Star 49ers linebacker Willis reportedly to retire 

click to enlarge 49ers linebacker Patrick Willis is expected to announce his retirement as soon as Tuesday. - MARCIO JOSE SANCHEZ/AP PHOTO
  • Marcio Jose Sanchez/AP Photo
  • 49ers linebacker Patrick Willis is expected to announce his retirement as soon as Tuesday.
Star 49ers middle linebacker Patrick Willis is shockingly expected to announce his retirement as soon as Tuesday, according to reports Monday.

Willis would mark the second veteran leader to leave the Niners in recent days as reports Sunday said 49ers all-time leading rusher Frank Gore is set to join the Philadelphia Eagles on a three-year contract.

These moves come after the 49ers and coach Jim Harbaugh parted ways immediately after a disappointing 8-8 season that came after three straight NFC Championship Game appearances. Defensive line coach Jim Tomsula replaced Harbaugh.

Willis, a seven-time Pro Bowl selection, has been the anchor of one of the NFL’s best defenses in recent years. It had already been expected that defensive lineman Justin Smith could retire and Smith told the Sacramento Bee on Monday that “I’m going to decide by next week probably. “So you’ll know by then. It’s not 100 percent.”

While Smith is 35 and on the downside of his career, Willis just turned 30 in January was still in the midst of a possible Hall of Fame career. Willis’ 2014 season was cut short by toe injury that had bothered him for quite some time. He had surgery during the season and had recently been working out at team headquarters, according to reports.

Willis has been an impact player for the Niners since he was a first-round draft pick in 2007 out of Mississippi. Willis still had two years left on his contract and was due $7.5 million in 2015. However, there had also been speculation that Willis could be cut. His retirement would create around $7.425 million in salary-cap space.

Chris Borland stepped in for Willis as a rookie in 2014 and, while not as dynamic as Willis, the undersized but feisty linebacker was nonetheless effective and a tackling machine.

Meanwhile, the 49er announced tight end Derek Carrier has signed a two-year contract extension through 2017.

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