San Francisco 49ers safety Donte Whitner is a "person of interest" for the New York Jets, according to Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News. Whitner joins Jacksonville Jaguars running back Maurice Jones-Drew as an "interesting and somewhat surprising name" for the Jets to be interested in.
It's one of the first substantial rumors we've heard about another team being potentially interested in Whitner's services. Whitner is about to hit the open market after three very solid seasons in San Francisco. It's reasonable to think that the 49ers are interested in keeping Whitner in place for another season or two.
He fits the system, knows the system, and is a valuable veteran to keep paired with the still-developing Eric Reid on the other side. But San Francisco doesn't want to overpay, and is willing to let Whitner test the market to see what other clubs are offering. Given the two big signings thus far, that's somewhat worrying, but Whitner is in a much different situation than, say, Tarell Brown.
The latest reports have suggested the 49ers are optimistic about bringing Whitner back, but this is very real confirmation that the rest of the NFL did actually watch one or two 49ers games last season. In fairness, they might have missed a few of his poorer performances in 2012.
Of course, a "persons of interest" list is about as mild as it gets at this point. However, the Jets have a very real need at safety and have already been linked to Buffalo Bills safety Jairus Byrd to this point. Provided they are unable to land him, someone like Whitner could easily be the kind of fallback a team like the Jets would want to have at the ready, even if they have to overpay him slightly.
Whitner was notably present on Twitter Friday, asking "What is #Hitner worth?" in a Tweet. He then followed that up by saying that the writers don't know because they don't watch film. As a writer who watches film, I think I've got a pretty good handle on his value, but it sounds like he's got some pretty vivid ideas as to his value himself.
Should be interesting!