Deion Sanders Set to Join 49ers Today : Pro football: All-Pro defensive back is expected to sign a one-year, $1.2-million contract.


As if the San Francisco 49ers, having added three Pro Bowl players to their defense, didn’t have enough bright lights.

Now they’re turning neon.

Deion Sanders, arguably the most powerful defensive weapon in the NFL, is expected to sign a one-year contract with the 49ers today.

“Neon Deion,” a Pro Bowl cornerback, is expected to be in uniform Sunday when the 49ers visit the Rams in Anaheim.


The club apparently was waiting until today to announce the deal so it would not be overshadowed by the official ending of the baseball season. It was the baseball announcement that freed Sanders from his obligations as center fielder for the Cincinnati Reds.

Sanders flew to the Bay Area Wednesday and is expected at a news conference today.

“There are some very sensitive negotiations going on,” said Carmen Policy, the 49ers’ president.

Sanders, a free agent who openly sought the best chance to play in a Super Bowl, picked the 49ers over a long list of suitors including New Orleans, Miami, Kansas City, Philadelphia and his previous team in Atlanta.

In Sanders, the 49ers finally have a strong, fearless defensive back who can handle the likes of Dallas Cowboy receivers Michael Irvin and Alvin Harper.

In each of the last two seasons, the Cowboys have defeated the 49ers in the NFC championship game thanks, in part, to big plays by Irvin and Harper.

The Cowboys always have bragged that they have a player, cornerback Kevin Smith, who is not afraid of 49er star receiver Jerry Rice.

Now, with Sanders probably joining Merton Hanks in the defensive backfield while forcing shaky Eric Davis to the bench, the 49ers can return the favor.

“Deion Sanders is in a class by himself,” said Eric Allen, star cornerback of the Philadelphia Eagles. “He’s got everything. He does it all well; hit, run, cover.”

Tim McDonald, the 49er safety who was one of three players who agreed to renegotiated contracts so Sanders’ approximately $1.2-million deal could fit under the salary cap, was excited.

“Deion’s a great player and he brings a lot,” McDonald told reporters. “He brings excellent man-to-man coverage skills. He brings a lot of charisma and a lot of excitement and I think he’s all business once he steps on the football field.”

Linebackers Ken Norton and Gary Plummer were the two others who renegotiated their contracts to make room for Sanders.

San Francisco Coach George Seifert has called Sanders the best defensive back in the game today. While players agreed he will be an important addition, expect some initial locker room problems while room is being created for his sometimes intimidating presence.

“There are going to be some feelings hurt,” Hanks told reporters. “There’s going to be a shake-up in the secondary, because he has to play. He has to play.”

The 49ers have recently become concerned about their defense after allowing their former quarterback, Joe Montana, to pass for 203 yards and two touchdowns against them in the Kansas City Chiefs’ 24-17 victory Sunday.

Their worries doubled a day later, when it was discovered that their top pass rusher, Richard Dent, could miss at least six weeks because of a knee injury.

But John McVay, 49er vice president for football operations, is certain Sanders will be an instant help to the team.

“This guy is something else, he’s the real thing,” McVay said last Saturday, “He’s really something special. He’s everything they say he is.”

Policy, the club president, said he was confident Sanders would become a 49er today.

“I have a very, very good feeling about this,” he said Wednesday, “but it’s not done till it’s done. I think they know we’ve gone as far as we can go (financially). We’ve done all we could do in the framework of a one-year deal.”

Meanwhile Falcon President Taylor Smith said the team still assumes Sanders will give Atlanta a chance to match the best offer from another club.

“If the (money) is what it’s rumored to be . . . then I know we can be competitive with that kind of offer,” Atlanta Coach June Jones said.