The San Francisco 49ers featured one of the best defensive units in football last season and they did so while sustaining multiple injuries to various players. While DT Will Tukuafu will not be an impact player on the defensive line, he is capable of seeing some playing time and contributing for Jim Harbaugh. The 49ers signed him to a two-year deal on Thursday.
"Will is a fine example of how hard work and perseverance can pay off," said 49ers General Manager Trent Baalke. "His strong work ethic has allowed him to make significant strides since signing as an undrafted rookie. We look forward to Will's future development."
Tukuafu (6-4, 293) originally joined the 49ers as a free agent on 8/12/10. He spent the majority of his rookie season on the team's practice squad before being added to the active roster for the final two games of the year. Tukuafu made his NFL debut against Seattle (9/11/11) and recorded a fumble recovery on his very first career play from scrimmage. He went on to appear in five games before suffering an injury against the Philadelphia Eagles (10/2/11) that placed him on the Injured Reserve List two days later.
A 27-year old native of Salt Lake City, UT, Tukuafu totaled 131 tackles, 14.5 sacks, five fumble recoveries and four forced fumbles over the final three years of his collegiate career at the University of Oregon. He earned the team's Gonyea Award, given to the team's most inspirational player, as well as the Schaffeld Award given to the team's most outstanding defensive lineman, as a senior.
Tukuafu was an exclusive free agent, meaning he could not negotiate with other teams. San Francisco could have given him a one-year deal and called it a day, so the team apparently must value him enough to hand him an extra year on the deal.
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