The San Francisco 49ers would appear to be ready to move on from defensive tackle Earl Mitchell. The team is not expected to pick up an option they have on his contract, per NFL Network reporter Ian Rapoport.
At the end of the season, general manager John Lynch told the media they would remain in constant communication with their players, but would not share the specifics at that point. On Tuesday, head coach Kyle Shanahan told the media he thought they would have some decisions made sooner rather than later with regard to both Mitchell and fellow veteran Pierre Garçon.
“Told them both when we know anything that’s for sure, we would tell them,” Shanahan said. “But it’s stuff that’s hard to know for sure. I’ve talked to them about the reality of the business. We have see how our roster is like and how our salary cap plays out. We’re not there yet with our whole plan. I think we’ll have the results sooner than later.”
Mitchell signed a four-year deal prior to the 2017 season and had remained the starting nose tackle for most of the past two seasons. However, in the latter half of 2018, the 49ers moved second year defensive tackle D.J. Jones into the starting lineup. Mitchell was entirely professional about it, acknowledging the business side of things in an interview with Jennifer Chan.
“It’s a business, and I understand that,” Mitchell told NBC Sports Bay Area. “I’ve been in D.J.’s position where I was a young guy and older guys didn’t treat me as well as I’d hoped when I got my opportunity.
“So I always told myself I wouldn’t be that guy. I hope he’ll pass it forward because that’s the way it should work. Eventually, younger guys are going to get opportunities, and it’s how you respond to that makes you a professional.”
Mitchell has been a valued leader for the team, but it is no surprise the team is moving on to a younger option. Jones had his inconsistencies, but he showed some progress late in the season. The 49ers will likely bring in some more competition, but for the time being it would appear the nose tackle role is Jones’ to lose.