Welcome back to another week without 49ers football. I know that sounds particularly inspiring. But we are now less than six weeks away from the start of training camp, so that’s a plus. With that in mind, we’re back for another round of the 49ers bubble watch.
Over the next week and a half, we’re going to take a look at each position, and what the bubble watch looks like. As we’ve done for many years now, the bubble watch breaks down to lock, strong bubble, weak bubble, and longshot. For some positions, we'll have multiple players listed at strong bubble, even though not all are likely to make the roster. But the idea is that they both stand a good shot, even if it is just one of them. Thus far, we have looked at quarterbacks, running backs, wide receivers, tight ends, offensive line, and defensive line. Today we look at the outside linebackers.
Lock: Aaron Lynch, Ahmad Brooks, Eli Harold, Tank Carradine
Strong bubble: Corey Lemonier
Weak bubble: Marcus Rush
Longshot: Jason Fanaika, Lenny Jones
The San Francisco 49ers will be counting on an improved pass rush in 2016 to help boost their overall defense. They added DeForest Buckner to the defensive line, but they waited until undrafted free agency to add any depth to the outside linebackers. They signed Jason Fanaika, Lenny Jones, and Kevin Anderson, later releasing Anderson to add an inside linebacker.
As long as Ahmad Brooks is on the 49ers roster, he will be viewed by many as a question mark. Like the sun rising, there’s a certain inevitability to that. He did not get much in the way of practice time over the two and a half months of the offseason workout program due to an unexplained injury. That provided Eli Harold with a lot of first team work. I had considered moving Brooks to the bubble, but until we see more from Harold, Tank and others in full pads and in the preseason, it’s hard to see Brooks getting cut. He very well could get traded, but I see no reason he gets cut at this point.
I had considering dropping Tank Carradine into the strong bubble section. He hasn’t done a whole lot of much in his first three season, and is now entering the final year of his contract. But they seem to finally be putting him in a position as an edge rusher that actually plays to his strengths. I just see no reason they abandon it in this final year. Maybe they don’t get him extended, but with his natural speed and power, I just don’t see him getting cut.
I had considered weak bubble for Lemonier, but his work on special teams will likely be helpful. I would not be surprised to see Lemonier end up getting cut, but I still rank him ahead of Marcus Rush, Jason Fanaika, and Lenny Jones. Those three guys could make this whole thing a lot more interesting. I think one or more of all three are more likely to be headed to the practice squad, but the first couple weeks of training camp will give us a better idea. Rush has more time with the 49ers, so I give him the edge over the 2016 UDFAs.