Willis’ retirement will clear $7.4245 million from the team's 2015 salary cap. He still has two years remaining on a five-year, $50 million contract he signed in 2010.
"On behalf of the entire San Francisco 49ers organization, my family, and our Faithful fans, I would like to thank Patrick for everything he has brought to this team and our community," 49ers CEO Jed York said in a release. "Some of the greatest memories in the history of our franchise have come from his passion, dedication and sacrifice.
[daily_cut.nfl]"Patrick epitomizes everything you could ever want in a San Francisco 49er. What he brought to this team goes much further than his athletic abilities. His leadership and infectious love for the game helped propel this team. I consider myself very lucky to have grown up around some of the greatest players in the history of this franchise, and Patrick has certainly secured his place among that elite group of men. As a member of our family, Patrick holds a special place in our hearts, and we look forward to supporting him as he moves on from his playing career."
Willis played in six games for San Francisco in 2014, recording 49 tackles, three passes defensed and one interception before being placed on injured reserve in November with a toe injury.
Willis, 30, was the team’s first-round selection in the 2007 NFL draft and was named AP Defensive Rookie of the Year.
He made the Pro Bowl in each of his first seven seasons in the NFL and was a five-time first-team AP All-Pro selection.
Willis said in November that he was looking forward to getting back to 100 percent this season.
"To most, it probably looked like, ‘Man, Willis is losing a step,’" Willis said, according to CSNBayArea. “But I promise you, physically and mentally, I’m just as good now as I was early on. But unfortunately the one thing I needed most to make me who I am are my feet. My left side, without a big toe, it’s like trying to grab without a thumb. You just can’t do it."
Willis started 112 games in his career and recorded 20.5 sacks with 16 forced fumbles, eight interceptions and five fumble recoveries.
- Scooby Axson