The San Francisco 49ers will wrap up their mandatory minicamp Wednesday afternoon, and two players coming away with fairly positive reviews are outside linebackers Corey Lemonier and Eli Harold. I have failed to mention either in my two practice reports (Day 1, Day 2), but that should not detract from their performances.
Lemonier has shown up repeatedly in minicamp and OTA reports, as he is getting more snaps due to Aaron Lynch's hamstring injury, and Aldon Smith's recent foot injury. After a strong rookie season, Lemonier regressed in 2014. Part of his problem was that he had one strong pass rush move, but never improved on it. Rookie Aaron Lynch climbed above him on the depth chart last year, leaving Lemonier to primarily special teams work.
The 49ers drafted Eli Harold in the third round of this year's NFL Draft, and he has stood out with mentions of his speed. Grant Cohn said he almost thought he was watching Aldon Smith on one play Wednesday. He also said Harold was the first rookie to beat Joe Staley in one-on-one pass rush work since Aldon Smith in 2011. Cohn is particularly high on Harold.
The question now is where they emerge in the pecking order. Aldon Smith and Ahmad Brooks have been getting the starting snaps, while Aaron Lynch has dealt with his hamstring injury. Assuming everybody is healthy at training camp, I imagine Lemonier and Harold are toward the back of the depth chart.
My guess at this point is that two of Lemonier, Harold and Brooks make the roster. The 49ers could decide to keep five outside linebackers, but would they do that? The 49ers would save $4.7 million in cap space if they elected to release Brooks.
I don't think it is as simple as saving the money, as Brooks has shown himself to be a strong all-around outside linebacker. He struggled last year, but all indications are that he is looking good thus far. He has to know he is likely fighting for a roster spot, and is probably still gone after this season. It is essentially a contract year for him. An extra motivated Brooks could do wonders for this group. And with additional depth, it could provide a chance to rotate a lot of bodies and keep the unit fresh game in and game out.