With 10 unrestricted free agents currently on the roster, the San Francisco 49ers have some tough decisions to make this offseason. While wide receiver Anquan Boldin is the most notable of the bunch, safety Donte Whitner has been an important piece of the Niners’ hard-hitting defense. Since arriving in San Francisco in 2011, Whitner has packed stat sheets while assuming the role of the team’s primary enforcer.
But with the 49ers projected to have just over $5 million in cap space, is he worth re-signing?
That all depends on Whitner’s salary demands. He’s coming off a three-year contract in which his salary was $3,883,333 annually, which turned out to be a bargain for the 49ers. Whitner, who made the Pro Bowl as an alternate this past season, recorded 73 tackles, 12 pass breakups, two interceptions and two forced fumbles in 2013. He’s a valuable commodity in the NFL.
To give you some perspective, the top 10 safeties (from a salary standpoint) earned an average of $6,321,700 in 2013. The majority of media outlets consider him a top-10 player at his position, which means that Whitner is certainly in a position to ask for a raise. In all likelihood, it’ll all come down to his willingness to agree to a salary that’s below his market value. He has said that he wants to re-sign with the team, but that desire will be tested in the coming months.
Because they’re both safeties, fans and analysts alike have likened Whitner’s situation with Dashon Goldson‘s following the 2012 season. Rather than trying to match the Tampa Bay Buccaneers‘ five-year, $41 million contract, they opted to move up in the first round of the 2013 NFL Draft and selected safety Eric Reid to fill the void.
Reid, who’s now one year into his four-year, $8,480,736 contract, played great in his rookie season and has more than justified the 49ers’ decision to let go of Goldson.
So faced with a similar decision in 2014, how will Whitner’s future with the 49ers play out? Boldin will be priority no. 1, and the 49ers will likely look to re-sign kicker Phil Dawson. I’ll keep you posted on the status of the 49ers’ cap room as GM Trent Baalke will likely look to reduce the contracts of players like Carlos Rogers and Frank Gore. As it stands now, however, the Niners would be in need of some charity from Whitner in the contract department.