The San Francisco 49ers continued taking care of their in-house business on Thursday as they announced that defensive end Will Tukuafu signed a two-year contract. Tukuafu was an exclusive rights free agent this year, which meant he had no real leverage in contract negotiations. The 49ers could have conceivably made him a one year offer of their choosing and been done with it.
Tukuafu will be entering his third season with the 49ers. He signed with the team as a rookie in 2010 and spent most of that season on the practice squad. He made the 53-man roster in 2011 and was active the first four games of the season. He actually recovered a Seattle Seahawks fumble on his very first play from scrimmage. Tukuafu suffered a wrist injury in week four against the Philadelphia Eagles and was forced onto injured reserve.
Going with a two-year deal for Tukuafu shows some faith in his return and what the 49ers hope he can bring to the table. Although Justin Smith and Ray McDonald are beasts on the defensive line, the depth has some question marks. Ricky Jean Francois does great work as a backup at all three positions, but it would be nice for a bit more depth. Additionally, with Justin Smith getting up there in age, it would be nice to have someone to eventually take over for him whenever that becomes necessary.
For now, I would imagine Tukuafu will compete with Demarcus Dobbs for playing time behind primary back-up Ricky Jean Francois. In Dobbs and Tukuafu the team is looking at undrafted free agents who have shown some skills, but still have plenty of work ahead of them. The 49ers will potentially look to free agency or the draft for more help, but I don't think the team will invest a ton of resources given the youth down the depth chart.