Here at Niners Nation, we're presenting a series called "90-in-90". We'll be looking at every player on the 49ers offseason roster, one player per post, from now until the start of training camp.
Yesterday, I went with Anthony Dixon for the 90-in-90 post, and it sort of leads into today's 90-in-90 post. I spoke about Dixon's special team and running back skills, and how that would affect his roster chances. I forgot to mention Dan Skuta, so why not just move into that discussion with his own post. Skuta will compete primarily for a special teams role, although he will get some opportunities in training camp and the preseason to show what he can do as a linebacker.
The 49ers signed Skuta to a two-year contract, with a first year salary of $1 million and a $300,000 signing bonus. This came after Skuta had spent four seasons with the Cincinnati Bengals. Skuta originally signed with the Bengals as an undrafted free agent out of Grand Valley State. He spent a month on the practice squad his first season before getting added to the active roster.
In 2012, Skuta worked primary on special teams, and was listed as the backup at middle linebacker and strong side linebacker in the Bengals 4-3 defense. He played in all 16 games and finished with 12 defensive tackles and 17 special teams tackles. The 17 ST tackles led the Bengals. The Bengals put together a season-in-review document, and provided the following details about Skuta's 2012 performances:
Played in every game, including Wild Card playoff, for third straight season ... His 17 special teams stops led the team by two over S Jeromy Miles ... Recorded two tackles on defense Sept. 10 at Baltimore, as well as one tackle on special teams ... On Sept. 23 at Washington, helped apply key pressure on QB Robert Griffin III on Redskins' final drive to help preserve Bengals' victory ... Led special teams in tackles (two) on Oct. 7 vs. Miami, and had one stop on defense ... Two tackles Oct. 14 at Cleveland ... Led special teams with two tackles on Nov. 4 vs. Denver ... Tied for special teams tackles lead (two) on Nov. 25 vs. Oakland ... Tied for team lead with two special teams stops on Dec. 13 at Philadelphia ... Tied for team lead on Dec. 23 with two special teams tackles ... Personal season-high of four tackles on defense on Dec. 30 vs. Baltimore ... Two tackles on defense and one on special teams in Wild Card playoff on 1-5-13 at Houston.
What to expect in 2013
If Skuta makes the 49ers roster, it will be almost exclusively for his special teams work. It sounds like he can play all the linebacker positions, and potentially even some fullback, but his primarily role would be special teams ace. Consider him sort of like another Blake Costanzo.
Skuta appears to be an inside linebacker, but he apparently has been getting some snaps at outside linebacker in OTAs. He might get some opportunities there, but with Parys Haralson, Corey Lemonier, Darius Fleming and Cam Johnson all in the mix for snaps, it does not seem like a position where Skuta will make much of an impact.
Cincy Jungle contributor Joe Goodberry provided a scouting report on Skuta, and it read like you might expect for a guy who focuses on special teams. He's an average athlete but he busts his butt to make an impact in any way he can. You like these guys for special teams work and as backups, but if he is on the field with the defense, it's either a blowout, or something has gone very poorly.
Odds of making the roster
Given what we know about the rest of the roster, this would seem to be a Brad Seely addition. A two-year deal doesn't guarantee anything in the NFL, and given the number of young guys competing for special teams roles, I'd say he's in that 50-50 category. He is a similar type of player to Rock Cartwright in terms of special teams ace with some skills at another position, but he's also six years younger. I bring this up because I figured Cartwright was close to a lock last year. But, it's all about younger and cheaper in the NFL.
Skuta will be competing with a whole host of players for a roster spot, and not just other linebackers. He is competing against guys like Anthony Dixon, Will Tukuafu, Demarcus Dobbs, Nick Moody, Michael Wilhoite and so many more. Can a 27-year old that is almost exclusively a special teams guy earn a spot? Or maybe he can show something as a utility linebacker?