We’re going to look at departures from each position prior to Week 1 of the 2018 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.
So linebackers. This gets a bit tricky. Tricky because there wasn’t much to leave the 49ers in 2018. What was seen as a potential area of strength with Fred Warner and Reuben Foster has become a position of need in the 2019 NFL draft. To make matters even more interesting, there wasn’t much turnover in 2018, one year after the great roster purge.
Here’s a list of the more notable departures that is in 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. Some of these linebackers may have lined up at defensive end in 2017, and could have made the defensive end list, but we put them with the linebackers. (Note, NaVorro Bowman is not listed due to us using him in our 2017 departure series)
Remember that part where we said we could have put some linebackers at defensive end? Well, Harold could have made that list. The reasoning was before 2017, he played primarily at linebacker and wasn’t on the line near as much. Harold was seen as a steal in the 2015 NFL Draft. Much like most of Trent Baalke’s “steals” Harold never lit anything on fire. Now, to be fair, Harold showed promise his rookie season. Even with Chip Kelly’s coaching staff, and the atrocious Jim O’Neil defense, Harold was a bright spot and had the best season of his career within it. He may not be elite, but he did build some trust that he wouldn’t mess everything up.
When Robert Saleh came to town, Harold became the starting SAM linebacker. There wasn’t much to say about Harold’s SAM production, but that’s good;when no one is talking about the SAM spot, it means the linebacker is doing their job.
Regardless if you want to argue that above fact, a trade was made with the Detroit Lions for a conditional draft pick. In 2018, Harold had a solid season, with little time to learn Matt Patricia’s defensive system. He finished with 4 sacks, 10 total tackles, and one defended pass. Good numbers for playing 13 games. Whether he’s missed or not on the 49ers is up to you, but for a moment in Detroit, early in the season, it looked like a bad move to send him off.
Technically, we’d use Foster for our 2019 departure series, but given the mid-season nature of his release, and his status for 2019 being in question, we’re going to get him out of the way now.
So Reuben Foster. What can we say? What can we say that hasn’t be said on this site? Foster’s numerous legal issues with domestic violence and decision making, whether true or not, became a headache the 49ers didn’t want to deal with anymore and after an arrest before the 49ers’ 2018 Tampa Bay Buccaneers game, Foster’s fate was sealed.
Foster was quickly picked up by Washington of all teams, and just as quickly placed on the commissioner’s exempt list while everyone tried to sort his latest legal issue out. His November domestic violence arrest (the one that got him released) has been dismissed, but he has not been removed from the commissioner’s exempt list. Washington team president Bruce Allen called for Foster to be removed from the list on Friday morning at the NFL Combine. If he should or not is up for debate.
So in short, Foster was released from the 49ers and then saw no playing time to close out his season. He was having a bit of a rough go in 2018 when coming back from his suspension, to start the season, dealing with a shoulder injury. If he can return to 2017 form will remain to be seen.
Would you like to have either of these linebackers back on the team?