The retirements of Patrick Willis and Chris Borland are big hits for the San Francisco 49ers, who also saw Frank Gore and Mike Iupati depart through free agency to make the offense weaker, in an offseason that began with the parting of ways with Jim Harbaugh, and looks like a complete disaster covered up as a rebuild.
In short? Anyone who had the opportunity to leave, left. From a Super Bowl team in the 2012 season to a team one play away from another Super Bowl a year later, the 49ers just might be the worst team in the NFC West again, which is difficult to do in such a short period.
So… Who’s Leaving?
Patrick Willis is the biggest name to erase from the list of 49ers players. Maybe the best linebacker in the NFL from 2007 to 2013, Willis made seven Pro Bowl selections and five First Team All-Pro. The toe injury that kept him out for most of the 2014 season was part of the reason he left. Concern for the future, his own well being and maybe, just maybe, the fact that he felt the ship was sinking, helped make the decision to retire from the game.
Frank Gore has never been the best running back in the NFL but for the last decade, he’s probably the most consistent with eight seasons of 1000 rushing yards or more since 2005. The 49ers didn’t make too much of an effort to hold on to him with the new administration having their own weird agenda, so Gore chose, eventually (after teasing Philly) to pick the Indianapolis as his new home for a few more years.
Mike Iupati, one of the best guards in the league over the last few years, wasn’t planning on staying for a long time. He signed a massive $40 million, five-year deal with the Arizona Cardinals, staying in the division while the 49ers continue to get weaker.
Chris Culliver made a nice comeback last season after missing the entire 2013 campaign with a torn up ACL. He preferred moving to a different NFC team, signing a four-year deal with the Washington Redskins.
Stevie Johnson never made the impact he’d hope to in one season with the 49ers, playing in 13 games and catching just 35 passes for 435 yards and 3 touchdowns. He spent his first six NFL season with the Buffalo Bills. Now, he signed a four-year contract worth $12 million with the San Diego Chargers. The 49ers didn’t fight real hard to keep him.
Chris Borland is the biggest surprise. Only 24, but now retired. One of the best rookies in the 2014 NFL season, the talented linebacker out of Wisconsin said that the dangerous nature of the sport and the findings of research on brain damage caused by playing football pushed him out of the league and back to school, causing another surprising loss for the 49ers’ personnel-wise.
Perrish Cox had a very good 2014 season with the 49ers that included five interceptions. By far his best in the NFL, although not enough to keep him in San Francisco, instead signing a three-year deal with the Jacksonville Jaguars worth $15 million over three years.
Last but not least is Dan Skuta, another linebacker, starting 10 games last season for the 49ers and getting five sacks. A six-year veteran, Skuta is another 49ers player going to the Jacksonville Jaguars.