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.
The 49ers are almost a week into training camp, and the free safety competition is coming into focus. Vic Fangio met with the media on Friday and in discussing the starting free safety role, he pointed specifically to Eric Reid, Craig Dahl, C.J. Spillman and Trenton Robinson. One player he did not mention was defensive back Michael Thomas. Although Thomas has been getting some time at free safety, he has also been working at the nickel back role.
The 49ers signed Michael Thomas last season as an undrafted free agent out of Stanford. Thomas was part of the final round of roster cuts last preseason, and was quickly signed to the practice squad, where he spent the entire season. The 49ers signed him to a reserve/future contract shortly after the Super Bowl.
While with the Cardinal, Thomas worked in a similar fashion to what he is doing now. He came to Palo Alto as a cornerback, but was eventually switched to safety, along with some work at nickel back when the 49ers went into that package. He played in 51 games with Stanford, starting 24, and registering 189 tackles, 5 interceptions, 12.5 tackles for losses, 30 pass deflections, 2 fumbles recovered, 3 forced fumbles and 2.5 sacks.
Last summer, we took a look at SI.com's scouting report on Thomas, as well as what Vic Fangio had to say about his former Stanford safety. At the 2012 Combine, Thomas measured in at just under 5'10, 185 pounds. He's not a big guy, but he's a smart player, which is one pertinent advantage.
What to expect in 2013
The 49ers have a lot of defensive backs on the roster, creating a squeeze for some of the younger guys. It helps Thomas that he can play nickel along with safety, but both positions are getting pretty full. If Thomas did make the roster this season, he would potentially need to unseat someone like a Darcel McBath as a special teams weapon. Thomas would be unlikely to see much playing time at all as a safety, but showing something on special teams would be his ticket to a roster spot.
Odds of making the roster
He faces fairly long odds given the numbers. It's still early of course, and a strong showing the next couple weeks could change that. However, I think his most likely spot is going to be a second season on the practice squad. A few years ago I could see him making the roster, but the Harbaugh 49ers are incredibly deep at this point. Some potentially quality players are going to end up on the practice squad, or claimed off waivers.