Over the past three seasons, Aubrayo Franklin has started 47 of 48 games at nose tackle between for the 49ers, playing between ends Isaac Sopoaga and Justin Smith.
Franklin played last season under the one-year franchise tag and is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent when the 2011 league year begins. If he were to depart, Sopoaga is willing to move back to the middle, reports Eric Branch of the Santa Rosa Press Democrat.
“To be honest, I would love for Aubrayo Franklin to be back with us,” Sopoaga said. “But whatever comes through, I don’t mind doing it because I did it my first four years. I’m a happy guy. It doesn’t matter where they put me. I say I’m ‘The Bullet.’ Just load me in and just go. I’m comfortable playing nose tackle or d-end. As long as it’s on the d-line area, I’m fine.”
A 2004 fourth-round pick out of Hawaii, Sopoaga totaled 63 tackles and three quarterback sacks as a part-time starter his first four seasons in the league. In the three seasons since signing a five-year, $20 million contract, the 6-foot-2, 320-pound Sopoaga has extended his consecutive games streak to 73, and has 95 tackles and 3.5 quarterback sacks in 48 games.
Sopoaga doesn’t think a move inside would necessitate adding the 10-to-15 pounds to get back to the weight he played at from 2004-07.
“To me, 320 as a nose tackle is heavy enough,” Sopoaga said.