The San Francisco 49ers announced on Sunday they have released linebacker Reuben Foster following his arrest on suspicion of domestic violence. This was Foster’s third arrest this year, and his second on suspicion of domestic violence. He was granted $2,000 bail in a Tampa court Sunday morning.
There are a host of questions to be answered following Foster’s release, so here are a few of the nuts and bolts as to what’s next for the 49ers, Foster, and the league.
Transaction and waivers
The NFL does not process transactions on Sunday, and so it will process at 1 p.m. PT on Monday. Teams will then have 24 hours to place a waiver claim on Foster, with that being processed at 1 p.m. PT on Tuesday. If a team claims him, they will take on his base salary, while the 49ers would eat the remaining prorated signing bonus money.
Whether or not a team claims him, he will face discipline under the NFL’s personal conduct policy. He was suspended for two games this season specific to the marijuana and weapons possession cases. The baseline suspension for domestic violence is six games, but the NFL has never been consistent in their application of domestic violence discipline. If he ends up getting disciplined for this arrest, your guess is as good as mine as to the length of the suspension.
This counts as a post-June 1st cut, which means dead money will be split between this season and next season. If we assume a team does not claim Foster off waivers, the 49ers would carry $3,678,954 in dead money this year and $2,355,660 in dead money next year. It is possible the team might try and require repayment of some of his signing bonus given the nature of the release, but there is on word yet on what they may or may not do in that regard.
For Sunday’s game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the 49ers will start Fred Warner at the middle linebacker position, Malcolm Smith at weak side linebacker, and either Mark Nzeocha or Dekoda Watson at strong side linebacker. That will likely be the plan the rest of the season, with Elijah Lee will be the primary backup at MIKE and WILL. The team will likely promote James Onwualu from the practice squad, and/or sign a veteran option to provide depth.
The 49ers drafted Fred Warner this past year, and he has settled in as the team’s MIKE linebacker of the future. Malcolm Smith is not a long term answer at the WILL position, so the team will likely address the position this offseason. I don’t think we necessarily see them investing a first round pick in the position, but I could see a late day two or early day three pick.