Last night, we were all blindsided by the news that second year linebacker Chris Borland decided to retire. Borland said he had two diagnosed concussions prior to college, but that was it for official concussions. Since then however, he believes he suffered a concussion in training camp, but continued through it in order to make the team. He started to feel his future in football would be limited, and after research, he decided it was time to get out early before potential long term damage really took hold.
It is hard to consider the football aspects of this given the nature of the retirement, but it is obviously something to consider. The discussion has begun how to replace Chris Borland (and Patrick Willis), and so I wanted to get together a short list of potential names, both in the draft and in free agency. The team's depth chart currently consists of NaVorro Bowman, Michael Wilhoite, Nick Moody, Shayne Skov and Chase Thomas. They will all get plenty of opportunities to compete for starting and significant reserve roles, but there will be some additions to this group.
Most listings for both free agency and the draft list all inside linebackers together. There are some differences in 4-3 MLB a 3-4 ILB duties, but there are similarities as well.
NFL Free agency
There are not a ton of options, but there are some intriguing possibilities. My guess is the team looks primarily at the draft, but it would make sense to acquire a veteran. Rolando McClain is the best player out there, but he is also facing more discipline from the league for violating the substance abuse policy. It is expected to be a 4-game fine, as opposed to suspension, due to the new policy. The 49ers have shown they will take chances, but would they go with a guy like McClain.
Here are some other options:
Nate Irving (ACL tear in November)
Friend of the site, Matt Miller, also made this suggestion:
49ers should call Baltimore about Arthur Brown and Philadelphia about Demeco Ryans. That's where I'd start.— Matt Miller (@nfldraftscout) March 17, 2015
There is certainly some talent in this year's draft. I don't expect the 49ers to feel forced to take an inside linebacker in round one, but they will most assuredly be drafting an ILB at some point. Here are some of the names at the ILB position. I have included CBS Sports round projections as well (s of March 16).
1. Eric Kendricks, UCLA - 1st-2nd
2. Benardrick McKinney, Mississippi State - 2nd
3. Stephone Anthony, Clemson - 2nd
4. Paul Dawson, TCU - 2nd-3rd
5. Denzel Perryman, Miami (FL) - 3rd
6. Ben Heeney, Kansas - 4th
7. Ramik Wilson, Georgia - 4th-5th
8. Bryce Hager, Baylor - 5th
9. Taiwan Jones, Michigan State - 5th
10. Hayes Pullard, Southern Cal - 5th-6th
11. Trey DePriest, Alabama - 6th
12. Zach Vigil, Utah State - 6th-7th