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2012 NFL Draft: 49ers Inside Linebacker Position

One position that has some serious talent, but still potentially raises a modest question mark or two is inside linebacker. The 49ers have the best starting duo in the league in Patrick Willis and NaVorro Bowman. Some will make arguments for other duos, but I have no problem proclaiming this dynamic duo as tops in the league.

Behind those two, the primary backup in 2011 was Larry Grant. The former 49ers draft pick returned to San Francisco on a one-year deal and is now a restricted free agent. He has until April 20 to sign an offer sheet, but the only piece of "news" came courtesy of his own twitter account. Although an offer sheet could pop up sometime in the next three weeks, it seems like a decent chance that he will return in 2012.

Grant will be an unrestricted free agent and NaVorro Bowman will be a free agent the following year. Odds would seem high that the team will re-sign Bowman between now and the end of 2013, but I have to wonder if Grant sticks around after 2012 once there is not even a seventh round tender on him (assuming Grant signs his tender this year).

If Grant returns to the 49ers for the coming season, it would seem to be pushed fairly far down the priority list, if even drafted for at all. Maybe the team elects to use a late round flyer on such a player, but otherwise, can we really expect the position to be too far up the 49ers draft board. The 49ers will have a limited number of roster spots open for draft picks, so the planning for picks become all the more significant. You never want to waste a draft pick, but even taking a flyer on a guy late will require a certain amount of position discipline.

Assuming Grant returns, is the position more or less off the board this year?