The day before the 2016 NFL Draft, a small piece of news arrived that in retrospect has a little more significance. Linebacker Gerald Hodges switched agents to a name very familiar to the San Francisco 49ers.
Drew Rosenhau represents numerous members of the 49ers, and some past ones, including Anthony Davis. He has done a lot of deals with the 49ers, and is generally viewed as a guy with which the 49ers like working. He and Paraag Marathe, the 49ers lead negotiator, reportedly have a solid relationship that allows deals to get done.
Hodges, originally drafted by the Minnesota Vikings in 2013, is signed through the 2016 season. As a 2013 pick, this is the first year he is eligible to negotiate a new contract. Since he was not a first round pick, the 49ers do not hold a fifth year option over his head. It makes sense then that Hodges would want to gear up for negotiations.
Looking back at the just completed 2016 NFL Draft, the 49ers did not draft anybody to compete at the inside linebacker position. That leaves them with Hodges, Michael Wilhoite, Nicke Bellore, Shayne Skov, and Ray-Ray Armstrong to compete for a role alongside NaVorro Bowman. I don't know if Trent Baalke and Chip Kelly think they have a guy who can spend the next 5-7 years at ILB, but clearly they think they have some quality options.
If I had to guess right now, I'd say that that Hodges is probably the favorite. I feel like we've seen Wilhoite's ceiling. He is a very capable linebacker, but not someone who is viewed by the 49ers as the long-term starter. I don't know if Hodges will be able to fill that role, but I would not be surprised to see the team give him that opportunity. And if he works out a long-term deal between now and the start of training camp, that might give us even more of a clue of where things stand.