Another week down, and we’re getting closer to training camp. Five weeks from today, the 49ers welcome their veterans back to camp, with the first practice five weeks from tomorrow. With training camp closing in, we’re back for another round of the 49ers bubble watch.
We’re just about set to close it up, having gone through the entire offense and all but one defensive position. We’ll wrap up with safety today and special teams on Sunday. 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,defensive line, outside linebackers, inside linebackers, and cornerbacks.
Lock: Eric Reid, Antoine Bethea, Jaquiski Tartt
Strong bubble: L.J. McCray
Weak bubble: None
Longshot: Jered Bell
The safety position is one of the deeper on the 49ers roster. That and defensive line are arguably the two deepest. The 49ers spent a first round pick on Eric Reid, a second round pick on Jaquiski Tartt, and a moderately sizable free agent contract on Antoine Bethea. Tartt got significant playing time last year after Bethea suffered a torn pectoral muscle. Bethea appears to be back at 100 percent, and in the starting lineup. Tartt is likely going to get extensive work in a hybrid role.
After that, the 49ers need to figure things out with former UDFA signing L.J. McCray, and 2016 UDFA signing Jered Bell. My guess is Bell will compete for a practice squad at best. McCray is a different story. The 2014 signing earned a roster spot as a rookie, and has been a big special teams contributor ever since. He will likely get safety playing time in the preseason, but I don’t expect him to play much safety, if any during the regular season. That leaves him competing primarily with guys like Nick Bellore and Shayne Skov, among others.
Where it could get interesting is some of the cornerbacks. Marcus Cromartie and Keith Reaser both could potentially get some opportunities in a safety role. Additionally, Trent Baalke has said Jimmie Ward will eventually move to safety. It seems like Ward is going to be an outside corner for the time being, but Cromartie and Reaser will be two guys to watch. One of them could very well end up taking McCray’s roster spot by the time all is said and done. My guess is two of those three end up on the 49ers 53-man roster after final roster cuts.