It looks like the 49ers are expecting some changes on their defensive line, which was composed of Justin Smith, Aubrayo Franklin and Isaac Sopoaga in 2010. Ray McDonald is a free agent this year (thanks to the new rules that make four-year players as such) and was looking for an increased role in 2011, while Franklin is also a free agent and looking for an increased paycheck in 2011. We previously wrote that their destinies were intertwined in this piece, and that might just be the case, as Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee tweets that McDonald has agreed to a five-year contract:
According to a league source, the 49ers have agreed to terms on a five-year deal with defensive end Ray McDonald.
Adam Schefter would go on to add that it's worth $20 million with $7 million of that in guaranteed money. That's a decent bit of change for McDonald, who might get his chance at an increased role in San Francisco if his destiny is indeed intertwined with that of Aubrayo Franklin. That is to say, depending on what happened with one likely determined the fate of the other, and Franklin might be on his way out.
This likely means that the 49ers have plans for McDonald in regards to the starting left defensive end position, occupied by Sopoaga in 2010. There's been talk that Sopoaga would move over to nose tackle in the event of Franklin departing, and that's looking a little more likely at this point. The starting line would then be Smith-Sopoaga-McDonald, which doesn't look like a bad shakeup.
It's not a certainty that Franklin is gone at this point, however. He was very good at what he did, we just have no idea how many teams are pursuing his services at this time.