The 49ers spent Tuesday doing more house cleaning, this time releasing veteran safety Antoine Bethea.
“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,” general manager John Lynch said in a statement. “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.”
The team signed Bethea, 32, to a four-year free-agent contract in 2014 and he paid immediate dividends with four interceptions, 10 batted passes and a trip to the Pro Bowl. The following season, however, he tore his pectoral muscle midway through the year and was placed on injured reserve. Last year, he started all 16 games again and was the team’s lone veteran presence for most of the season.
Bethea, however, may have been an odd fit in a new 49ers defense that calls for a big, bruising safety who plays close to the line of scrimmage and a smaller, swifter counterpart who plays deep down field.
Bethea was set to earn a base salary of $5.25 million in 2017, the fourth highest on the team behind tackle Joe Staley, linebacker NaVorro Bowman and linebacker Ahmad Brooks.
Earlier on Tuesday, the team officially released wide receiver Torrey Smith, who is now a free agent. Lynch praised Smith, who was the 49ers’ nominee for he Walter Payton Man of the Year award in 2016.
“The 49ers would like to thank Torrey for representing this organization with tremendous class over the last two years,” Lynch said. “I have always had great respect for his skill as a player and as a wonderful example of how professional athletes can use their platform to make a difference in our community.”