49ers

One decision 49ers must make on Reuben Foster

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AP

One decision 49ers must make on Reuben Foster

With the free-agent signing period scheduled to begin in a month, it is clear the 49ers must make a decision on Reuben Foster.

It does not have to be a dramatic decision. After all, it appears the 49ers are willing to take their time to let the investigation unfold before determining whether Foster will still hold a spot on the team’s roster.

The 49ers must approach free agency and the draft as if Foster is a person who can no longer be counted upon to be a long-term member of the organization.

Foster talked multiple times on the phone and in person on Monday with 49ers general manager John Lynch and coach Kyle Shanahan, according to a source. He is also said to be cooperating fully  with the investigation – both at local law enforcement and NFL levels.

The 49ers acted swiftly a year ago when Lynch and Shanahan were faced with a decision after Tramaine Brock’s arrest after an alleged domestic incident. Shortly after meeting with Brock, the organization released Brock. (Brock did not face formal criminal charges after the Santa Clara County District Attorney’s office concluded it lacked sufficient evidence to seek prosecution.)

The organization has not been as decisive with Foster, a player in whom the 49ers invested a first-round draft pick to acquire. It appears as if the 49ers believe there are enough unknowns and gray area to let the situation play out.

Foster is under investigation after he was arrested Sunday morning in Los Gatos on charges of domestic violence, threats and possession of an assault weapon. Foster’s girlfriend accused him of dragging her during an argument, the Bay Area News Group reported, citing sources familiar with the investigation. The alleged victim told investigators Foster threw her belongings onto a walkway and balcony before the incident in which Foster dragged her, according to the report.

The 49ers, at this stage, have two options: Do nothing or cut him.

Any potential discipline is covered in the league’s collective bargaining agreement under the NFL’s policies on personal conduct or substances of abuse. The 49ers – or any team – are prohibited from punishing a player if the situation is covered under those policies.

The 49ers’ offseason program is scheduled to begin on April 16. If Foster is still with the organization at that stage, the 49ers could ask – not demand – that he stay away from the program if his case remains unresolved.

More than likely, though, they would not try to keep Foster away from the team. He appears to be an individual who needs structure in his life. It is likely the 49ers would think it would be more beneficial to him to have a support system around him.

But there is no way of knowing at this stage what the investigation will produce and whether the 49ers can justify retaining Foster on their team. But, from a football standpoint, it does not matter.

Even if Foster remains on the team, the 49ers have to approach this offseason as if he will not be available for all 16 games.

The personnel department has look to strengthen the roster as if Foster will never play another down of football for the organization.

That means, the 49ers will look to re-sign middle linebacker Brock Coyle, who played well late in the season as the starter alongside Foster. Veteran weakside linebacker Malcolm Smith is expected to return to full strength after missing last season with a torn pectoral.

But the 49ers must not stop there. They must look to add another veteran inside linebacker in free agency and select a talented young player in the draft. The 49ers do not have to select an inside linebacker with their first pick at No. 9 or No. 10 overall. After all, talented inside linebackers can be found at all levels of the draft. But the 49ers must pinpoint some players who can potentially start as rookies.

From the moment the 49ers traded up to select Foster with the No. 31, they envisioned him as being a dynamic, game-changing player for a long time.

But, no longer can they look at him as someone who will be a cornerstone for a long time. Regardless of what the investigation uncovers, the 49ers must take the mindset this offseason that he will never make another tackle for them.

49ers sign kicker Robbie Gould to four-year contract as holdout ends

49ers sign kicker Robbie Gould to four-year contract as holdout ends

After months of acrimony, a deadline brought the 49ers and kicker Robbie Gould together,

The two sides agreed to terms Monday morning on a contract extension, a league source confirmed. The 49ers announced the agreement later Monday afternoon.

“Over the years, Robbie has established himself as one of the best at his position in the NFL, which is precisely why we were so committed to working out a new contract with him,” 49ers general manager John Lynch said. “I would like to thank everyone who worked so hard to make this deal come to fruition. We are very happy to start off the year on the right foot with this agreement in place so that Robbie can get back with his teammates and focus on making the most out of the upcoming season.”

The 49ers and Gould agreed to a fully guaranteed contract worth $10.5 million over two years but with an option clause, it could become a four-year, $19 million deal with $15 million guaranteed, according to ESPN's Adam Schefter, who first reported the agreement.

The two sides have seemingly been at odds since the 49ers restricted Gould’s ability to become an unrestricted free agent this offseason with the application of the franchise tag -- a deal that was set to pay him $4.971 million for one year. Gould requested a trade, but coach Kyle Shanahan and general manager John Lynch both declared that the 49ers would not trade him because of his importance to the team.

[RELATED: Biggest questions facing NFC West teams]

Gould, a 14-year NFL veteran made 72 of 75 field-goal attempts in his first two seasons with the 49ers after signing a two-year, $4 million contract on the first day of free agency in 2017. Gould ranks No. 2 all-time in the NFL in field-goal accuracy at 87.7 percent behind only Baltimore’s Justin Tucker.

With Gould now set to report to training camp in Santa Clara on July 26, the only players under 49ers control who remain unsigned are defensive end Nick Bosa and wide receiver Deebo Samuel, the team’s top two draft picks.

NFL preview 2019: 49ers' three most important players for next season

NFL preview 2019: 49ers' three most important players for next season

After combining to win a total of 10 games the last two seasons, 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan and general manager John Lynch enter a crucial third year steering the ship in Santa Clara. 

The 49ers recently have been closer to the No. 1 overall pick in the draft than the playoffs. It's time for that to change. But it won't be easy. 

Rising up the ranks in the NFC West is a tough task. The Rams were an ugly Jared Goff game away from winning the Super Bowl last year, Russell Wilson and the Seahawks are always competitive, and the Cardinals should be exciting with Kyler Murray and a healthy David Johnson. 

In order for the 49ers to have a successful 2019 season, these three players will have to perform on the field. 

Jimmy Garoppolo, QB

Thanks, Captain Obvious. 

Everything starts with Garoppolo. The 49ers go as he goes. It's simple as that. 

Garoppolo says he's "good to go" for training camp, which begins July 27th, after tearing his ACL in the third game of the season last year. Through nine games with the 49ers -- eight starts -- Garoppolo has gone 6-2 as a starter while throwing 12 touchdowns and eight interceptions. He's thrown for 2,278 yards in red and gold, and has completed 64.8 percent of his passes. 

To contend for the playoffs, Garoppolo will have step up his game and prove he's worth his $137.5 million contract this season.

Ahkello Witherspoon, CB

This easily could have been Richard Sherman. The 49ers badly need their secondary to improve this season after snatching only two interceptions. In his first season as a 49er, Sherman failed to have an interception for the first time in his career. He also was coming off a ruptured Achilles tendon. 

“I’m much healthier. I was kind of out there on one leg," Sherman said to the Sacramento Bee in May. 

Sherman should have a better year after going through an offseason where he didn't have to focus on rehabbing his Achilles. He's expected to still be the team's top cornerback, but as he ages, the No. 2 cornerback is just as important. 

There's still plenty of competition for who will line up opposite of Sherman. It's Witherspoon's job to lose, though, and he looked like the 49ers' best player on defense at times during the offseason program. 

Witherspoon, 6-foot-2 and 195 pounds, has the same kind of long build at cornerback that Sherman has. He suffered a PCL injury last year and missed the final two games, but proved he's healthy during the offseason.

This could be a make-or-break year for the 24-year-old. If he proves the offseason program wasn't a fluke, Witherspoon might turn into one of the best surprises in the NFC West this season.

Fred Warner, MLB

Warner was one of the better draft picks in all of football last season. Selected in the third round by the 49ers, Warner started all 16 games and recorded 124 tackles.

This year, it's time for him to captain Robert Saleh's defense. 

In just his second professional season, Warner is expected to man the middle with Kwon Alexander and Malcolm Smith playing on the outside. That could be an extremely athletic group of linebackers, but Alexander is coming off a torn ACL and Smith constantly has been injured the last two years. 

[RELATED: Which 49ers are underrated, overrated in 'Madden NFL 20'?]

The 49ers are expecting big things out of Warner in his sophomore season, and reasonably so. Seen as a natural leader, Warner can't have a slump this season.

With a dominant defensive line, Warner must keep it going and turn the team's linebackers into a force to be reckoned with.