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49ERS ADD ANOTHER FREE-AGENT DEFENSIVE PLAYER

SHARE 49ERS ADD ANOTHER FREE-AGENT DEFENSIVE PLAYER

The San Francisco 49ers still believe they're in the chase for free-agent cornerback Deion Sanders.

Just in case they lose out, however, the 49ers moved Monday to bolster their secondary by signing another free-agent cornerback, Toi Cook.Club vice president John McVay said the addition of Cook didn't affect the 49ers' interest in Sanders, a Pro Bowl cornerback for Atlanta last season despite playing little more than half the year due to his baseball commitments. The Falcons allowed him to become a free agent in April.

Cook was a solid corner during seven seasons at New Orleans. He also was anxious to join the 49ers and comes a lot cheaper than would Sanders, who continues shopping his services to several teams.

"I went after them. I was more the aggressor," said Cook, who agreed to a one-year contract for $162,000. "They didn't have much money but I was willing to take the minimum.

"I always felt admiration for the 49ers because of the way they treated players, their philosophy," Cook said. "I believe if you treat your players right, they'll go that extra mile for you. It carries over. These guys have a good thing going here. It's like being in a great marriage. You're not going to blow it. That's the type of feeling that's here."

Secondary coach Tom Holmoe said the 49ers ultimately were sold on Cook's skills.

"He's played a high level for a long time," Holmoe said.

The pact includes incentives that could boost his compensation to about $1 million, depending on playing time and performance and overall team success.

"If I do what I've done in the past and they do what they've done in the past, then I'll be compensated," Cook said.

He is the fifth defensive free agent added by San Francisco this year, joining linebackers Ken Norton and Gary Plummer, end Richard Dent and pass-rush specialist Rickey Jackson, a former Saints teammate of Cook.

Combined with a series of other player moves, the signing left the 49ers about $50,000 under the $34.6 million salary cap.

Sanders is now with the Cincinnati Reds. He has used his free time during the baseball players' strike to visit several NFL teams, including the 49ers, Miami Dolphins and Kansas City Chiefs. There also is a chance Sanders could return to the Falcons.

McVay said he felt the 49ers had as good an opportunity as any team to sign Sanders.

"As long as there's a crack in the door, we have a shot," McVay said.

Cook will see his first playing time Friday night in San Francisco's exhibition finale against Seattle. Coach George Seifert said he would be used as a nickel back although he has not ruled out the possibility of Cook working his way into the starting lineup.

Under that scenario, the 49ers could return Merton Hanks to free safety, where he excelled last season. After the loss of last year's starting right corner, Don Griffin, to free agency, Hanks was shifted into Griffin's old spot and Dana Hall reclaimed the free safety position he had lost to Hanks.

Also on Monday, the 49ers signed running back Adam Walker, who recently was released by Green Bay. The 49ers were seeking another back because of a knee injury to Dexter Carter, out for about six weeks.

The 49ers also waived guards Ron Collins and Bret Kwarta, defensive tackle Jon Kirksey and defensive end Karl Wilson.