49ers release starting safety Antoine Bethea

By Jesse Reed

In a bit of a stunning move, the San Francisco 49ers released starting safety Antoine Bethea on Tuesday, saving $4 million in cap space.

“Antoine is a true professional in every sense and I have a great deal of respect for the way he has gone about his business throughout his career,” said General Manager John Lynch. “We would like to thank him for the positive impact he has had on this team both as a player and as a leader, on and off the field. We wish Antoine, and his family, great success in the future.”

This move puts the 49ers at nearly $100 million in cap space heading into free agency and the draft.

Bethea has been a starter since entering the NFL back in 2006, logging 162 starts in his 11-year career. He signed on with the 49ers as a highly prized free agent back in 2014 and was set to earn $5.25 in base salary this upcoming season. He started all 16 games last year and in 2014, though he missed nine games due to injury in 2015.

At the age of 32, Bethea likely still has something to offer a team and could now look to sign on a short-term deal with a contender.

This move signals the 49ers are going to continue their youth movement on defense as Lynch and Kyle Shanahan reshape the roster in the coming seasons.