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49ers start free-agent period by signing linebacker, the ‘heart and soul’ of another team

49ers release LB Reuben Foster following latest arrest for domestic violence

The San Francisco 49ers announced Sunday morning that they released linebacker Reuben Foster following his arrest Saturday night for suspected domestic battery of his on-again, off-again girlfriend, Elissa Ennis.
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The San Francisco 49ers announced Sunday morning that they released linebacker Reuben Foster following his arrest Saturday night for suspected domestic battery of his on-again, off-again girlfriend, Elissa Ennis.

This post will updated throughout Monday.

The 49ers have Reuben Foster’s replacement at inside linebacker.

San Francisco on Monday agreed to a four-year, $54 million contract with Tampa Bay Buccaneers free agent Kwon Alexander, who is coming off a torn ACL suffered in October. Terms of the contract were first reported by NFL Media.

Alexander, 24, has 380 tackles in his 46 games with Tampa Bay (all starts) after being drafted in the fourth round in 2015 out of LSU. He suffered the knee injury Oct. 21 against the Cleveland Browns. His $13.5 million average annual salary would rank first among NFL inside linebackers. The 49ers entered Monday with $66 million in salary-cap space, according to Overthecap.com.

ESPN reported the deal includes $27 million guaranteed, making it likely the guaranteed money will come during the first two years, based on the 49ers’ recent history of structuring contracts. Further details of the contract have not been disclosed.

Alexander is considered a good athlete for the position, which would lend to playing “Will” linebacker next to Fred Warner, who calls defensive plays for the 49ers as the “Mike” linebacker. There are questions about Alexander’s consistency, along with the injury. Alexander has missed 18 games over four seasons, including four to end his rookie campaign when he was suspended for violating the league’s policy on performance-enhancing substances.

However, he was widely considered among the best free-agent linebackers available behind Baltimore’s C.J. Mosley. Alexander (6-foot-1, 227 pounds) led the NFL in 2016 with 108 tackles and was named to his first Pro Bowl the following season.

Alexander is also believed to be a strong locker-room presence, which has been a priority for coach Kyle Shanahan and general manager John Lynch since they took over in 2017.

Said Buccaneers tight end Cameron Brate the day Alexander suffered the injury, according to the Tampa Bay Times: “For us as a team, losing someone like Kwon hurts. He’s kind of the heart and soul of our team. Just the kind of passion he brings every day. You know, we’re going to miss that a lot.”

The 49ers might have felt urgency about finding Foster’s replacement in free agency rather than the draft; they have six picks.

Alexander will join 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo and running back Jerick McKinnon in rehab as they recover from their own ACL tears during the offseason program.

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