Michael Wilhoite signs ERFA tender

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

49ers linebacker Michael Wilhoite signed his tender as an exclusive rights free agent. We break down what the tender means, and what's next for him.

The San Francisco 49ers welcomed back much of the team to the facility on Monday, and in doing so, they took care of a little bit of business. The daily NFL transaction report indicates linebacker Michael Wilhoite signed his 1-year tender.

Wilhoite was an exclusive rights free agent. This means he had less than 3 accrued seasons when his contract expired. As such, his free agency rights basically meant he could sign the tender offered by the 49ers, or not play football. Reports indicated the tender was for the veteran minimum ($570,000) as would be expected.

The team can sign him to a multi-year extension, but if he plays out the season on this 1-year deal, he will then become a restricted free agent next offseason. The 49ers would then be able to tender him at one of several levels, including 1st round tender, 2nd round tender, or original round tender. If he signed that tender and played out the season, he would then become an unrestricted free agent the following offseason (2016, following the 2015 season).

Wilhoite remains the front-runner to handle inside linebacker duties while NaVorro Bowman recovers from his ACL tear. Although Bowman appears to be rapidly progressing, odds are still pretty high that he starts the season either on the PUP list, or at least inactive for some number of games. Wilhoite filled in for Patrick Willis in two games last season while Willis dealt with a groin injury. He can handle the work, and while he may not have the upside of Willis or Bowman, he likely would be a very capable replacement.

The 49ers other backup linebacker of note is Nick Moody. The former safety has reportedly bulked up to closer to 250 pounds, although he said on Twitter he looks like he's closer to 230. He'll get some opportunities this year, although his best opportunity for extensive playing time will likely remain on special teams. The 49ers could also elect to draft someone or sign an undrafted free agent. If they're comfortable with Wilhoite as the starter and Moody as a potential backup, they might be inclined to simply got the UDFA route. Of course, they also could wait and see and bring in a current free agent if the situation calls for it.

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