You can cross outside linebacker from the 49ers' list of pressing draft needs. The team today announced it had signed Ahmad Brooks, who started 18 games this past season at left outside linebacker, to a six-year deal that lasts through the 2017 season. The deal is for $44.5 million overall with $17.5 million guaranteed, according to Brooks' agent.
Meanwhile last week, general manager Trent Baalke said that it's safe to assume that 2011 rookie Aldon Smith, who was used primarily as a third-down specialist, will move into a starting position presumably at right outside linebacker. The team also has veteran Parys Haralson under contract through 2013.
While other positions, such as receiver, safety and cornerback, promise to have a lot of names when free agency begins in two weeks, outside linebacker was relatively bare, which worked in Brooks' favor. The team carried only three outside linebackers last season and has three under contract now. They could add more players at the position for depth, but with Brooks and Smith locked in as starters, it no longer is a primary need.
Brooks, 27, entered the league in 2006 through the supplemental draft where he was claimed by the Bengals, who used the 6-3, 259 pounder as an inside linebacker. The 49ers claimed him off of waivers in 2008 and eventually switched him to outside linebacker where he came in as a situational pass rusher in 2009 and 2010.
This past season, incoming defensive coordinator Vic Fangio gave Brooks a starting assignment, and Brooks came through with the best year of his career. He started all 16 games and both postseason contests, setting career-highs in both tackles (59) and sacks (7.0).
Brooks, who ran into trouble at the University of Virginia and while with the Bengals, said he began to change his life around in 2010 after the passing of his father, Perry Brooks, who played defensive tackle in the NFL. Like most of the team's free agents, Brooks has said he felt at home with the 49ers and wanted to return.
-- Matt Barrows