Curtis Lofton isn’t the only inside linebacker reportedly being shopped as a trade chip by an NFC team. According to Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee, the 49ers are also exploring the possibility of a deal, shopping linebacker Michael Wilhoite.
Wilhoite, 28, saw his first extended action on defense for the 49ers in 2014, starting all 16 games for the club as NaVorro Bowman and Patrick Willis dealt with injuries. The inexperienced duo of rookie Chris Borland and Wilhoite held its own at the inside linebacker spots for San Francisco, ranking fourth and 36th at the position, according to Pro Football Focus’ grades (subscription required). Wilhoite, a former undrafted free agent, recorded 87 tackles to go along with a pair of interceptions and a forced fumble.
With Bowman and Willis expected back for 2015, and the team needing to find a way to make room for Borland to have a regular role, Wilhoite is somewhat expendable. For a team looking to add an inside linebacker, he’ll come much cheaper than Lofton would, and the Niners’ asking price isn’t high — Barrows writes that the club is seeking a sixth- or seventh-round draft pick for the linebacker, who can also contribute on special teams.
For now, Wilhoite technically doesn’t have a contract, but he’s an exclusive rights free agent, meaning he’d have to sign a one-year, minimum-salary tender from his current club if he wants to continue his career. That’s a formality, and wouldn’t stand in the way of San Francisco completing a deal.