Defensive lineman Tony Jerod-Eddie signed his exclusive-rights free-agent tender Tuesday, the first day of the 49ers’ offseason program, but another defensive player, linebacker Michael Wilhoite, did not.
Wilhoite, however, is participating in the team’s offseason program, and he and Jerod-Eddie participated Tuesday.
The tender will pay Jerod-Eddie $585,000 this season. He started two games for the 49ers last season after Ray McDonald was dismissed from the team, and he is one of several candidates to take over McDonald’s starting left defensive end spot. Tank Carradine, Quinton Dial and Glenn Dorsey also are in the mix.
Wilhoite started all 16 games last season at inside linebacker and has a good chance to start this season, too.
“Michael did an outstanding job for us a year ago,” general manager Trent Baalke said. “We were a top-five defense with Michael starting 16 games and a rookie (Chris Borland) stepping in and starting eight games.”
The 49ers finished the season seventh in rushing defense and led the league with 23 interceptions, two by Wilhoite.
The team has several inside linebackers, including Nick Moody, Nick Bellore, Desmond Bishop and Shayne Skov. But their careers mostly have been as coverage specialists on special teams, and the 49ers still are looking to bolster the position.
They could draft an inside linebacker and could sign a veteran free agent such as Lance Briggs, who visited the 49ers last month. If they wait until May 12 to sign him, however, he will not count against the team in the formula for 2016 compensatory draft picks.
Wilhoite entered the league in 2011 as an undrafted rookie from Washburn. Unless he signs his exclusive-rights tender – or is signed to a long-term deal – he is not under contract with the 49ers for 2015 but cannot negotiate with other teams.
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