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Monday, April 21
Niners make quick decision to retain Jennings

By Len Pasquarelli

The San Francisco 49ers on Wednesday matched the offer sheet to which the Detroit Lions had signed restricted free agent long snapper Brian Jennings last week.

49ers officials had until Friday night to decide on the offer sheet but made a quick decision, one that was anticipated given the importance of Jennings to the 49ers kicking game.

"Brian is an integral part of our kicking game and we felt it was important to keep him," general manager Terry Donahue said. "We hope he remains a 49er for a long time."

A three-year veteran, Jennings signed a one-year deal that includes a signing bonus of $200,000 and a base salary of $605,000. The 49ers had made him a qualifying offer of $605,000 in February to retain of right of first refusal.

By matching the Lions' deal, the 49ers assume that contract. Unless he signs an extension, Jennings will be eligible for unrestricted free agency in 2004. There was a chance, if the Lions had acquired Jennings via the offer sheet, that they would have subsequently signed him to a longer-term contract.

Had the 49ers not matched, they would have received a seventh-round pick in this weekend's draft as compensation.

Jennings, 26, has played in all 16 games in each of his three seasons with the 49ers. While he has occasionally lined up at tight end, he has not caught any passes, and his biggest value is in his long-snapping skills.

The former Arizona State standout was selected by the 49ers in the seventh round of the 2000 draft. His head coach with the 49ers was Steve Mariucci, who holds the same position in Detroit. The familiarity with Mariucci was a major factor in Jennings' decision to sign the Lions' offer.

Len Pasquarelli is a senior writer for ESPN.com.

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