Despite the losses of 11 players who started a combined 130 games, plus the best punter in franchise history, plenty of talent remains on the 49ers’ roster.
The 49ers have placed an emphasis on developing young players. And with the addition of a 10-player draft class, that means some incumbents will face serious challenges to hold onto their spots.
Here are three returning players whose spots on the 53-man roster are not completely secure with camp scheduled to open later this month:
TE Vance McDonald: In 26 games after being selected in the second round of the 2013 draft, McDonald has 11 receptions for 162 yards and no touchdowns. The 49ers invested two draft picks on tight ends this year, and they have seven tight ends on their roster who could end up on NFL rosters this season. The 49ers figure to be willing to deal a tight end or two before the final cuts. McDonald will have to win his spot with the 49ers this season as Vernon Davis’ primary backup, and that will not be an easy task.
S Craig Dahl: He has been one of the core special-teams players for the 49ers since his arrival in 2013. But Dahl’s main value to the 49ers has been his experience on defense. After all, despite the selection of safety Jimmie Ward in the first round of last year’s draft, it was Dahl who won the job as the team’s No. 3 safety behind Antoine Bethea and Eric Reid. The 49ers drafted another safety, Jaquiski Tartt, in the second round this year. In addition, the 49ers have a second-year safety, L.J. McCray, they really like. Dahl will likely have to win the job as the No. 3 safety once again to be back on the 49ers’ 53-man roster.
OLB Ahmad Brooks: Last season started off bad for Brooks, who reported to camp out of shape. And it only got worse as the season went on, as he was benched twice for his actions off the field. Brooks came back this offseason and was a standout on the practice field during workouts. But he still faces competition from young outside linebackers, such as Aaron Lynch, Eli Harold and Corey Lemonier. Brooks appears to be well on his way to retaining his spot on the field. But there is some uncertainty due to an off-the-field incident. In May, Brooks was named in a lawsuit alleging “sexual assault” stemming from the December incident involving former 49ers defensive lineman Ray McDonald. The Santa Clara County District Attorney’s office has yet to make a decision on whether to pursue criminal charges against McDonald or Brooks. General manager Trent Baalke stated, “We were disappointed to learn of this matter and will continue to monitor the situation.” Brooks continued to take part in the offseason program. But, if charges are filed, it could jeopardize his future with the organization.