The 49ers haven’t officially released linebacker Reuben Foster, but they’ve said they will. And with the trade window closed, they can’t do what the Browns did with receiver Josh Gordon earlier this year.
So when Foster is released, he’ll head to the waiver wire, where any other team can claim the balance of his rookie contract.
As pick No. 31, Foster initially had a fully guaranteed salary for 2019, in the amount of $1.286 million. A prior suspension likely erased the guarantees, however, which means that neither a new team (if the contract is claimed) or the 49ers (if it isn’t claim) would owe Foster the money. His base salary for 2018 is $875,000; his pay for the final five games of the season would be $257,000.
Although it’s unlikely that a suspension without pay would be finalized before the end of the season, any team that would claim or otherwise sign Foster would risk being required to pay him during a stay on the Commissioner Exempt list, a device for keeping players off the field when those players face certain types of criminal charges, including allegations of domestic violence.
Ultimately, that’s the question that would need to be asked before a team like the Saints (which reportedly wanted to draft Foster before the 49ers sprang up to get him) would give Foster his latest second chance. Unless the league office can answer that question quickly, it’s possible that anyone interested in Foster would sit tight until the league knows what it plans to do with Foster, who is good enough of a player to get someone to give the person another opportunity to comply with the standards of society and the rules of the NFL.