Donte Whitner San Francisco 49ers

Somehow the last few days morphed into “Extensions Week” on BASG, which seems to be what happens during the brief window when the local football and baseball teams are in offseason mode at the same time.

Bay Area Duck Guy requested this at the end of yesterday’s BASGcast, so today we’re going to explore the likelihood of Donte Whitner’s return. Whitner signed a three-year, $11,650,000 contract with the 49ers, and he only missed one game over that span. Now he’s an unrestricted free agent, and it’ll probably take at least that much to bring him back.

“I just wanted to see the fans’ input on it. I pretty much knew what they were going to say, but it was good to see that. That’s why I did it,” said Whitner when I asked him why he posed that question. He made his feelings even clearer six days ago with this request/order:

According to this not-so-scientific study, 3,000+ Twitter users want the 49ers to re-sign their strong safety. He was the recipient of the Garry Niver Award for professionalism and cooperation in working with the local media, which means the reporters would also love to see him back. I didn’t get a vote because I’m a lowly blogger and more than once I’ve grabbed the last Diet Pepsi out of the media trailer refrigerator. But Whitner — whose interviews are always candid, interesting and full of references to “the National Football League” and winning “the football game” — really is the best in this regard.

Since the 49ers could very well be without Carlos Rogers and Tarell Brown next season, Whitner leaving would be disastrous for reporters who’ve come to depend on the defensive backs as the best source for quotes of any position group. Eric Reid is pleasant but steers clear of anything remotely controversial, Tramaine Brock doesn’t say much and Chris Culliver, well …

Re-signing Whitner: the Cons

Whitner’s proposed name change to “Hitner” was a great marketing move, but it might not have been all that beneficial on the field.

Whitner was penalized eight times, including a personal foul for a hit on Luke Willson in the NFC Championship Game. He wasn’t fined one time by the NFL, but the league can’t rescind penalties (although Whitner and others think those calls should be subject to review). Whitner’s high-profile stance may have irked certain officials.

Like it or not, the NFL is taking a stance against hits to the head, unless those hits take place in the trenches. The 49ers will have to decide whether they’re willing to accept the 15-yarders every two or three games because the intimidation factor is so high with Whitner patrolling the middle, because Whitner isn’t going to stop using his body as a receiver-smashing missile anytime soon.

The other question is whether the 49ers want to commit big dollars to the safety position. Maybe they’ll look to find the next Whitner in the form of a younger safety who hasn’t had a chance to shine due to getting buried on the depth chart or missing time due to injury.

Re-signing Whitner: the Pros

After receiving heavy criticism during the previous offseason about his performance in coverage during the 2012 season, Whitner had a remarkably strong contract year. In 2012, Pro Football Focus had Whitner as the 67th-rated safety in coverage and 53rd overall. PFF really liked him in 2013, as Whitner jumped to No. 5 in coverage and No. 6 overall.

Whitner lost Dashon Goldson a year ago, a change that created questions as to how the secondary would hold up, especially since Whitner and the other defensive backs repeatedly mention how communication is so vital. However, Whitner mentored Reid and the secondary performed pretty well despite a never-ending rotation at cornerback.

If Whitner signs elsewhere the 49ers would probably have to find another safety in free agency, unless they wanted to spend high draft picks on that position two years in a row. Goldson benefitted last year from a pretty shallow pool of available veteran safeties (and Tampa Bay’s organizational ineptitude), but this year’s crop could feature Jarius Byrd, T.J. Ward and Chris Clemons, so there’s a chance Whitner doesn’t get a huge offer at age 29.

The 49ers could also franchise Whitner, which is how they kept Goldson around in 2012. The price to franchise safeties was just under $6.8 million last season, so this could be an option if the 49ers feel like paying $7 million to keep Whitner around for one more year.

One angle that isn’t often seen with unrestricted free agents is Whitner’s outspoken desire to stay with his team, and this last tweet seems to indicate that he’d be willing to take a discount.

The Amici’s contest question

Hey, you knew it was coming. And if the responses are half as passionate (or angry, in some cases) as what we’ve seen below yesterday’s post about Colin Kaepernick, this should be fun.

Should the 49ers re-sign Donte Whitner? 

Because we’re all going to grit our teeth and watch the “big game” on Sunday, why not let someone else handle the food? Comment on this post and you’ll be entered to have your SB party catered by Amici’s East Coast Pizzeria. You have until tomorrow (Friday) to comment on the Kap post and the two below, as well.

Super Bowl recipes for the vengeful 49ers fan (updated)

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