NFL Free Agency

One decision 49ers must make on Reuben Foster


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 Mailbag: Big spenders in free agency?


49ers Mailbag: Big spenders in free agency?

The offseason has finally arrived for all 32 teams.

The top priority for the 49ers continues to be signing quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo to a long-term contract extension. The club will certainly look to improve during free agency with the right kinds of players.

Here is this edition of 49ers Mailbag with questions submitted from Facebook:

Do you think the 49ers will be big players in free agency this offseason? (Jason Moody)
They certainly have the cap space to be as aggressive as they want to be in free agency.

But they also want to make sure they do not take any unnecessary risks to wind up in a bad financial situation in the future. If the team wins and some of their young players emerge into stars, they will want to be able to keep those players around.

As the 49ers plan for the future, they want to draft well and retain their good players on their second contracts.

In order for the 49ers go spend big money on a free agent, they’re going to have to feel good about that player fitting the team in three areas:
1. Financially: The player must fit into the salary structure of the team;
2. On the field: The coaching staff must have a specific role in mind for how that player fits the scheme;
3. Off the field: The 49ers need to continue to collect players who are the kind of people who set the proper tone in the locker room and practice field.

What are the odds the Niners pursue Butler to address the need for a CB? (Ajay Ferrari)
Ah, yes, Malcolm Butler.

He did not have a good season. And, he found himself in Bill Belichick’s doghouse and was benched for the Super Bowl.

I have no idea what to make of that situation, but you can be assured the 49ers will tap their contacts with the New England Patriots before determining whether they want to investigate the possibility of negotiating with Butler as a free agent.

Have you heard any rumors on length and dollar amount of Garoppolo's future contract? (James Clevenger)
There are no rumors for dollar amounts for the Jimmy Garoppolo contract talks. I have not even heard any confirmation if the sides are even as close as what was reported nationally over the weekend.

But it’s safe to assume the deal will be somewhere in the range of $25 million per season and around five years. You can take what Garoppolo would receive if he played the next two seasons on the franchise tag, which amounts to $50 million, and divide by two for the annual average. His deal is likely to land somewhere very close to the five-year, $125 million deal Derek Carr signed with the Raiders last year.

Do you expect the 49ers to begin preparing for a future without Joe Staley soon? (Jake Shmelder)
Staley believes he has some good seasons left in him. But this is definitely an offseason in which the 49ers must look at lining things up for the future at offensive tackle.

After all, Trent Brown is set to enter his contract year. And it’s anything but a certainty that he will be back with the 49ers in 2019.

The 49ers could look to address offensive tackle in this draft. It would make sense if the 49ers drafted a lineman to plug in as a starting guard for one season before transitioning him to tackle.

Three former 49ers, including Mike Purcell, claimed off waivers

Three former 49ers, including Mike Purcell, claimed off waivers

Three players the 49ers waived on Tuesday quickly found employment elsewhere on Wednesday.

Nose tackle Mike Purcell, offensive lineman Alex Balducci and defensive end Zach Moore were claimed off waivers and can immediately join their new teams for their offseason programs.

The Los Angeles Rams claimed Purcell, while Balducci landed on the New York Jets and Moore was picked up by the Carolina Panthers. The 49ers waived 13 players on Tuesday to clear room on their 90-man roster for 10 draft picks and 18 players who have agreed to terms as undrafted rookies.

The 18 undrafted free agents are scheduled to sign contracts after reporting to rookie minicamp on Thursday. The 49ers’ rookies will have practices on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. The 49ers must trim one more spot off their roster to account for all of their rookies.

The 18 undrafted rookies with whom the 49ers have three-year contract agreements, according to sources, are:

QB Nick Mullens, Southern Mississippi
TE Cole Hikutini, Louisville
DB Lorenzo Jerome, Saint Francis (PA)
RB Matt Breida, Georgia Southern
OL Erik Magnuson, Michigan
WR Kendrick Bourne, Eastern Washington
OT Darrell Williams Jr., Western Kentucky
WR KD Cannon, Baylor
WR Victor Bolden, Oregon State
LB Jimmie Gilbert, Colorado
OL J.P. Flynn, Montana State
DE Noble Nwachukwu, West Virginia
LB Donavin Newsom, Missouri
OL Bret Treadway, Lamar
FB Tyler McCloskey, Houston
S Malik Golden, Penn State
OL Evan Goodman, Arizona State
DB Zach Franklin, Washburn