Michael Cohen and Aaron Nagler discuss the Packers bringing in former 49ers linebacker Ahmad Brooks for a visit and what it says about the state of their outside linebacker group. Aaron Nagler/USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin
GREEN BAY - With legitimate questions surrounding their depth at outside linebacker, the Green Bay Packers are bringing in former San Francisco 49ers outside linebacker Ahmad Brooks for a visit, according to multiple sources.
Brooks, 33, spent the last nine seasons with the 49ers but was released Friday to shed his $6.1 million cap figure for the 2017 season. He spent the first month of training camp in a tight battle with former third-round pick Eli Harold for the starting strong-side linebacker job.
NFL Network first reported the news.
"Ahmad can still do things," 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan told reporters. "I think everyone knows that and he's going to help somebody this year. But it really comes down to the final 53. And I'm starting to get a better feel for what that is now. And it's taken me some time, it's taken (general manager) John (Lynch) and me some time, because we got to know what our group was like, and it's really been nothing against Ahmad.”
Brooks had been a defensive mainstay for the 49ers since the team claimed him on waivers in 2008. He tallied at least 5 sacks in each of the last eight seasons and peaked with a career-high 8 ½ sacks in 2013, a year in which he made the Pro Bowl and was voted AP Second-Team All-Pro for the second time in as many seasons.
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He finished third in franchise history with 51 ½ career sacks.
“To tell you the truth it was something that was real hard for me to do,” Shanahan said. “You know, I never knew Ahmad until I got here. I’ve had a lot of respect for him over his career. He’s been great for me since I’ve gotten here. I’ve really enjoyed him as a person. When you have a guy who has meant to this organization, just looking it up, to be third in sacks all-time for the San Francisco 49ers is a pretty big deal. I think there’s a pretty good history here and to be third all-time, it shows what type of career Ahmad has had here.”
By hosting Brooks, who reportedly is receiving additional interest from the Denver Broncos, the Packers are — at the very least — demonstrating mild trepidation about their depth at outside linebacker, which is highly questionable behind starters Clay Matthews and Nick Perry. At most, this is a tacit acknowledgement of the subpar performances from backups Kyler Fackrell and Jayrone Elliott through the first month of camp.
Another contributing factor is health. Rookie fourth-round pick Vince Biegel remains on the Physically Unable to Perform list dating to foot surgery in May. Biegel has been on the field with the rehab group but, as of Saturday night, had yet to pass his physical to return to practice.
The injury woes carried into Saturday’s game against the Broncos. Perry, whose career has been marred by health problems, dropped out with an ankle injury in the first quarter. And Elliott, who had been working as the No. 3 edge rusher, exited with tightness in his back after dropping out of both public practices with back spasms earlier in the week.
At 6-3 and 259 pounds, Brooks compares favorably with the outside linebackers in Green Bay, though he would need to learn a new system. Defensive coordinator Robert Saleh had spent the offseason implementing a 4-3 scheme in San Francisco, and Brooks was competing for a job as a strong-side linebacker.
“Doing it right now was just what the best thing was for Ahmad,” Shanahan said of releasing Brooks. “It was a real tough decision. (General manager) John (Lynch) and I had gone back and forth with it the last few days. Once we really came to the conclusion he wasn't going to be a part of our final 53, we weren't going to keep him around just to let him know nine days from now. We know there's a lot of teams that will be interested in him so we gave him that opportunity to go out and find one.