Over the past three seasons, outside linebacker Ahmad Brooks has been a big part of the 49ers’ defensive success.
He had 22 sacks from 2011-2013, 16 passes defensed, two interceptions, a touchdown, four forced fumbles and was in on 156 tackles.
The 6-foot-3, 259-pounder is a wide-ranging linebacker with terrific pass rushing skills who often made impact plays, while being overshadowed by linebacking mates Patrick Willis, NaVorro Bowman and Aldon Smith.
The 49ers even signed him to a six-year deal after the 2011 season, making him a part of the team’s long-term plans.
But long-term plans in the NFL often aren’t that long. And it seems more and more likely that Brooks could be on his way out of San Francisco after this season.
This season Brooks has lost playing time to rookie Aaron Lynch and veteran Dan Skuta, and his snap count plummeted when Smith returned from suspension.
In the 49ers’ loss to Oakland on Sunday, Brooks didn’t play at all after missing a team meeting on Tuesday. He told the media he disagreed with the coaching staff’s decision not to play him.
“But I’m just a player,” he said. “I’m just a number. You know what I mean?”
When he was asked by reporters if this season might be the end of the line for him in San Francisco, he said: “You never know. My destiny is in God’s hands. So whatever happens, whatever He decides for me to do, that’s what I’ll be doing.”
According to Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee, Brooks has had several incidents this season of conflict with the coaching staff. He reportedly showed up to training camp overweight, and also got into a sideline disagreement with defensive line coach Jim Tomsula during the victory over the Giants. There also were reports that the 49ers tried to trade him in October, Barrows notes.
When Brooks has played, he’s continued to be productive. In 12 games he has 27 tackles, five sacks and a forced fumble.
But the presence of Lynch, the play of Skuta and also the emergence of Michael Wilhoite and rookie Chris Borland on the inside will give the Niners further options next season.
The 49ers still have three games remaining this season, including Sunday's matchup with the Seahawks in Seattle. But those might be Brooks' final three in a 49ers uniform.