Until now, the 49ers’ young offseason has been all positive. Signing quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo and a five-game winning streak to end 2017 has given the franchise big expectations for 2018.
But now, the arrest of young linebacker Reuben Foster has cast a shadow on the franchise.
The question is, what will the 49ers’ braintrust do next?
Foster, according to multiple reports, was arrested Sunday in Los Gatos on charges of domestic violence, possession of an assault weapon and making threats. This comes about a month after Foster was arrested back home in Alabama and charged with second-degree marijuana possession.
The 49ers released a statement Sunday saying the “organization is aware of the report regarding Reuben Foster. We take matters of this nature seriously and are gathering all the pertinent information.”
Despite missing several early games because of an injury in 2017, Foster proved to be one of the NFL’s top defensive rookies. Taken with the 31st overall pick in the draft out of Alabama, Foster showed great range, instincts and a nose for the football. As the 49ers looked toward 2018, Foster appeared to be the future foundation piece on defense with Garoppolo the centerpiece on offense.
Now, general manager John Lynch, head coach Kyle Shanahan and owner Jed York will have to decide what course of action to take with Foster. As Cam Inman of the Bay Area News Group noted, over the past two years, the 49ers have cut ties to a pair of players, fullback Bruce Miller and cornerback Tramaine Brock, when they were arrested on assault charges.
The Niners as an organization have taken a hard line recently against players involved in allegations of domestic abuse. But Foster is a player with the talent to be a Pro Bowl-caliber player for many seasons. Many sports organizations have long made exceptions for elite players. Will the 49ers release him? Certainly, that would be a bold move that backs up the organization’s mantra that it wants to win “the right way.” Whatever the 49ers do, they'll probably allow the investigation to take its course so they have all the information available to make the right call.
Bay Area News Group columnist Dieter Kurtenbach says the 49ers face a difficult choice.
“How Shanahan and Lynch handle Foster after Sunday will tell us a lot about these men and how they want to run their organization,” he wrote. “It could go a long way to setting the culture of the team. Great play or strong character – the 49ers’ brass says it wants all of its players to bring both to the table, but when it comes to Foster, it seems as if the 49ers are going to have to decide which of those two things matters more.”