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Schulters To Be Or Not?
March 11th 2002
By Bryan Hersh of 49ers Paradise
Lance Schutlers and the 49ers are reportedly quite far apart on the a new contract offer. Schulters naturally wants Pro Bowl player money, and the 49ers don't want to over pay. Schulters accomplishments on the team are a plenty, but with Zack Bronson's future already secured, Lance Schulters becomes partially expendable.

Now Schulters is a great player, one I truly respect and love to watch play, but the 49ers have been grooming safeties for a few years now, and it's not like there are no alternatives should an agreement with Schulters not be reached. With Bronson, Plummer and Webster already secured for the next few years, a transition at only one of the defensive back positions would not be the be all and all for a team that has seen tremendous turnovers in the area since 1996.

Ronnie Heard and Al Blades are the two leading candidates. Heard has seen some action already, but is primarily a free safety, where as the hard hitting Blades barely missed the roster last season, and landed himself onto the practice squad. He was re-signed this off-season to the active roster. Blades is probably the more intriguing of the two prospects. A hard hitting big guy, he's a natural for the strong safety position, and fits the 49ers mold perfectly. Typically the 49ers like their strong safety to be big enough to play up along the line of scrimage and cover running backs out of the backfield, while being quick enough to wreak havoc on the quarterback.

Of course there is also John Keith. Keith is a stud of a safety but hasn't been able to stay healthy. The 49ers had a small off-field dispute with him over how and where he would rehabilitate his injury this past season, and he was declared eligible for the expansion draft. Keith beat out Bronson last season for the starting spot, and has seen significant amounts of play time. If he could stay healthy he would be the perfect replacement for Schulters.

So if Schulters goes, it would be a loss, and to think otherwise would simply be kidding ourselves, but really it's not like the 49ers aren't ready for the change. The 49ers have two solid candidates to step in, step up and take over. They will have to prove themselves without a doubt, but if an agreement between Schulters and the 49ers can't be reached, one of them may indeed be the next starting strong safety for the 49ers.

Talk about it in the 49ers Paradise Forum

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