Ahkello Witherspoon

49ers To Send Ahkello Witherspoon To IR

Ahkello Witherspoon left early during the 49ers’ upset win over the Seahawks, and his Week 15 action will be his last of the season.

The 49ers will place Witherspoon on injured reserve, Kyle Shanahan said Monday. This will wrap up the former third-round pick’s second NFL season. Witherspoon left Sunday’s game with a sprained right PCL.

San Francisco’s starting cornerback opposite Richard Sherman, Witherspoon struggled this season. Only one corner (Denver’s Jamar Taylor) has a lower grade, per Pro Football Focus, exiting Week 15. Witherspoon has started 21 games since coming to the 49ers out of Colorado.

Two seasons remain on his rookie contract, so he’ll have a chance to bounce back in 2019. The mid-round pick enjoyed a more promising rookie season and will presumably be part of San Francisco’s corner rotation next season. Rookie third-rounder Tarvarius Moore will start in Witherspoon’s place, Shanahan said.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

49ers Notes: Foster, Mack, Goodwin

We know that soon-to-be-former 49ers linebacker Reuben Foster was arrested on a domestic violence charge last night following an incident at the team’s hotel in Tampa Bay, and that the team is going to put Foster on the waiver wire tomorrow. GM John Lynch has since given an interview on the situation, and he indicated that the decision to cut Foster was made because Foster failed to uphold the standards set for him after the issues he had earlier this year (Twitter link via Nick Wagoner of ESPN.com). Lynch added that he and team ownership agreed on the move.

Now for more from San Francisco, starting with more Foster fallout:

  • Matt Barrows of The Athletic provides a series of tweets with more detail on the Foster incident and Lynch’s reaction to it.
  • Former NFL agent Joel Corry notes that the 49ers will carry roughly $2.35MM in dead money for Foster on the 2019 cap (Twitter link). Foster’s two-game suspension that he served at the beginning of this season wiped out his base salary guarantees, so the dead money figure stems entirely from signing bonus proration.
  • In two separate pieces, Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk examines Foster’s chances of being picked up by another club. Florio notes that any team interested in Foster’s services would first want to know if the league plans to place Foster on the Commissioner Exempt list, which is a device for keeping players off the field when those players face certain types of criminal charges, including allegations of domestic violence. A player cannot be placed on the list unless he is on a team, but he would be eligible to be paid during his stay on the list. Any team is free to call the league office to determine what its intentions are with respect to Foster, but unless the league is able to definitively say that Foster is not a candidate for the list — which seems unlikely — it does not appear that Foster will be claimed on waivers. It also seems that no one will be interested in signing Foster even when he clears waivers until his status with the league is determined.
  • We knew that the 49ers were interested in trading for Khalil Mack before he was dealt to the Bears, but we also heard that San Francisco had simply been outbid by Chicago. However, Lynch indicated during a radio interview with 95.7 The Game on Friday that he continues to believe that the 49ers had a better offer on the table for Mack (audio link). To get Mack, the Bears gave up two first-round picks, a 2019 sixth-rounder, and a 2020 third-rounder (though some draft capital came back to Chicago as well), so Lynch is apparently suggesting that he was prepared to give more than that to land the elite defender.
  • Wide receiver Marquise Goodwin traveled with the team to Tampa Bay, but he is not present for San Francisco’s matchup with the Bucs, as Adam Schefter of ESPN.com tweets. Goodwin was reportedly excused from the team to address a personal matter, and he was also excused from practice earlier this week due to a personal matter, though it is presently unclear whether it is the same issue.
  • Ahkello Witherspoon, who was selected two rounds after Foster in the 2017 draft, is at something of a crossroads with the 49ers, as Eric Branch of the San Francisco Chronicle writes. Witherspoon has been benched twice this year and has regressed in coverage and tackling after a strong rookie campaign, and while it seems unlikely the 49ers would cut him at the end of the season, his play over the course of the team’s final six games will have a big impact on how aggressively the 49ers pursue cornerback upgrades in the offseason.

NFC West Rumors: Rams, 49ers, Thomas

Despite the Rams‘ dominance through four games, they haven’t deployed much in the way of name talent at linebacker. They traded Alec Ogletree to the Giants and shipped Robert Quinn to the Dolphins. Los Angeles is in line to have its top current ‘backer back in Week 5, however. Sean McVay expects Barron to make his season debut against the Seahawks after missing the first four games due to a lingering Achilles injury that caused him to miss all of Los Angeles’ offseason program.

We’ve kind of got a plan in place where we’re anticipating him being able to go. And that’s subject to change based on how he responds. But he’s feeling good up to this point,” McVay said, via Myles Simmons of TheRams.com. “We’re hopeful to be able to get him back and if that’s the case we’ll be excited to get Mark out there.”

Barron started 44 games for the Rams the past four seasons and is in the third season of a five-year, $45MM contract. The Rams have started Cory Littleton and Ramik Wilson at inside linebacker this season.

Here’s the latest from this division, one that features a clear-cut favorite at the quarter pole.

  • Although McVay said earlier this week Greg Zuerlein had a chance to return Sunday, that probably remains at least a week away. The second-year Rams coach said the signing of Cairo Santos likely indicates Zuerlein is still a bit way from resuming his season. He’s been sidelined since Week 2 warmups after sustaining a groin injury.
  • Richard Sherman‘s per-game bonus-laden contract makes it critical he stay on the field as much as possible, and the veteran cornerback has a chance to play this week. The 49ers defender participated in a limited practice on Thursday and would be in line to start upon returning. However, not much else is known about the 49ers’ corner situation, Matt Maiocco of NBC Sports Bay Area notes. Ahkello Witherspoon, Jimmie Ward and Greg Mabin could continue a rotation on the outside, Robert Saleh said, adding this is a product of Mabin’s progress rather than the coaching staff having issues with Ward or Witherspoon’s play.
  • Don’t look for D.J. Reed to usurp the rehabbing Adrian Colbert. Kyle Shanahan confirmed, via Maiocco, the original San Francisco free safety starter will get his job back once he returns from a hip contusion. Shanahan would be “surprised” if Colbert isn’t ready to return this week. The second-year player did not start last week but got in two full practices this week.
  • The Seahawks could franchise Earl Thomas for $12.48MM, but the three-time All-Pro could well hit the market. If he’s not franchised, it’s incredibly hard to envision Thomas back with the Seahawks. And if he is, another long holdout almost certainly commences. Despite having a broken leg end his season, Thomas may see a robust market come March, with Joel Corry of CBS Sports citing big deals given to Allen Robinson (coming off an ACL tear) and Matt Kalil (off a hip injury) as why Thomas can be expected to be a coveted commodity. Thomas has already surmounted a significant leg injury; he returned from that season-ending malady to be a 2017 Pro Bowler. He should have immense incentive to get cleared by the time free agency opens.

West Notes: 49ers, Raiders, Richardson

Richard Sherman‘s 49ers tour began with a dinner with Kyle Shanahan on Friday night, and the sides took more formal steps on Saturday. Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee reports Sherman took a physical with the 49ers today and met with more team officials. After undergoing Achilles surgery in November, Sherman underwent a procedure to remove a bone spur in his other heel last month. Barrows notes the soon-to-be 30-year-old cornerback plans to be running at full speed again at some point in April. Sherman plans to be ready to participate in training camp. Sherman may or may not have a Lions visit scheduled.

Here’s the latest from the West divisions as the legal tampering period looms in less than 48 hours.

  • Despite the 49ers pursuing Sherman, Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea.com does not expect the team to go after Trumaine Johnson. He doesn’t expect the 28-year-old defender, and one who will command big money next week, to fit into the 49ers’ model of aiming for sustained success. San Francisco, though, has more than $70MM in cap space and has a need at corner. Maiocco, though, notes the 49ers are “extremely excited” about 2017 third-rounder Ahkello Witherspoon‘s development. Witherspoon graded as a top-50 Pro Football Focus corner last season in 660 snaps. It looks like he could be one of San Francisco’s starters next season opposite a UFA acquisition.
  • One player Witherspoon may not be guarding twice next year is Paul Richardson. The UFA wide receiver sent out a tweet that certainly makes it look like he won’t be playing for the Seahawks next season. A 2014 second-round pick who didn’t impress much until his contract year, Richardson caught 44 passes for 703 yards and six touchdowns last season and is expected to have a competitive market. And the Seahawks still have Doug Baldwin and Tyler Lockett under contract. However, this wouldn’t be the first time a Seahawks wideout indicated he was likely headed out the door only to return to Seattle. Jermaine Kearse was more declarative about departing the Pacific Northwest in 2016 before re-signing to stay in his home state shortly after.
  • Tom Cable would prefer the Raiders retain Marshawn Lynch for a second season, Scott Bair of CSN Bay Area reports. Oakland’s new offensive line coach, of course, worked with the running back during his peak years. Nothing has been decided on Lynch yet. The soon-to-be 32-year-old back is due a $4MM base salary in 2018 if he remains on the Raiders’ roster. He’s due a $1MM roster bonus on March 18.

Draft Pick Signings: 5/12/17

The Texans announced the signing of Deshaun Watson and five other draft picks today. The former Clemson quarterback will make $13.85MM with an $8.25MM signing bonus, according to Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle (on Twitter). The Lions also signed first-rounder Jarrad Davis, along with seven other draft choices.

Here are the rest of Friday’s draft signings.

  • The Broncos and second-round defensive end Demarcus Walker arrived at an agreement, Nicki Jhabvala of the Denver Post reports (on Twitter). It’s a four-year worth upwards of $5.1MM for the Florida State defensive end, per Jhabvala, who adds he will receive a $1.8MM signing bonus. Walker is expected to compete with Jared Crick and Zach Kerr for the Broncos’ right defensive end position opposite Derek Wolfe. Walker is the second defensive end Denver’s drafted in the past two years, following Adam Gotsis, who did not play much last season.
  • Both of the Jaguars‘ seventh-round selections are now signed. The Jags inked cornerback Jalen Myrick and fullback Marquez Williams. A Minnesota product, Myrick is a notable seventh-round choice because the ex-Golden Gopher defender blazed to the fastest 40-yard dash (4.28 seconds) a Big Ten player has clocked since the Combine began measuring these times. Williams spent three seasons at Division II Mars Hill (North Carolina) before transferring to Miami for his senior season. The Jags still have five unsigned picks.
  • Four late-round draft picks agreed to terms with the Titans, the team announced. Sixth-round guard/center Corey Levin is signed. So are seventh-rounders Josh Carraway, a linebacker, Brad Seaton, a tackle, and running back Khalfani Muhammad.
  • The 49ers signed third-round pick Ahkello Witherspoon, a cornerback out of Colorado, the team announced. Witherspoon was the second Buffaloes corner to come off the board in last month’s draft, following Cowboys second-rounder Chidobe Awuzie. Witherspoon led Division I in pass deflections last season with 22, a number that tied an 18-year-old Colorado school record.

Zach Links contributed to this report.