Post mini-camp update - linebackers:
Lock: NaVorro Bowman, Ahmad Brooks, Malcolm Smith, Reuben Foster
Strong Bubble: Eli Harold, Dekoda Watson, Brock Coyle
Weak Bubble: Ray Ray Armstrong, Jimmie Gilbert, Donavin Newsom
In spite of what one writer might think, NaVorro Bowman is not going to get cut. I would also be surprised if he is traded.
Ahmad Brooks is a guy who is listed as being on the bubble virtually every year since he last signed a contract extension. It has regularly felt like he is due to get released at some point. As he now enters the final year of his contract, I’m going to go in the other direction. Even though this year would make the most sense to potentially release him, I just don’t see it happening. As a football player, he remains perpetually underrated. Sure, he’s not a monster impact guy, but he is consistently one of the 49ers best linebackers. And given Bowman’s injuries two out of the past three years, I’d say Brooks has been the 49ers best linebacker over the last three years. And so, for the first time in at least three or four years, I will list Brooks as a lock.
Reuben Foster is likely going to eventually replace Smith, but I see more of a timeshare this year. If Foster is good to go for training camp and when Week 1 arrives, I see him being primarily a sub-package linebacker, and Smith being primarily a base defense linebacker.
As with most other positions, there are few true long-shots among this group. Jimmie Gilbert and Donavin Newsom enter camp as UDFAs, but the 49ers depth at linebacker leaves some opportunities open. Both will have to prove themselves extremely adept at special teams, but with questions at linebacker, they each have a significant opportunity.
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