Niners sign recently released fullback Norris

Updated: May 23, 2006, 4:48 PM ET
By Len Pasquarelli | ESPN.com

Veteran free agent Moran Norris, a fullback whose modest statistics have typically belied his value as a lead-blocker, has signed a contract with the San Francisco 49ers.

 Moran Norris
Norris

A five-year veteran, Norris was released by the Houston Texans on May 4. The Texans signed former Tampa Bay fullback Jameel Cook as an unrestricted free agent earlier in the spring and then added three college free agents immediately after last months' draft.

Norris, 27, likely will compete with holdover journeyman Chris Hetherington for the starting job with the 49ers. At worst, he provides coach Mike Nolan with an experienced backup and a solid special teams contributor. San Francisco also drafted fullback Delanie Walker of Central Missouri State in the sixth round of last month's draft.

San Francisco allowed eight-year veteran Fred Beasley, a former Pro Bowl performer who fell out of favor with the coaching staff last season, to depart in free agency. Beasley, a longtime fixture in the San Francisco backfield, signed with the Miami Dolphins.

A former University of Kansas standout, Norris was originally chosen by New Orleans in the fourth round of the 2001 draft. He was claimed on waivers by the expansion Texans the following season.

In his five seasons, Norris has logged just one carry, for no yards, and has 12 receptions for 57 yards and one touchdown. But Norris, who has appeared in 62 games and started in 18 of them, has long been regarded as an excellent lead blocker in the running game and an adequate passer protector.

Norris is also a very good special teams performer, with 27 career tackles on the kick coverage units, including 12 in 2005.

Contract details on Norris' deal were not immediately available.

Len Pasquarelli is a senior NFL writer for ESPN.com. To check out Len's chat archive, click here Insider.