The San Francisco 49ers kicked off free agency earlier this month with their decision to release wide receiver Torrey Smith and safety Antoine Bethea. Neither move was particularly surprising given the overhaul the 49ers are starting under new head coach Kyle Shanahan and general manager John Lynch.
Bethea recently joined former 49ers Studios employee Taylor Price for a recently launched podcast. He talked about the decision that led to his release by the 49ers. According to Bethea, the two sides met and the team told him they wanted to get younger at the position. They suggested they would be amenable to his return at a lesser salary, and by Bethea’s account, a potentially reduced role. Here’s the full transcript:
There were just some things that they were asking me to do, that at the end of the day I didn’t feel 100 percent comfortable with. And sitting down with John Lynch, I think he understood where I was coming from. It was a mutual thing. They said they wanted to get younger at the position. It was a situation where they were asking me to take a pay cut, and still be on the team, and kinda be, I’m not going to say a “big brother,” but still have that veteran leadership and that veteran presence in the locker room and in the DB room. But for myself, I felt as though I could still play in this league as a starter, and that’s when we came to the decision and I asked for my release.
Given what Bethea had to say, it seems like had he accepted a reduced salary, he still might have found himself released or traded before or during training camp. He played 16 special teams snaps last year, and most backups are expected to play some kind of special teams role.
It’s safe to say, both sides knew this was not going to work out, and so they parted ways in what seems to be amicable fashion. The 49ers get to see what their younger talent can do, and Antoine Bethea got an early shot at free agency.