49ers free agency: Ahkello Witherspoon joins D.J. Reed with Seahawks

San Francisco 49ers cornerback Ahkello Witherspoon (23) Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports
San Francisco 49ers cornerback Ahkello Witherspoon (23) Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports /

Ahkello Witherspoon is leaving the 49ers and heading for the Seahawks in NFL free agency, per reports, joining another former Niners cornerback, D.J. Reed.

There’s been a long line of players switching back and forth between the San Francisco 49ers and their archrivals within the NFC West, the Seattle Seahawks.

Most notably, of course, was the 2018 Niners acquisition of Seahawks perennial Pro Bowl cornerback, Richard Sherman, who was San Francisco’s nemesis for many years before ultimately making his impact in the red and gold.

One of Sherman’s primary legacies was to help many of the younger defensive backs on the 49ers’ growing roster that first season, which included cornerbacks Ahkello Witherspoon and D.J. Reed.

Reed already left for Seattle, first being waived with an injury designation in 2020. And now it looks like Witherspoon will be the next player to make the NFC West switch.

A day after the NFL free agency window to negotiate with other teams’ players opened, NFL insider Josina Anderson and NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport both reported Witherspoon was signing with the Seahawks:

It was going to be questionable for the Niners to re-sign Witherspoon, particularly after re-signing cornerbacks Jason Verrett and Emmanuel Moseley, who’d likely be pegged as starters.

If anything, Witherspoon would have been little more than a starting-caliber reserve for San Francisco in 2021 if he was retained.

Ahkello Witherspoon had up-and-down legacy with 49ers

The 49ers’ third-round pick from the 2017 NFL Draft out of Colorado had a strong start to his NFL career.

After being inactive for the first four games following the draft, Witherspoon assumed a starting job and was good enough to convince the Niners to move their former starting corner, Rashard Robinson, to the New York Jets.

Yet Witherspoon went through a regression his sophomore year despite Sherman’s presence in the defensive lineup, although it appeared as if the former would bounce back strong again in 2019.

Unfortunately, an injury sidelined Witherspoon early that season, opening up the door for Moseley to get extra chances. When Witherspoon finally returned later that year, he found himself subsequently benched twice, the first time late in the year against the Seahawks in Week 17 and then again in the divisional round of the playoffs against the Minnesota Vikings after giving up a long touchdown to wide receiver Stefon Diggs.

Witherspoon was also up and down in 2020, too, although a strong finish to his fourth year suggested he had put those proverbial pieces together at the right time before hitting NFL free agency.

At least now, he’ll be entering a scheme in Seattle not unlike the one he knew in San Francisco.

Witherspoon leaves the 49ers with 117 combined tackles, 24 passes defended, four interceptions and a touchdown over 47 regular-season games played.

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