On the second day of the NFL’s pre-free agency legal tampering window, the San Francisco 49ers have lost another long-time starter, as former strongside linebacker Azeez Al-Shaair has signed a one-year deal with the Tennessee Titans, a source confirmed to The Athletic.
Initially signed by the Niners as an undrafted free agent out of Florida Atlantic University in 2019, Al-Shaair saw immediate playing time as a rookie, appearing in 15 games with four starts and while playing 17 percent of the team’s defensive snaps. From there, Al-Shaair’s snaps ebbed and flowed depending on who showed up on the injury report any given week, with the linebacker largely tasked with playing on the strongside in DeMeco Ryans’ base defensive package and on the weakside or in the middle of defensive sub-packages when either Fred Warner or Dre Greenlaw were unable to play.
Now set to join a Titans team who have lost David Long on a two-year, $11 million contract with the Miami Dolphins, according to Jordan Schultz, Al-Shaair will presumably be afforded a chance to start more games before hitting free agency once more in 2024.
The Tennessee Titans View Azeez Al-Shaair as an Answer at LB
Discussing how Al-Shaair could fit as a member of the Titans, Joe Rexrode of The Athletic noted that the fifth-year linebacker should effortlessly slide into Shane Bowen’s defensive lineup.
“Al-Shaair should step right into Long’s starting spot, with third-year pro Monty Rice assuming the role that was supposed to be filled capably by Zach Cunningham last season. Cunningham couldn’t stay healthy. Rice hasn’t been healthy much. Long missed too much time. Dylan Cole and Jack Gibbens ended up spending a lot of time in the middle of the field for the Titans, and they did yeoman’s work, but pairing Al-Shaair with Rice should give the Titans the kind of playmaking they need at those spots.”
Can Al-Shaair step into a bigger role with the Titans akin to the one he played in 2021 with the 49ers? One of his now-former teammates believes the answer to that question is a resounding yes.
This San Francisco 49ers LB is Happy to See Al-Shaair Go
After watching the 2022 NFL season end one game earlier than he would have liked, Warner was asked about the prospect of Al-Shaair leaving San Francisco in free agency for a bigger role on another team, and surprisingly enough, he wanted nothing more than to see him go. Why? Because Warner believes the base-only linebacker is ready to take on a bigger role elsewhere, as he detailed to KNBR on February 2, 2023.
“I want him to go be somewhere where he can be the guy,” Warner said. “For as long as he’s here, unfortunately, I’m here. He wants to go be the Fred Warner somewhere else. Not to toot my own horn, but he certainly wants to go be the guy. And I want that for him. He deserves it. He’s capable of it.”
With Warner and Greenlaw already signed to long-term contracts, Al-Shaair was never going to be able to become a full-time starter in San Francisco. Now afforded a chance to slide into Long’s vacated spot in Tennessee, fans will finally be afforded a chance to see what kind of player the Florida Athletic Owl can be.