The San Francisco 49ers have had a wild 24 hours, dominating the headlines in the NFL. Last night and early this morning it was due to a report by Jayson Braddock that the front office put Colin Kaepernick on the trading block and two teams were interested. Those teams being the Bears and Eagles, per his sources.
This morning, the news has nothing to do with the quarterback. Patrick Willis and Justin Smith are said to retire according to several reports, just recently confirmed by Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network. The official announcements may come as early as this week.
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) March 9, 2015
Willis was San Francisco’s first round pick in the 2008 draft, he’s been known as one of the best if not the best middle linebacker in the league throughout his career. His loss will be felt both on the field and in the locker room, he’s fought through a myriad of injures though the years. Only missing six games in seven seasons prior to last year’s season ending injury, playing through multiple broken hands, hamstring, and groin injuries. In his career, Willis tallied 732 tackles, 20.5 sacks, 16 forced fumbles, 8 interceptions and 2 touchdowns. He was one of the first of the new breed of middle linebackers that could do it all. Drop in coverage, play man-to-man, rush the passer and tackle at a very high rate. Definitely a generational talent.
Justin Smith didn’t start his career for the 49ers, rather he was acquired as a free agent in 2008. He made all five of his career pro bowls as a member of the 49ers. He was a huge piece on the defensive line and one of the unquestioned leaders on the team. Every year he was expected to fall off or regress due to his age, but he never did. The “Cowboy” will surely be missed, the person who might miss him most is Aldon Smith. Justin routinely would take up two blocks so that Aldon could get a better angle to rush the passer.