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Murph: Why the 49ers are taking their time with Reuben Foster


With each passing day and no news on Reuben Foster’s future with the 49ers, it’s becoming increasingly clear that this one might take a while.

It’s all in the timing.

Because Foster’s arrest for domestic violence occurred in February, the 49ers, it turns out, are really under no pressure to make a decision anytime soon. According to our chats with our ace beat reporters, the 49ers don’t have any contact with players, via the collective bargaining agreement, until early April.

That buys 49ers general manager John Lynch gobs of time.

That might anger some people, who think the latest mistake by a mistake-prone 23-year-old is one too many. And in my opinion, I’d like to see the 49ers at least tell us their predicted timetable on making a decision, letting the league check in, waiting for law enforcement, etc. Their ongoing silence only raises more questions about what’s going on.

But the 49ers, with a talent of this magnitude on their roster, are looking like they’re playing the long game.

The benefits of keeping Foster are obvious. He’s a potential All-Pro talent on a team that finished the season 5-0 and just signed the league’s hottest QB this side of Nick Foles. If law enforcement decides not to press charges, the 49ers can pledge to help Foster improve his life, and happily hand him a helmet and pads come September.

There are benefits to cutting Foster, too. If the team keeps him, they risk living in a week-to-week world where they wake up each day asking: “Did Reuben do anything wrong last night?” Shades of Aldon Smith, right? If the team keeps him, they also will likely deal with an NFL-mandated suspension that could last as long as six games, a damaging amount of time in a 16-game NFL season. Moreover, if the team cuts him, there is a football answer: injured linebacker Malcolm Smith returns in the summer from a torn pectoral muscle, and the top-10 draft pick means the team can pluck the next Reuben Foster from the likes of Georgia’s Roquan Smith or Virginia Tech’s Tremaine Edmunds.

It’s a rough way to end the Jimmy G honeymoon, which peaked over the weekend when the team released slow-motion videos of the new QB doing such dramatic things as exiting a car, entering a building, and smiling. They were marketing the bejesus out of the guy.

Then came the Foster arrest. Real life landed back on John Lynch’s desk. It’s a good thing he has a lot of time, by the stroke of luck and calendar, to mull this one over.