In the second installment of our “debate” series we take a look at the San Francisco 49ers‘ decision on safety Donte Whitner. A later article will argue that the 49ers should let him walk away. See here for the debate on Anquan Boldin.
The San Francisco 49ers need to re-sign Donte Whitner. Just ask Pro-Bowl Rookie Eric Reid, who claims he could not have been nearly as good if it were not for the mentorship given by Whitner. Furthermore, how many more safeties are out there that can terrorize an offense like Whitner can? Not many.
“Hitner” as he wishes to change his last name to, can lay hits on receivers with the best of them. The best part is, these hits are almost always legal and rarely with or to the head or neck area–though the ref’s whistle still sometimes blows. If the officials can get better at calling this, those “penalties” should go away.
Whitner also played fairly well in coverage. He is a reliable defender who wraps up the ball carrier well–if he doesn’t knock him over with his initial contact. The 49ers would be hard-pressed to find a replacement good enough to fill his shoes from day 1. There are not many players out there who can step in the way Reid did, and without Whitner, Reid likely would not have done that.
Whitner has also demonstrated a strong leadership ability. He is greatly respected in the locker room and does a lot for the team culture and dynamic. He also will only turn 29 in July, which, though not by any means young, is not that old for a safety. He should have a good three years left in him, and with the 49ers’ championship window about as wide open as it can get for the next couple of years, they would be wise not to mess with a good thing.
Yes, Whitner may be pricey, but he is worth it. He also has expressed a desire to return and may, along with, say, Colin Kaepernick, take slightly less than he could get elsewhere. Now, this could be wishful thinking, but if Whitner does agree to a “hometown discount” then the 49ers must keep him. Even if he does not, the 49ers should keep him on the squad, as he has proven his worth in (Crimson and) Gold.