Is Crabtree ready to sign?

According to the NFL Network's Deion Sanders, mercurial receiver Michael Crabtree(notes) may be on the verge of ending his long holdout and signing a rookie contract with the San Francisco 49ers. If you can remember back far enough -- you know, back when Crabtree was a football player -- the 10th overall pick was unhappy that the Raiders selected Darrius Heyward-Bey(notes) seventh, and he wanted the higher-pick money. Not a wise position to take with a team coached by Mike Singletary. While Crabtree's been in limbo with his agent and his entourage, the 49ers have started the season 3-1 despite the 28th-ranked passing offense, based on yards per game.

His only NFL option this year has taken a very convincing "We don't need you" approach, and Crabtree may be ready to capitulate. Sanders, who maintains a close relationship with many current NFL players and runs an offseason "Prime U" draft camp, let fly with a few solid hints during Sunday night's Total Access show. As Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee details, Sanders responded to Rich Eisen's usual joke during Niners highlights about quarterback Shaun Hill(notes) throwing to a receiver who isn't there as follows: "Not yet. He could be brewing."

"Dropping hints?" Eisen queried. "Dropping hints," Sanders replied.

Then, while praising the San Francisco defense in his own segment, Sanders dropped this nugget: "And Crabtree may be on his way. I'm just saying. I'm just saying."

Last time Sanders had anything to say about Crabtree, it caused a ruckus between the 49ers and Jets. While wearing an ill-advised shirt from the House of Jamie Dukes, Sanders told Eisen in early September that "there have been two teams that have contacted the San Francisco 49ers desiring a trade and will pay this kid. And he knows that." The 49ers followed this report by filing tampering charges against the Jets, which the Jets have denied. But Sanders is acting as an advisor to Crabtree to a greater or lesser degree, and to whatever extent he wants to be seen as a big brother to current NFL players, it might be to his advantage to break the good news ... if there is any to report. Back then, Sanders hypothesized that Crabtree was prepared to sit out the entire season if he didn't get what he wanted.

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