With top draft pick J.J. Stokes signed, the San Francisco 49ers
ROCKLIN, Calif. (AP) _ With top draft pick J.J. Stokes signed, the San Francisco 49ers are turning their attention to Dana Stubblefield, the team’s last holdout.
``It’s a top priority,″ club president Carmen Policy said Thursday. ``The coach wants him in camp. We’re at a point where, even though he’s a veteran, delay now is compromising the best interest of the team and the best interest of Dana.″
Stubblefield, a Pro Bowler last season and the defensive rookie of the year in 1993, and agent Neil Cornrich are seeking a deal worth about $4 million a year. The 49ers have proposed a little over $2 million a year.
San Francisco coach George Seifert said he hopes the sides find a way to compromise.
``Somehow, some way we have to find a way to get Dana Stubblefield signed,″ he said.
The 49ers did just that with Stokes, who missed the first 10 days of camp during the negotiations. The record-breaking wide receiver from UCLA agreed to a seven-year contract worth $8.4 million.
The pact includes a $2.85 million signing bonus and also contains a clause allowing Stokes to terminate the contract and become a free agent after four years, provided he meets certain playing time conditions and is on the roster at the end of 1998. If Stokes exercises that option, he would receive $5.4 million in the first four years of the contract.
``It’s a deal that was very generous from the 49ers’ standpoint for J.J. and I think it reflects how much they think of him as a player,″ said Stokes’ agent, Tom Condon.
``Obviously, we’re excited to have J.J. with us,″ said Seifert, who during sometimes tense negotiations expressed concern over the amount of practice time Stokes was missing.
``The foundation is there,″ Seifert said. ``Now it’s just a matter of picking up on our schedule and we’ll make up for lost time here in the next couple of days.″
Stokes, the 10th player selected overall, said he’s looking forward to playing now that the negotiations are done.
``I was definitely looking forward to getting into camp, but it really wasn’t rough for me because I had confidence everything would work out,″ Stokes said. ``My thing was to stay in shape and be ready to go when I got the call.″
Stokes won’t play in Saturday night’s exhibition opener at Denver, but should be ready when the 49ers and Broncos meet again Aug. 5 in Tokyo.
``I’m ready to strap it up and get out on the field,″ Stokes said. He said he was excited to be playing on the same field as Jerry Rice, and didn’t feel the pressure from high expectations.
``I feel I still love to play football and it’s fun for me, so I don’t really feel any pressure,″ he said. ``As long as I’m having fun, I think I can perform.″
The 49ers obtained Stokes, UCLA’s career leader in receptions (154), receiving yards (2,469), and touchdown receptions (28), by trading their first-round picks in 1995 and 1996 to Cleveland.
San Francisco also is counting on Stokes as another scoring threat to help make up for the loss of halfback Ricky Watters, who went to Philadelphia as a free agent.
``We have a very talented athlete here and it’s our job now to see that he becomes an integral part of our system,″ said Seifert, who envisions using three-receiver sets at times with Rice, Stokes and John Taylor on the field at the same time.