The Detroit Lions are doing some house-cleaning, as they have told middle linebacker Stephen Tulloch he will be released when the new league year starts on March 9. Tulloch was entering the final year of his contract, and was going to count for $7.3 million against the cap. The Lions decision to release him will clear $6 million in cap space for the coming season.
Tulloch spent five seasons with the Lions, following five seasons with the Tennessee Titans. He was a tackling machine through three seasons, but then tore his ACL in 2014. According to Pride of Detroit, he lost a lot of his coverage skills following the injury. He still managed 107 tackles last season, but it became clear the team was ready to move on and get younger at the position.
Tulloch was viewed as a significant team leader, so this loss will be something that defense will feel this coming season. He'll land somewhere in 2016, but it might not be as part of the first wave of free agency. The top inside linebackers include Danny Trevathan, Jerrell Freeman, and Derrick Johnson. I see Tulloch landing somewhere that is in contention and just needs a little extra oomph in their linebacker corps.
The 49ers inside linebacker position currently includes NaVorro Bowman, Michael Wilhoite, Gerald Hodges, Shayne Skov, and Nick Bellore. I don't expect the 49ers to kick the tires on Tulloch at this point given his injury history and the younger options they would be more likely to consider. And the 49ers still might add a Myles Jack or Jaylon Smith to compete for a starting spot alongside Bowman.