Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports
San Francisco 49ers fans were hit with a shocker as they woke up Monday morning. For a while now, there has been speculation that defensive lineman Justin Smith would be retiring. Many hoped that it would not happen, including the new 49ers coaching staff, but the team was moving forward as if Smith would not return.
The real shocker was that linebacker Patrick Willis would be joining him. Willis' retirement plans were first reported by Yahoo! Sports. It was later reported that neither Willis nor Smith would be returning, opting to end their NFL careers instead.
Willis missed much of last season after deciding to go through with season-ending toe surgery. Toe injuries can severely limit a players' athletic abilities on the field, but Willis had hoped that the surgery would help him to return strong and have a long NFL career in front of him. The loss of Willis is not limited to his contributions on the field, but to his leadership on the team as well.
Justin Smith's retirement plans have not yet been made official, but Pro Football Talk says that per multiple league sources, it is a done deal as well. They seem pretty sure of themselves that it will happen. Smith is a 14-year veteran and another leader on defense that the team will miss. He came to San Francisco as a free agent in 2008 and is considered one of the best free agent signings in team history. Smith met with the 49ers last week to discuss his future plans.
Possibly in light of Smith retiring, the 49ers signed defensive lineman Darnell Dockett to solidify the defensive front.
So what does this do for the 49ers' salary cap? With retirement, Willis will only count $843,500 against the 49ers salary cap while saving the team $7,424,500 this year. Smith's retirement will create $2.187 million in dead money, but it opens up $4.25 million in cap space.
Last season, rookie linebacker Chris Borland had a great year filling in for Willis. He finished the season with 108 tackles, a sack, and two interceptions while only playing part of the season.
The 49ers have lost or on the verge of losing some big names this offseason. In addition to most of their coaching staff, running back Frank Gore is planning to sign with the Philadelphia Eagles once free agency begins on Tuesday at 1 PM Pacific. Wide receiver Michael Crabtree and guard Mike Iupati are likely to be gone as well. Cornerback Chris Culliver may command a hefty salary in free agency as well.
On a good note, the 49ers are considered the favorites to sign former Baltimore Ravens wide receiver Torrey Smith, which would be a boost to a team that is losing Crabtree. Regardless, this team will have a very different look during the upcoming season.
It's been a tough news day for 49ers fans, but the team still has free agency and the NFL Draft to fill in some holes and add depth. The 49ers will have plenty of money to do it too.
By: 50 year FORMER faithful
Date: March 10, 2015 at 7:17 AM
Comment: Every player has an agent and most a financial adviser and neither worth a damn would want their client to play for a disloyal lying incompetent greedy silver spoon ignoramus coward, or his dipshit disloyal ignoble cowardly fraud dentist father
THE YORKS ARE PROVEN LOSERS and LIARS which she combined with the high taxes high cost of living and expensive housing make the Niners a place to not only make less money but also lose in perpetuity
LOSING WOTHOUT CLASS THE YORK. No honor no honesty no integrity of honest. Just a bunch of disloyalty greedy incompetent losers imposing a culture of losing backstabbing and stealing from loyal fans
STOP BUYING tickets , gear or anything else that makes little silver spoon any money. Make these idiots sell the team.
By: Ken Y.
Date: March 9, 2015 at 8:14 PM
Comment: Please be the first to report Tuesday morning that Patrick Willis is actually signing an extension. Appreciate it.
By: Lucky Phil
Date: March 9, 2015 at 6:22 PM
Comment: You're a good man Bonilla. I'm gonna go punch Maiocco in the face. Thanks for the info.
By: Lucky Phil
Date: March 9, 2015 at 5:18 PM
Comment: FU#$ FU#$ FU@# FU#$!!! Bonilla, I'm Firm Believer In Shooting The Messenger. I don't want to hear this @#$%.
By: Mica Snell
Date: March 9, 2015 at 11:25 AM
Date: March 9, 2015 at 11:09 AM
Comment: Sad day if the reports do in fact come to fruition...
Having said that, I still feel good about the depth of this team. Borland looked special didn't he? I imagine with a healthy Bowman back in the mix the drop off in production from the departure of Willis should be minimal.
Date: March 9, 2015 at 10:59 AM
Comment: These guys were leaders and they're gonna be missed. I consider they did mostly because they know that the new regime won't have the same success as Harbaugh had on his first season therefore it's better to leave with pride rather face an uncertain season. Tomsula's bandwagon already has to deal without 3 leaders from last season.
By: Bobbie Lince
Date: March 9, 2015 at 10:43 AM
Comment: So sad to hear that the one thing we as nine fans had to look forward to was the return of Willis and Bowman. I am sure that Willis does not want to play for the York family and Balke...they are idiots and I am sure the entire team is up in arms about the release of Gore, A solid great RB. Being a nine fan for over 35 years I am starting to look across the Bay and releasing my SBL's..who wants to stay loyal to a tema that has no LOYALTY!!!! York is right up there with the late AL DAVIS!!!
Date: March 9, 2015 at 10:42 AM
Comment: Class acts like Willis, Smith, and Gore are not sticking around to be part the rat ship that Lucky Sperm Jed is captaining.
Date: March 9, 2015 at 10:22 AM
Comment: What's really going on with San Fran?