The San Francisco 49ers released Reuben Foster Sunday morning after his third arrest of the year, and at least second allegation domestic violence. Once thought of as a building block to the 49ers defense, he has now left a void at the linebacker position.
The 49ers have Fred Warner at the MIKE position and he’s learning how to relay communication on the fly during his rookie season. Warner has turned into an absolute steal in the 2018 draft — taken in the third round — but the 49ers need to partner him with a young WILL of the future.
Right now Malcolm Smith is that guy, but for how much longer we don’t know. Smith has been in and out of the lineup due to injury and Brock Coyle has been on injured reserve. Elijah Lee has had his moments, particularly the Detroit Lions game where he forced a fumble, but of those names there’s nothing to call dependable. There’s free agency, but the money could be saved for a rainy day.
So that turns us to the 2019 NFL draft.
Going into the draft before this, my list was simple: GET A PASS RUSHER (yes, in all caps). The 49ers defense could be transformed overnight with such an addition — just look at the Chicago Bears if you need proof. From there it’s the tired repetition from 2018: O-line, O-line, O-line. The 49ers offensive line has made great strides, but now it’s time to solidify it. If Mike Person is the guy for right guard (no objection from me if he can be consistent), then at the very least burn a pick on a tackle to prepare for Joe Staley’s eventual retirement. If Mike McGlinchey is to stay at right tackle, no one wants a rookie at left tackle to protect Jimmy Garoppolo. I think all of us can do well without another punishing injury to Jimmy G, self sustained or not.
Outside of the offensive line, the 49ers will need to address the secondary. I think the wide receivers are still a bit underrated — young and learning as they go. Dante Pettis had a strong game against the Buccaneers and has a chance to really do some things now that he’s not coming in and out. A high pick on a wide receiver just doesn’t seem necessary.
So it’s pass rusher, O-line, and hit the secondary up to fix all these coverage issues. But with the loss of Foster, a linebacker will be needed. I didn’t really even think of taking a linebacker because Foster/Warner would have been great with Lee/Smith/Coyle as backups. I still don’t know if that’s a point now. Perhaps trading away that first pick (assuming the 49ers get it) for a boatload of picks would be a good idea to get a linebacker late in the first round.
Part of me wants to see if the 49ers can get by with what they have, but releasing Foster is going to bring another need at some point.
Does the Foster release change your approach in the draft? Who would you target in the draft or free agency to fill the void?