The 49ers ground game is poised to suffer yet another casualty to free agency, as ESPN’s Adam Schefter is reporting that G Mike Iupati will be leaving San Francisco for the divisional rival Arizona Cardinals.
Iupati’s expected departure comes on the heels of reports indicating that the 49ers longtime bell cow, Frank Gore, will also be leaving the team via free agency for the Indianapolis Colts, according to multiple reports.
The guards contract with the Cardinals is reported to be a 5-year, $40 million deal with incentives that can reach up to $41 million according to Schefter.
Former first-round pick Iupati played a key role in the 49ers ground game, excelling in run blocking while earning three Pro Bowl selections and one All-Pro nod since being selected by San Francisco in the 2010 draft. Alongside fellow Pro Bowler T Joe Staley, the 49ers left side of the offensive line was a formidable challenge for opposing linemen.
Other teams who were reportedly in the mix for Iupati’s services included the Oakland Raiders, the Buffalo Bills and New York Jets. With Iupati choosing to stay in the NFC West, the 49ers will now get to face their former ally twice a year. In a case of role reversal, Iupati will also be charged with fighting off the 49ers’ new addition in former Cardinal DT Darnell Dockett.
The 49ers are somewhat prepared for Iupati’s loss, with the team using a third round pick on G Brandon Thomas in the 2014 draft. Thomas was held out of action last year as the 24-year old out of Clemson rehabbed an ACL injury he suffered during a workout with the New Orleans Saints.
Guard Joe Looney and possibly C Marcus Martin could also look to fill Iupati’s void during training camp this summer, although Looney is a significant downgrade at the position, and Martin is more fit for the center position.
The loss of Iupati that wasn’t the only hit the 49ers run game took on Monday afternoon, as reports of fullback Bruce Miller’s March 5 arrest for spousal battery surfaced as well.
Miller, a seventh round pick in the 2011 draft, has been instrumental in opening up holes for the 49ers ground game, as well as showing good hands out of the backfield.
The case has been forwarded to the Santa Clara County District Attorney’s office for further review.
CSN Bay Area’s Matt Maiocco reported that the team has released a statement acknowledging the unfolding investigation.
“The San Francisco 49ers organization is aware of the matter involving Bruce Miller. We were disappointed to learn of these reports and will do our due diligence in collecting all relevant information.”
The 49ers have been no stranger to charges relating to domestic violence in recent years, opting to cut ties with former DT Ray McDonald last season after he was under investigation for a pair of different assaults towards females at his home in San Jose.
In December, CEO Jed York took a hard-nosed stance against his players actions off the field, especially in conjuncture with domestic violence.
“I think whenever you let accountability slip you let what happened happen. And I think we need to make sure that our players are held accountable. … We might make decisions that people don’t completely agree with, but we are going to hold our players and hold our coaches and hold the entire organization accountable for their actions.”