The San Francisco 49ers have never been expected to use the franchise tag this offseason, and that’s been reiterated several times throughout the offseason. There simply isn’t anyone worth tagging, and the only player who would even make an ounce of sense being slapped with the franchise tag is star strong safety Donte Whitner, who is an impending free agent coming off of an excellent 2013 season in which he looked much-improved in coverage.
Per a league source close to Pro Football Talk, the 49ers will not tag Whitner today, and 4:00 p.m. ET is the deadline for teams to use their franchise tag this offseason. PFT adds that this news isn’t “a huge surprise”, and it certainly isn’t a surprise at all. Whitner is a very good player who deserves to be re-signed, but he isn’t worth the $8 million tag. While the franchise tag for a safety isn’t sizeable and is certainly smaller than the tags paid out to corners, the tag simply reflects how much top safeties are paid.
The 28-year-old recorded 73 tackles and defended a career-high 12 passes defended, and he and rookie free safety Eric Reid formed arguably the league’s most underrated safety duo. Whitner accrued many fines last season that have led him to be perceived as a dirty player by some fans, but most of those calls have been dreadful calls that simply penalize Whitner for hard-hitting. He displays excellent form and has done a nice job of delivering hard, clean hits (unlike a certain former 49ers safety who now plays for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers).
Whitner is one of the best safeties in the game, so hopefully the 49ers can lock him up before he hits the free agent market if his asking price is reasonable.