cautious in using the potentially expensive designations to retain players' rights, or the right of first refusal, given the uncertainty of their negotiations with the NFL Players Association to extend the current collective bargaining agreement.

Only three teams used the franchise tag, which requires them to pay a player the average of the top five salaries at their position, or a 20 percent raise over their previous year's salary: The Jets tagged DE John Abraham ($8.332 million tender); the Lions tagged OT Jeff Backus ($6.983 million); and the Bills tagged CB Nate Clements ($5.893 million).

These players may negotiate with other teams for long-term deals, but the teams holding their franchise tag would receive two first-round draft picks as compensation.

Two teams used the transition tag, which requires an one-year offer equal to the average of the top 10 salaries at a player's position: the Seahawks tendered G Steve Hutchinson $6.983 million and the Vikings tendered CB Brian Williams $4.774 million.

Seattle and Minnesota can match any long-term offers these players receive but will get no draft pick compensation if they refuse to do so.

Coin flip looms: The Raiders and 49ers are scheduled to duke it out today via coin flip at 4:45 p.m. PST in Indianapolis to determine which team will land the sixth selection in April's NFL Draft. Scot McCloughan, the 49ers' vice president for player personnel, will handle the duties for his team. No word on who gets the honors for the Raiders.

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