From his on-field swagger, to his punishing hits that inspired a change to his last name, 49ers safety Donte Whitner became a fan favorite in 2013 as an integral part of the seventh-ranked pass defense in the league.
Whether or not the Niners Faithful will be cheering him on next year at Levi’s Stadium remains uncertain.
Whitner, or “Hitner,” is still a free agent. Little news has come out regarding contract talks between him and San Francisco. While the 49ers are optimistic about retaining Whitner, per Matt Barrows of The Sacramento Bee, they are reportedly not going to apply their franchise tag to him, according to Pro Football Talk’s Mike Florio.
That means, barring a new deal, the 49ers will part ways with Whitner like they did with safety Dashon Goldson a year ago.
Whitner’s market value is hazy. The consensus is he’s not good enough to command as big of a contract as some of his free agent peers (i.e. Jairus Byrd, Vontae Davis, T.J. Ward). Age, however, is on his side. Whitner will turn 29 in July.
Click here to see where Whitner ranks in cover32’s list of the top 10 free agent safeties.
The 5-foot-10, 208-pound Whitner was the 49ers’ fourth-leading tackler (73) in 2013 and was second in passes defended (12) with two interceptions. His aggressive play did hurt the 49ers at times — Whitner was flagged three times for clocking defenseless receivers — though he told reporters he was never fined by the league.
The 49ers have until March 11 to re-sign Whitner.
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