We’re going to look at each positions departures prior to Week 1 of the 2017 season and see how they fared after leaving the San Francisco 49ers. Some players went on to better careers, while others may be out of the league. We won’t be highlighting every transaction, just some notable ones. Today, we look at the linebackers.
Now we’re onto something. The 49ers linebackers were some of the most solid for the position, and there was a lot of turnover last year during the great roster purge of 2017. Untouchable mainstays such as Ahmad Brooks finally got the pink slip and team-icons like Navorro Bowman were released when it became apparent that they were not in the long-term plans of the new 49ers regime.
The 49ers linebacking corps now is young. Out is the Super Bowl veterans mentioned above, in are hopeful prospects like Eli Harold. While it makes sense to remove some of the older players for the rebuild project the 49ers had, the team certainly feels awkward without some of the namestays.
Here’s a list of the more notable departures that is no way complete. Note that with some exceptions, camp bodies, training camp transactions, and roster cuts during the season are not listed for the most part.
We know, losing Bowman sucks. Normally this series wouldn’t focus on mid-season releases, but Bowman not only left the team in a bit of a controversial fashion, he slipped right into the defense with the Oakland Raiders and owned it for the rest of 2017.
Bowman began as a 3rd round draft pick out of Penn State and quickly joined Patrick Willis as the best linebacking duo in the league. From there, Bowman became one of the main leaders of the locker room and also a fan favorite for his toughness and high-level of play. After suffering a brutal knee injury to end 2013, Bowman sat out 2014 and returned during Jim Tomsula’s regime in 2015 to helm the defense himself with the loss of Patrick Willis.
While there were fears he had slowed down and some analysis that he wasn’t the player he once was, this wasn’t the case as he came out of 2015 with career high numbers in tackles second-most sacks in his career as well. The performance got him into the pro bowl. In 2016, Bowman only played 4 games before an achilles rupture sidelined him for the rest of the season.
Bowman only played five games in 2017. After a controversial benching call in Week 5 against the Indianapolis Colts, things quickly deteriorated between Bowman and the new front office resulting in his release after a trade to a team he was comfortable with failed. Bowman went to the Oakland Raiders three days later on a one-year contract. Despite his unfamiliarity with the defense, Bowman managed 89 tackles on a 10-game span, 1.5 sacks, and and one interception with the Raiders.
Bowman is currently a free agent.
Another important piece during the 49ers Super Bowl run 2012, Ahmad Brooks was a solid sack machine for the 49ers. Coming from Cincinatti in 2007 via wavers, Brooks bounced in and out of the team to start his tenure, but solidified things in early December that year.Brooks’ best year came in 2014 where he posted 8.5 sacks and 60 tackles, along with one interception and seven passes defended.
After 2014, every offseason was a prediction and anticipation that Brooks had played his last down with the 49ers. Yet despite all the speculation (and draft picks to replace him) Brooks managed to keep his roster spot year after year. While he would post solid numbers, he also had a tendency to go offsides more than one would like and whenever the referee would signal illegal hands to the face, you didn’t even need them to call a number. It was usually Brooks.
Oh and this seemed to happen on 3rd downs often.
Brooks was released as Eli Harold began taking snaps away from him during the 2017 preseason. In a matter of days he signed with the Green Bay Packers. He had a clear regression, despite playing in only 12 games, posting only 19 tackles and 1.5 sacks.
Brooks is currently a free agent.
Wilhoite bounced around the 49ers with roster shuffles before playing a full season in 2013. Used as a backup for Bowman or Willis, Wilhoite saw more action with the later’s retirement. There was hope he could be a decent starter, posting 87 and 85 tackles in 2014 and 2015 respectively. Unfortunately, his numbers took a bit of a dip from there in 2016, though he played in 16 games, he started in half of what he did in 2015.
Wilhoite signed with the Seattle Seahawks in the 2017 offseason as a free agent. He played in 14 games and posted 30 tackles—an even worse drop than his 2016 season.
Are there any 49ers linebackers you want back?