There have been some divided opinions about Tully Banta-Cain leading up to and since the 49ers signed him. Is he nothing more than a backup who is getting overpaid, or is there something else to Banta-Cain? Well Tom at Pats Pulpit feels the former as his scouting report indicates:
The upside is: Tully Banta-Cain has a lot of potential. The bad news is: Talent- and ability-wise, he's probably a little better than a second-stringer, but not a legitimate starter.
Banta-Cain, a seventh-round pick in 2003, had a pretty good second half of the season, but only got the time because a 16-year veteran's season was ended by injury. If Junior Seau stays healthy, Banta-Cain spends most of his season on the sideline. And, yes, he played pretty well down the stretch. He had career highs in sacks (5.5, plus two more in the playoffs) and 43 tackles (31 solo). But he was playing with Tedy Bruschi, Mike Vrabel and Rosevelt Colvin in the three other linebacker positions, and you have to believe that opposing offenses paid less attention to Banta-Cain than the others.
Banta-Cain, who just completed his fourth year in the league, is not particularly big or strong, but he is speedy on the outside and will be comfortable in the Niners 3-4 scheme, which the Patriots often employed. He's primarily a pass-rusher and his value against the run is debatable. He's not a great in pass coverage. Whether he can blossom without some fairly extraordinary talent around him remains to be seen.
Those 5.5 sacks I mentioned? Four and a half of them came against two teams: Minnesota (2.5) and Houston (2) -- and then two against the Jets in the playoffs. All three were blowouts, so it wasn't like Banta-Cain had stellar performances against powerful offenses or offenses with great pass-blocking lines and quarterbacks with quick releases. Against the Colts in the AFC Championship, Banta-Cain was conspicuous by his absence. He had extreme difficulty dropping into coverage, and committed a devastating penalty (thought it was kind of cheap) in the closing minutes.
Banta-Cain can also contribute on special teams, but you don't see a lot of special teamers with contracts like those the Niners gave him.
I liked Banta-Cain, and I always thought he had potential. Maybe it's just me, but a $4 million per year average is a lot to pay for potential.
First off I want to thank Tom from Pats Pulpit for taking the time to get his thoughts down for us. Personally, I can see how we're paying for potential. I'm definitely curious to see what Nolan and Manusky can do with Banta-Cain. I think we have to take a wait and see approach. We shall see.