SAN FRANCISCO, CA - JANUARY 14: Vernon Davis #85 of the San Francisco 49ers celebrates with teammate Dashon Goldson #38 after Davis scored a touchdown in the first quarter against the New Orleans Saints during the NFC Divisional playoff game at Candlestick Park on January 14, 2012 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
As most of you know by now, outside linebacker Ahmad Brooks signed a $44.5M contract to stay with the San Francisco 49ers long-term. And while most of us are either excited or curious as to how this affects the draft and free agency, I have been pondering the historical implications. I think there's some serious potential for this group going forward.
Like ESPN commentator and former NFL quarterback Trent Dilfer, I have a great respect and fondness for the philosophical and historical part of this game. It also just so happens that not more than a week ago, I was watching NFL Network's Top Ten: Linebacking Corps of All Time. And given the recent news break, I couldn't help but wonder where the 49ers of 2012 and beyond may find themselves one day.
Follow me after the jump for the Top Ten according to NFL Network, as well as discussion of where our own 49ers LB's could potentially be when it's all said and done.
2000 Ravens (J. Sharper, R. Lewis, P. Boulware)
Orange Crush (T. Jackson, R. Gradishar, J. Rizzo, B. Swenson)
1980's Raiders (T. Hendricks, M. Millen, R. Martin)
Steelers of the mid-1990's (K. Greene, L. Kirkland, C. Brown, G. Lloyd)
Lombardi's Packers (R. Nitschke, D. Robinson, L. Caffey)
1985 Chicago Bears (O. Wilson, M. Singletary, W. Marshall)
Hank Stram's Kansas City Chiefs (W. Lanier, B. Bell, J. Lynch)
Parcells' Giants (L. Taylor, H. Carson, G. Reasons, C. Banks)
1970's Steelers (J. Ham, J. Lambert, A. Russell)
Jim Mora's Saints (R. Jackson, S. Mills, V. Johnson, P. Swilling)
Now, as we take a look at these groups, you'll notice that most of them ran a 4-3 defense, but two of the top three ran a 3-4, which is what San Francisco runs today and arguably better than anyone else in the NFL right now. You'll also take notice that the individuals that composed these groups were all highly accomplished and fit the system they played in.
Going forward, we're assuming that the 49ers group will be:
Right off the bat, we have a double-digit sack artist, two All-Pro inside backers and a tone-setting hitman who is also capable of 10+ sacks a season. What's inspiring about this group is that even after everything they accomplished in 2011, we weren't looking at the finished product. Parys Haralson was starting in place of Aldon Smith, Patrick Willis was hurt for a few games and it was a developmental year for the 49ers as a whole.
It is also important to point out that the 49ers defensive front is one of the, if not thee, best in professional football. Justin Smith, Ray McDonald and Isaac Sopoaga have controlled the line of scrimmage better than any other group, making the job of the linebackers that much easier. I mean, these guys play outstanding football, period.
I think what will put this group over the top will be the following (all of which are probable/possible):
1. Patrick Willis, NaVorro Bowman continue to make Pro Bowls, stay All-Pro's
2. Aldon Smith becomes one of the league's fiercest pass rushers
3. Ahmad Brooks stays consistent, breaks double-digit sacks in a season
4. Stay impossible to run against
5. Add to their hit list (J. Best, L. McCoy, M. Hasselbeck, L. Blount, etc.)
6. Win a Super Bowl
This prediction is not to disrespect any of the Top Ten Linebacking Corps but I think it's been a while since the league has seen a group like this. If Mel Kiper Jr. and Todd McShay were grading linebacker groups in the NFL rather than prospects, I think the 49ers would have the highest ceiling of any bunch.
I can't wait to see what the future holds.
Follow me on Twitter: @DeSimone80