Each year, we like to run a series of posts called "90-in-90." The idea is that we'll take a look at every player on the roster, from the very bottom to the top and break them down a few ways. This roster will certainly change, and some days we'll have more than one so it's not exactly 90 players in 90 days. At this point, it's a name we're keeping around for street cred.
The San Francisco 49ers signed Raymond "Bubba" Ventrone last June as a special teams player. He had spent his previous four seasons in Cleveland, the first two of which were serving under special team coordinator Brad Seely, and head coach Eric Mangini. His experience with Seely and Mangini likely were big factors in the 49ers approaching him about a contract.
Although Ventrone is listed as a safety, he does not play safety. He might get a few snaps in training camp, but once the regular season arrives, he will be playing strictly on special teams. His most notable role this past year was as the "personal protector" for the punter. That's the guy who is just behind the line of scrimmage and in front of the punter.
Ventrone finished with 301 special teams snaps, which was second only to C.J. Spillman's 359, and two snaps ahead of Craig Dahl. I don't know if it's a coincidence or what, but that was the 49ers three backup safeties leading the team in special teams snaps.
What to expect in 2014:
Ventrone turns 32 during this upcoming season. Given that he focused exclusively on special teams, I don't think improve/regress really matters too much here. He could conceivably lose a step, but any chance of not making the team would likely be due to younger, cheaper options, and not so much that he is any worse. If Ventrone makes the roster, I really don't see any changes in his approach, or what he brings to the table. He'll be a special teams ace, no more, no less.
Odds of making the roster:
The 49ers have their deepest roster in some time, which makes special teams-only players a bit more difficult to figure out. Ventrone and Kassim Osgood are two of the more notable examples given that C.J. Spillman and Craig Dahl both play some safety. Spillman gets into the three safety formations, while Dahl served as Eric Reid's backup. Darryl Morris and Kassim Osgood played primarily on special teams as well. Morris will compete for nickel and dime work this year, but Osgood is more along the lines of Ventrone in terms of basically being a special teams player. Oh, and let's not forget the team re-signed Blake Costanzo this offseason.
Ventrone will earn the league minimum of $855,000 in 2014. This is the last year of his 2-year deal with the 49ers, and any release would be less about money, and more about versatility. Sure, the 49ers could save upwards of $300,000 or $400,000 with his release, but versatility would seemingly be what it's about with a replacement. Could we see Ventrone, Osgood and Costanzo competing for no more than one or two roster spots? The special teams units struggled in 2012, but then bounced back in a big way in 2013. It will come down to how much the 49ers value that strength, and how easy or difficult it would be to replace those veteran standouts.