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.
Blake Costanzo was a player I was very sad to see go when the San Francisco 49ers let him walk in free agency two years ago. It's still unclear if they offered him something, or if the Chicago Bears simply offered more money. Whatever the case, Costanzo, one of the best special teams players on the team, was going elsewhere.
Now, the 49ers have pretty consistently annoyed me with the way it manages its roster of special teamers, but the coaching is just so superb that it rarely has negative effects. I think Costanzo's stellar angles were missed, but guys like C.J. Spillman and Kassim Osgood picked up the slack with speed and power. But what kind of year did Costanzo end up having with Chicago last season?
The Chicago Bears official website says Costanzo made a team-high 17 tackles on special teams last year. This is the same number that Costanzo had with the 49ers in 2011 before he left the team. That season, he was second on the 49ers in special teams tackles. If anything, he's been plenty consistent.
Costanzo didn't see much time it all on defense for Chicago, which is to be expected. He's a special teamer, and a very good one at that. He's one of the best in the league at what he does and has been playing at that high level for most of his career. His two seasons with the Bears was not an exception.
While the 49ers are somewhat unsettled at inside linebacker given that NaVorro Bowman is expected to miss a significant amount of time, I don't think Costanzo will be competing for any starting time. If he sees the field on defense whatsoever, it would likely be in the same capacity as Spillman does -- when they need a sure tackler in tight situations. But even then, I'd put his chances of being anything other than a special teamer pretty darn low.
Why he might improve:
Costanzo is 30, but he's got a lot less wear on his body than many players his age. He's been a special teams player his entire career, and it just so happens that some of his best work came under Brad Seely, the current special teams coach for the 49ers. Seely also coached Costanzo with the Cleveland Browns earlier in his career. Costanzo will step right into a leadership role provided he makes the team, and he'll flourish.
Why he might regress:
Yeah, remember that bit about having less wear on his body? Well 30 years old is still 30 years old. He's not going to need a walker any time soon, but regression at any point from here on out wouldn't be the most unexpected thing. I can't imagine there being regression beyond that, however, as he knows this scheme inside out.
Odds of making the roster:
Seely seems to like Costanzo, and with the departure of Anthony Dixon, the 49ers will want someone with a similar play-style on special teams. That's right up Costanzo's alley, and I'd put his chances of making the final roster pretty high. Could the 49ers technically consider him inside linebacker depth, and therefore make the decision to cut him when Bowman comes back? That's certainly possible. But given that I have very little luck predicting what the 49ers will do with special teams, I'll say he's got about a 75 percent chance of making the roster.