49ers Expecting Patrick Willis to Retire
The San Francisco 49ers may be saying goodbye to an all-time great before the 2015 NFL season ever arrives. Per reports, stud inside linebacker Patrick Willis is seriously contemplating ending his playing career and the team is “expecting” him to retire.
This is huge news, both because Willis is still a great player in his prime and because it’d be a massive blow to the 49ers’ defense. Willis has reportedly had a “religious awakening” and is clearly rethinking his main priorities in life. At just 30 years old, it looks like he may suddenly not be putting professional football at the top of the list.
While Willis may be hanging’em up due to off field desires or a new agenda, it’s worth noting he’s also struggled to stay healthy over the past two years. He’s dealth with toe issues that robbed him of 10 games in 2014 and overall he’s been less durable than in the beginning of his career, missing 16 total games overt the last five seasons.
It sounds like Willis wants to leave the game at his best, although it’s worth noting he didn’t finish last season healthy and wouldn’t exactly be ending his career on a high note. He’s still apparently ending it, though, and that figures to put Chris Borland or Navarro Bowman in his place. Borland was a bit of a revelation as a rookie out of Wisconsin last year, while Bowman hasn’t played in over a year (he tore his ACL in 2013’s NFC title game). That could end up putting Borland as the front-runner to take Willis’ old job, but the two will share the inside of San Francisco’s base defense, regardless.
Feeling the Hit
As bad as this sounds, the 49ers are in a good enough spot that they can absorb this hit and still be as good as ever. Willis is still an elite linebacker, but he hasn’t been able to stay healthy lately and both Borland and Bowman are top notch defenders with fairly high ceilings. Bowman was already approaching Willis’ level before going down last year and Borland showed more than enough as a rookie to think he can help alleviate the pain of losing Willis.
San Francisco was already a regressing team from top to bottom and the loss of Patrick Willis certainly doesn’t help. That being said, despite Willis being an elite player, he’ll be vacating a position where the Niners have great depth. If San Francisco can make the right moves on offense and improve their efficiency, they can easily get past losing Willis and get back into the playoff conversation.
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