The San Francisco 49ers are looking at an important upcoming free-agency period if they want to keep together the team that advanced to the NFC Championship Game last season.
One of the key defensive players that will be a free agent on March 13 is linebacker Ahmad Brooks, but the 49ers have locked him up with a long-term deal, per several reports.
According to Jason La Canfora of NFL Network, the 49ers were nearing a deal with Brooks in the range five-years, $35 million. ESPN's Josina Anderson reported later that the deal could have a maximum worth of almost $44 million.
At roughly 2:00 p.m CST, the 49ers official website confirmed the final extension details: six-years, $44 million.
That's big money for a player that had an increasingly important role on the 49ers' top-five defense.
In 2011, Brooks had 49 tackles, seven sacks and a forced fumble in 16 games. Since the 49ers signed him away from the Cincinnati Bengals in 2008, Brooks has 18 sacks and six forced fumbles.
Last season turned out to be a breakout year for both Brooks and the 49ers defense.
According to Pro Football Focus, Brooks played on almost 1,200 snaps–a career high—and finished with 10 quarterback hits and 40 pressures. The 27-year-old was among 14 49ers who compiled a positive grade on the defensive side of the ball.
With Brooks nearing a new deal, the 49ers can turn their attention to other free agents on defense. That long list includes Tremaine Brock, Dashon Goldson, Carlos Rogers, Larry Grant and Reggie Smith.
Also, it should be interesting to see how Brooks' new deal effects the market for Dallas Cowboys free-agent linebacker Anthony Spencer, who provided similar production and will be free to sign with whatever team he pleases on March 13th. He could be in line for a bigger payday.