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49ers sign Antoine Bethea to 4-year deal, Donte Whitner off to Browns

The San Francisco 49ers made their first move in free agency, reportedly signing Colts safety Antoine Bethea to a four year contract. We've got more details.

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Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

NFL free agency is off and running, and BAM we've got news right off the bat. ESPN is reporting the San Francisco 49ers have agreed to terms on a four year contract with former Indianapolis Colts safety Antoine Bethea. Matt Barrows is reporting the deal is worth $26 million. Fooch's Update: Barrows has updated his post and removed the $26M figure. We don't know where the contract value stands right now.

The move comes as the 49ers need to replace their previous strong safety, Donte Whitner. According to Ian Rapoport and others, the Whitner has reportedly come to terms with the Cleveland Browns on a 4-year deal worth $28 million. Matt Maiocco is reporting that the 49ers were not prepared to go north of $4 million per year on any deal. This Bethea deal would indicate the 49ers value him more highly than Whitner (if that $26M number is accurate)

Bethea is 29-years old, and has been to the Pro Bowl twice, in 2007 and 2009. Last season, Bethea had two interceptions, a sack and six passes defended. This deal is re

I did a quick search and came across this report at the Indy Star. They view him as a veteran leader who is well respective on defense. He played some free safety, but Bethea seems more likely fit in a strong safety role. Here's a brief summary from them. We'll obviously have plenty more:

Summary: Bethea has expressed a desire to stay in Indianapolis, but he's taken a pretty noncommittal approach when asked about free agency. That, as much as anything, should tell you this is not a slam-dunk signing for the Colts. At 29, this could be Bethea's last shot at a big contract, and that could be a factor in negotiations. The Colts have to decide what Bethea is worth to them. At times, he played superbly. At others, he gave up costly plays. On the whole, he's still an asset. More than anything, this probably will come down to dollars and cents.