Donte Whitner questioning future in San Francisco

Chris Graythen

Donte Whitner was an unsigned Bengals safety for a couple of hours before changing his mind.


Donte Whitner unsure about his future

Remember two years ago when safety Donte Whitner had tweeted that he was signing with the Bengals? He didn't actually say it with so many words, tweeting "Who Dey". But that phrase being written, spoken, and tweeted, for an unrestricted free agent is definitive confirmation of a choice being made. Something that Whitner, an Ohio native that played college ball at The Ohio State University, should fully understand. The agreement was even confirmed by Joe Reedy with the Cincinnati Enquirer as a two-year deal. The tense resolution finally unwound as Cincinnati celebrated with party poppers, those whistler things, and an endless supply of twizzlers.

Several hours later, ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter broke the story with one slight change. Instead of a two-year deal with the Cincinnati Bengals, the agreement was actually a three-year deal worth $11.75 million... with the San Francisco 49ers. Soon after Schefter's report, Whitner confirmed his decision with San Francisco through twitter.

"It was a little miscommunication and me changing my mind," Whitner explained to the Cincinnati Enquirer earlier this year. "I knew that I had both teams, the Bengals and 49ers, and it was kind of a money issue for a minute and then I talked to Coach (Jim) Harbaugh and he wanted me to come there and help lead this team. My agent actually represents a lot of players on this defense from Aldon (Smith), Jason (Smith) and Patrick (Willis). He felt it would be a good fit and we had the chance to do some special things. I had to make the call and I made it to San Francisco. It was more of a fit of scheme and the guys that I really wanted to play with and the guys who would be a good, solid defense."

"It was a little miscommunication and me changing my mind. -Donte Whitner deciding 49ers after choosing the Bengals.

In the end, it worked out for Whitner. Along with being named to the 2012 Pro Bowl, Whitner played in Super Bowl XLVII against the Baltimore Ravens; two easily identifiable benchmarks to label "a good season".

Yet, as it happens in the NFL, things tend to suddenly evolve.

After the San Francisco 49ers sent a conditional late-round pick to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for cornerback Eric Wright, Whitner began questioning his future. Now, it's not believed that those two stories are related. First of all, they play separate positions and the more accurate conjecture is that Whitner is concerned about San Francisco's wait-and-see approach regarding his future. And according to several Niners Nation postings, the criticisms against Whitner have their own merits, even identifying Whitner as one of the biggest concerns for the 49ers this season.


Whitner also carries a salary that could be perceived as a possible casualty, per Niners Nation.

Whitner recently earned a $100,000 bonus thanks to his selection to the Pro Bowl this year. Whitner is scheduled for a $4,933,333 cap figure in 2013. That number includes a $3.85 million base salary, a $250,000 workout bonus, and $833,333 in prorated signing bonus money. If the 49ers elected to cut Whitner, they would save $4.1 million. Only the $833,333 would hit the 2013 salary cap.

As for a possible marriage between the Bengals and Whitner, either this year (if he's released, which is probably unlikely) or next year as a free agent, don't expect it. Aside for the fact that Whitner carries the same descriptions that several safeties have already on this roster -- strong run support, big hitter, weak in coverage -- we doubt that the Bengals would easily forget being spurred by Whitner so publicly.

But then who knows. This is the NFL. Things tend to suddenly evolve.

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