Late yesterday afternoon, the San Francisco 49ers announced they signed safety Michael Thomas to a reserve/future contract. Thomas joins six other players who signed such contracts last week. In case you missed it, a player can sign this kind of contract if he was not on the 53-man active roster at the end of the previous season. Players on the active roster that have contracts expiring do not become free agents until the new league year starts on March 12.
Thomas was on the practice squad all season, having been among the final cuts at the end of the 2012 preseason. We put together a brief scouting report on Thomas last June, including a pair of quotations from 49ers defensive coordinator Vic Fangio:
What kind of player was S Michael Thomas for you at Stanford?
"He was a good player. Mike was a corner when I got there at Stanford, but we had a need at safety, and I felt that he would be better served for us at safety. So, he played safety in our base defense and then he played our nickelback in our sub-defense, which you play a lot in college. So, he was a nickel and a safety for us at Stanford, which is what he's playing here. And Mike's a good football player. He had a lot to do with the success that Stanford's had here recently, and hopefully he'll be able to transition that into the NFL."
The SI scouting report we included in that report viewed him as undersized for anything more than a backup role. Thomas is listed at 5'11, 182 pounds. He's an inch taller than Donte Whitner, but is the lightest defensive back on the roster by ten pounds.
Whatever happens with Dashon Goldson this offseason, Thomas will get plenty of opportunities to compete for at least special teams duty. His primary competition would seem to be a guy like Darcel McBath. Although McBath saw limited safety time, he was one of the leading special teamers in terms of snaps. McBath is 27, and a free agent who could likely be brought back at close to the veteran's minimum. There could be other opportunities for Thomas, but he likely would need to outperform a guy like McBath to earn a spot on the 53-man roster in 2013. He retains practice squad eligibility as well.