San Francisco 49ers

49ers notes: Ray McDonald to join former coordinator in Chicago

Ray McDonald has found a new home in Chicago where he will help former 49ers coordinator transition to a 3-4 defense.
Ray McDonald has found a new home in Chicago where he will help former 49ers coordinator transition to a 3-4 defense. The Bee

Ray McDonald, cut by the 49ers after a police-blotter incident in December, is joining his former defensive coordinator, Vic Fangio, in Chicago on a one-year deal.

McDonald, 30, was a starter at defensive end for the 49ers from 2011-14. But he was the subject of a domestic violence case in August and was accused of possible sexual assault in December. No charges were filed in the first case. The second also appears to be nearing its end, and McDonald’s representatives are certain he will be cleared. McDonald was not arrested in the second case.

“I would anticipate that they don’t find anything,” agent Tom Condon said last week at Stanford’s pro day. “And, of course, as Ray has said publicly, he’s got video evidence of consensual sex over a two-day period of time.”

The 49ers dismissed McDonald because they said he showed a pattern of poor choices. The investigation that began in December is ongoing, the Santa Clara County District Attorney’s office said Tuesday, and is one of three cases that office is handling that involve current or former 49ers. The others involve a spousal battery arrest of fullback Bruce Miller and a hit-and-run case involving cornerback Chris Culliver, now with Washington.

Bears general manager Ryan Pace said he consulted with Fangio and secondary coach Ed Donatell, who also spent the last four years with the 49ers, and that Bears chairman George McCaskey also signed off on the deal.

McDonald has joined a group of 49ers working out at San Jose State this offseason. He presumably will help Fangio as the Bears transition to a 3-4 defense.

Crab’s return? – Michael Crabtree continues to be the most prominent 49ers free agent without a team. General manager Trent Baalke said it’s still possible the former first-round pick could return to the team that drafted him.

“As long as Michael’s out there, he’s just like any other (unrestricted free agent),” Baalke said. “You never say never. Michael did a heck of a job with us for six years.”

Crabtree has had just one known visit during free agency, last week to the Miami Dolphins. Dolphins head coach Joe Philbin declined to comment on the team’s interest.

The 49ers appear to be a long shot to Crabtree, who complained last year about being used as a third option in the passing game. If he returned, he likely would be behind Anquan Boldin and Torrey Smith, who signed a five-year, $40 million contract this month.

Wilhoite not for sale – Baalke said several teams contacted the 49ers about acquiring linebacker Michael Wilhoite when the offseason began, but he said it never reached the point at which compensation was discussed.

“Certainly there was an interest, and there should have been,” Baalke said, citing the 49ers’ once impressive depth at inside linebacker. “People are going to look at that depth and say, ‘Look, maybe there’s a chance that we can step in and get one of those guys, and who’s the most likely to be expendable?’”

Trading Wilhoite is no longer an option after Patrick Willis’ and Chris Borland’s retirements, and the 49ers are weighing whether to add to the position. Baalke said he is doing his “due diligence” on several free-agent linebackers, including Lance Briggs, Brandon Spikes and Erin Henderson. He said a visit with Henderson hasn’t been set up yet.

“I think the plan is you look at all options available,” Baalke said. “You look at the guys that are currently on the street – UFAs – you look at the draft ... and you look at potential trade options. Everything’s in play.”

Et cetera – Baalke said free-agent acquisition Erik Pears will be one of several players competing at left guard, a spot that opened up when Mike Iupati signed with the Arizona Cardinals. Brandon Thomas likely will be Pears’ top competition, but Baalke also mentioned Daniel Kilgore, Marcus Martin and Joe Looney as possibilities.

▪ Baalke said new cornerback Shareece Wright would compete for one of the starting spots and also is in the mix at nickel cornerback. Jimmie Ward and Dontae Johnson also have experience at the nickel spot, and Baalke suggested that who plays nickel could be based on matchups.

▪ The 49ers have requested that at least two of their games in the Eastern time zone be played in consecutive weeks so they can stay in Youngstown, Ohio, between games. The schedule will be announced next month.

Read Matt Barrows’ blogs and archives at

Editor’s note: This story was changed March 25 to correct Mike Iupati’s new team.