San Francisco 49ers general manager Trent Baalke is surveying all available options at inside linebacker after the recent retirements of Patrick Willis and Chris Borland, but that doesn't necessarily mean that potential candidates from out-of-house will have an inside track at beating out Michael Wilhoite for the starting job.
“I think that’s a fair assumption,” Baalke said on Tuesday at the NFL owners meetings, via Matt Maiocco of CSN Bay Area. “Michael did an outstanding job for us a year ago. We were a top-five defense with Michael starting 16 games and a rookie (Borland) stepping and starting eight games.”
Wilhoite is currently an exclusive-rights free agent, which means he has no outside negotiating stroke. If the 49ers decide not to sign him to a contract extension, he will be come a restricted free agent next offseason.
However, even though Wilhoite impressed in a full campaign in 2014, Baalke is still casting a wide net to look for competition and/or complementary pieces at the position.
“You look at guys who are currently on the street, UFAs (unrestricted free agents),” Baalke said. “You look at the draft, where you think you can address within the draft and you look at potential trade options. Everything’s in play.”
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