Although a deal isn't yet near, the San Francisco 49ers have begun negotiations aimed at accommodating the wishes of star defensive tackle Bryant Young to play at least one more season, and to finish his career with the only team for which he has ever worked.
Young, 35, is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent on March 2, and the 13-year veteran and four-time Pro Bowl performer wants to play again in 2007, as long as it's with the 49ers.
One of the NFL's premier defensive tackles during his tenure in the league, and also one of its classiest performers, Young is clearly nearing the end of a celebrated career. But he demonstrated in 2006, when his playing time was purposely reduced in an effort to maximize his production, that he can still be an effective defender.
In 16 games, most of them at tackle, Young posted 52 tackles and he led all 49ers' defensive linemen in sacks, with 5½. The performance earned him a spot as a Pro Bowl alternate. Young played some at left end, when San Francisco was aligned in a 3-4 front, a scheme coach Mike Nolan wants to use even more in 2007.
"He still has something left," Nolan said. "And you always want people like him around your football team. Any organization, any community, wants guys like him."
Flush with plenty of salary cap space this spring, San Francisco figures to add some veteran players as the team continues to transition to a 3-4, but the feeling is that Young can still contribute as a strongside end.
He earned a base salary of $2.25 million and part of the current negotiations are based on finding financial ground that meets the needs of both sides.
The reduced workload, something on which San Francisco coaches have been working the past several seasons, has helped extend Young's career and his effectiveness. He has missed only three games the last two years and has never been sidelined more than four games in a season.
In 192 career games, the former Notre Dame star, a first-round choice in the 1994 draft, has 570 tackles, 83 sacks, 10 forced fumbles and six recoveries.
Len Pasquarelli is a senior writer for ESPN.com.