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What Justin Smith retirement means for 49ers defensive line depth chart

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Justin Smith announced his retirement on Monday, leaving the San Francisco 49ers with a sizable hole in the defensive line. Time to break down how the team will adjust all along the line this year.

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The San Francisco 49ers took one more big hit this offseason, with defensive lineman Justin Smith announcing his retirement Monday afternoon. The news is not shocking, but it is still a huge impact on a defensive line that was built around Cowboy's dominance. The team has addressed the position multiple times the last few years, and this year we get a better idea of just how that will all work out.

The 49ers defensive line depth chart is hard to completely shake out following Smith's retirement. We know who the players are, but it is not entirely clear yet who will factor in where. I think we all have some ideas, but OTAs and training camp is when we'll start to get an idea of what the 49ers have in mind.

Matt Barrows put together a look at the 49ers apparent plan along the line. He does not quote anybody specifically, but it reads like background information he has gotten from the team. According to Barrows, the team's plan is for Arik Armstead, Quinton Dial and Tony Jerod-Eddie to compete at left defensive end. The team would then have Glenn Dorsey handling right defensive end duties, with Tank Carradine entering in the nickel.

Barrows mentioned Dockett only in saying that he has not been practicing as he continues to rehab from his August ACL injury. Dockett is the most notable question mark among that group. If he is healthy, he moves right into the mix.

Meanwhile, Ian Williams and Glenn Dorsey can both play nose tackle, but Dorsey has versatility to play all along the line, while Williams is best suited at the nose. Dorsey has the veteran presence to compete for one of those starting roles on the outside.

Personally, I think Quinton Dial is the guy to watch in 2015. Arik Armstead is part of the long-term plan, but given his raw talents, he is unlikely to be a significant impact player in 2015. Dial spent most of us last year playing nose tackle following injuries to Ian Williams and Glenn Dorsey, but Jim Tomsula has said he could be ideally suited for the 3-4 defensive end role. I really think we see Dial emerge in that role this year.