Lawson is entering the last season of the five-year, $7.75 million contract that he signed as a rookie in 2006. The 49ers have shown no inclination to begin talks on a new deal and as a consequence Lawson is staying away, not wanting to risk injury until he has to, knowing that he's likely going to have to use the 2010 season as an audition tape for the 31 other teams.
Though he started the 2009 season well, the relationship between Lawson and the team started to sour during the second half of the year, when LB Ahmad Brooks replaced him on third downs on a fairly regular basis. Both Brooks (and recently signed free agent Travis LaBoy) will be looking to take snaps from Lawson and other outside starting linebacker Parys Haralson this year. Given the inconsistent performances of those two and the advancing age of Takeo Spikes, it would seem that Patrick Willis is the only one of the 49ers starting linebacker quartet who can say for sure he'll be here long term.