San Francisco is parting ways with its longest tenured defensive player. The 49ers formally announced that they have released outside linebacker Ahmad Brooks. The team initially tried to trade Brooks, but they were unable to find a suitable deal.
“We would like to thank Ahmad for his nine years of service and contributions to the 49ers,” said 49ers general manager John Lynch. “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.”
The 33-year-old was in the midst of a battle with Eli Harold for the starting strongside linebacker job. Apparently, he lost his footing on the gig as Harold started against the Broncos in the team’s most recent preseason game. Harold is ten years Brooks’ junior and comes at a fraction of the price. Free agent addition Dekoda Watson and rookie Pita Taumoepenu are also expected to contribute at SLB.
Brooks has either led or tied the team in sacks every season since 2013. In 2016, Brooks registered 6.0 sacks and 53 total tackles. Across his eight years with the team, he amassed 51.5 sacks and never had less than 6.0 in any given season. He also played through injury and missed only five regular season games during that span.
Brooks is still putting up numbers, but he has slowed down a little with age. Last year, he graded out as just the 87th best edge rusher in the NFL out of 110 qualified players, per Pro Football Focus. In each of the last three years, Brooks has finished near the bottom of PFF’s edge defender rankings and has not graded out as a top-20 type since 2012. He’ll draw interest on the open market, but he won’t command the kind of salary he was getting in SF.
Brooks was slated to carry a $6.1MM+ cap hit for the coming season. Instead of keeping the veteran and having him take up roughly 3.5% of the salary cap, the SF will save $5.3MM while eating $848K in dead money.
News of Brooks’ release was first reported by Matt Barrows of The Sacramento Bee.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.