Elijah Lee

Agent: Ex-49ers linebacker Elijah Lee agrees to terms with Lions

Agent: Ex-49ers linebacker Elijah Lee agrees to terms with Lions

Linebacker Elijah Lee, who appeared in 38 games with the 49ers over the past three seasons, agreed to terms with the Detroit Lions on Friday, according to his agent.

Lee is a three-year NFL veteran whom the 49ers did not tender as a restricted free agent, allowing him to sign with any team at any time. The 49ers receive no compensation from Lee's departure.

The 49ers placed second-round tenders on restricted free agents Matt Breida and Kendrick Bourne. But the 49ers did not give Lee a qualifying offer. The club signed Arizona Cardinals free-agent Joe Walker to, in essence, take Lee’s spot on the team’s roster.

Lee appeared in 16 games in 2018 and started five games. He registered a career-high 65 tackles with two passes defensed and a forced fumble.

The 49ers signed Lee off the Minnesota Vikings’ practice squad in September of 2017. He was a seventh-round draft pick of the Vikings that year out of Kansas State.

Lee, 24, was among the 49ers’ final cuts before the start of the regular season last year.

[RELATEDThree key 49ers' position battles to watch when training camp begins]

He was promoted from the practice squad after Kwon Alexander sustained a torn pectoral. Lee appeared in eight regular-season games and recorded one start. He played 20 snaps on special teams in Super Bowl LIV with one tackle.

NFL rumors: Joe Walker, 49ers agree to one-year contract in free agency

NFL rumors: Joe Walker, 49ers agree to one-year contract in free agency

The 49ers, who did not tender restricted free agent linebacker Elijah Lee last week, reportedly picked up a reserve linebacker and special-teams contributor on Monday.

Former Arizona Cardinals linebacker Joe Walker has agreed to a one-year contract with the 49ers, the NFL Network reported.

Walker, 27, started 11 games with the Arizona Cardinals last season. He recorded 65 tackles and forced a fumble. Walker was an unrestricted free agent.

Walker entered the NFL in 2016 as a seventh-round pick of the Philadelphia Eagles out of Oregon. In 2018, the Cardinals signed him off the Eagles’ practice squad.

[RELATEDHow 49ers fared after first week of signings]

The 49ers’ top three linebacker spots appear settled with Fred Warner, Kwon Alexander and Dre Greenlaw. Azeez Al-Shaair and Mark Nzeocha are also under contract.

Walker could take the roster spot of Lee, who appeared in 11 games, including the postseason, with one start.

49ers free agents: Elijah Lee unlikely to get RFA tender, could return

49ers free agents: Elijah Lee unlikely to get RFA tender, could return

Editor's note: This week we conclude a series in which we will examine the 49ers’ top 10 scheduled free agents. For each player, we will provide reasons why the 49ers should bring him back and reasons why they should not, followed by a final determination.

Elijah Lee, LB

Linebacker Elijah Lee appeared in 30 games in 2017 and ’18 and started five times. He was among the 49ers’ final cuts before the start of the 2019 regular season but was brought back to the active roster after Kwon Alexander’s midseason injury.

Upon his promotion from the practice squad, Lee appeared in every game as a special-teams contributor and started one game at strong-side linebacker.

He is scheduled to be a restricted free agent.

Reasons to bring him back

Lee is a dependable backup player who the 49ers activated for the three postseason games, including the Super Bowl, ahead of talented rookie Azeez Al-Shaair.

Lee played 20 snaps on special teams in Super Bowl LIV, and registered one tackle. He did not play any snaps on defense.

Reasons he does not return

The 49ers are set with the starting linebackers between Fred Warner, Kwon Alexander and Dre Greenlaw. A year ago, they signed Al-Shaair as an undrafted rookie, and he earned a spot on the team from Week 1.

Backup linebacker is a spot where teams can often shave some costs and go with young prospects to place on special teams while also developing for the future.

[RELATED: Matt Breida's drop on depth chart prompts difficult call]

Final verdict

Lee is a restricted free agent. The projected low-level tender for a restricted free agent is $2.144 million, according to OverTheCap.com. That is too costly for Lee. The 49ers will not give him a qualifying offer, which would then make him free to sign with any team once free agency opens next week.

But the 49ers will not close the door on re-signing Lee at a minimum salary. If Lee does not get a better offer elsewhere, the 49ers would be willing to bring him back to compete for a spot on the 2020 roster.