The San Francisco 49ers reportedly took care of some basic contract business yesterday. Matt Barrows is reporting DL Lawrence Okoye and WR Devon Wylie both signed reserve/future contracts. This follows reserve/future deals last week for David Reed, DeMarco Sampson and Christian Tupou.
A reserve/future contract basically locks up the player for the upcoming season. 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.
Okoye played in the preseason but suffered a knee injury that allowed the 49ers to place him on injured reserve. He was not going to make the 53-man roster, and I don't think they wanted to expend a spot on the practice squad at such an early point in his development. Okoye is basically a lottery ticket at this point. I said Marcus Lattimore was a lottery ticket as well given his injury, but the odds of Lattimore hitting compared to Okoye are monumentally different.
Okoye signed with the 49ers shortly after the 2013 NFL Draft, so with this contract, he gets a full offseason to learn and develop his craft. His development will be interesting to track, particularly in light of the Browns potential interest in Jim Tomsula for their head coach opening.
Part of the reason Okoye came to the 49ers was because of Tomsula's work as a defensive line coach, and his time in NFL Europe. Okoye is sticking around this offseason no matter what happens with Tomsula, but I'd love to see Tomsula get a full offseason with Okoye. He is a long-shot for a roster spot, but he is still an interesting study.
Okoye got very limited snaps last August, and the 49ers return virtually their entire defensive line. Demarcus Dobbs is a restricted free agent, but RFAs rarely leave anymore, so he is likely back in the fold. They get a healthy Tank Carradine, and they potentially add more depth in the draft. I don't expect a drastic increase in Okoye's preseason snaps, but with a solid offseason, he could at least get more third and fourth quarter time in August.