The San Francisco 49ers have officially announced the release of former starting linebacker Ahmad Brooks. News of the move was first reported by Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee.

"We would like to thank Ahmad for his nine years of service and contributions to the 49ers," said 49ers general manager John Lynch via a statement issued by the team. "In that time, he played a significant role on some formidable defensive units that helped this team achieve great success. We feel good about the depth and competition along our defensive front and believe that by making this decision now it will give Ahmad a head start on exploring his options with other teams. We wish him and his family nothing but the best."

Brooks joined the 49ers in 2008 after being claimed off of waivers from the Cincinnati Bengals. Since becoming a starter in 2011, Brooks has never had fewer than six sacks in a season, had a career-high 8.5 in 2013, and started at least 13 games in each of those seasons. During that time, he has had a productive 281 tackles and 40.5 sacks.

Brooks entered the NFL as a selection by the Bengals in the 2006 supplemental draft. Over his 11-year NFL career, Brooks has 370 tackles, 53.5 sacks, 30 passes defensed, three interceptions, and 12 forced fumbles. His 51.5 sacks with the 49ers rank third in team history behind just Bryant Young and Charles Haley.

Brooks, who was set to cost $6.15 million against the salary cap this season, had been involved in a training camp and preseason battle with Eli Harold for the starting strong-side linebacker job. Harold is 10 years younger than Brooks and will count just over $823,000 against the cap. However, head coach Kyle Shanahan has insisted that salary would not affect any roster decisions.

"I don't even know what their salaries are," Shanahan said during a conference call on Sunday. "I try not to even look at that because I want to make the right decision. I don't like anything to skew me on that type of stuff. So, I try to go off what I see at practice. You want to know who's got the most upside and things like that. Who's going to be better throughout the year if given the opportunity?"

On Thursday, defensive coordinator Robert Saleh discussed both Brooks and Harold.

"Eli's very athletic," Saleh said. "I mean, they're both built the same. If you're looking at Eli and Ahmad, they're very athletic, they're both very strong, they both love the game. So, it's a good problem. You've got two very good football players. That thing's not even close to done yet. But, having another person who can add value to that position has been a bonus. So for Eli, his athleticism, his violence, his love for the game, that's all been an exciting part for him."

Harold was a third-round selection by the 49ers in the 2015 NFL Draft and has 14 starts in his two NFL seasons. 13 of those starts came last year when he contributed 37 tackles, three sacks, and a forced fumble on defense.

"I'm excited. It's a real big year for me," Harold said on the "Taylor Price Talk" podcast in June. "I feel like I have a lot to prove not only to fans but to the rest of the NFL. I can't wait, man. I'm definitely going to play with a big chip on my shoulder this year."

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