NFL free agency: 5 former 49ers who are still unemployed in 2021

Richard Sherman #25 of the San Francisco 49ers (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
Richard Sherman #25 of the San Francisco 49ers (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images) /
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Kwon Alexander, New Orleans Saints
New Orleans Saints outside linebacker Kwon Alexander (58) Mandatory Credit: Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports /

No. 3: Linebacker Kwon Alexander

2020 proved just how cruel an NFL career can be to a player who appeared to be hitting his prime.

In 2019, the Niners inked linebacker Kwon Alexander to a massive four-year, $54 million contract with the hopes of providing some playmaking abilities for what turned into a Super Bowl-caliber defense.

Alexander’s torn pectoral in the middle of that season, combined with the ascent of fellow linebackers Fred Warner and Dre Greenlaw, helped make the former expendable, though. And by 2020, it was pretty clear keeping all three of those starting-caliber linebackers was going to be a luxury San Francisco couldn’t afford for too long.

Hence why the 49ers traded Alexander to a Super Bowl contender, the New Orleans Saints, in the middle of the season.

But Alexander then suffered a torn Achilles after appearing in seven games for the Saints. And after taking on the bulk of the veteran’s non-dead money after the trade, New Orleans elected to make him a cap casualty this offseason.

It would have been one thing if Alexander avoided that late-2020 injury. While he probably wouldn’t have received anywhere close to the kind of money he initially got from the 49ers, he certainly would have been at least on some teams’ radars this offseason.

Yet the injury hindered his NFL free agency stock, essentially relegating him to what’ll likely be little more than a bargain add for a team needing some linebacker depth if it’s willing to take a risk on his Achilles recovery this year.