Each year, we run a series of post called "90-in-90" here at Niners Nation. The idea is that we'll take a look at every single player on the roster, from the very bottom to the top and break them down a few different ways. This is to help give everyone a basic understanding of a roster. Of course, this roster will change, and some days we'll have more than one so it's not strictly one per day but you get the idea.
Whenever a new coaching staff comes in, one of the many changes is on special teams. A new coaching staff usually means a new special teams coordinator, and virtually every special teams coach in the NFL has their personal favorites. A lot of starters get special teams snaps, but the core special teams players usually spend most of their time focused on that. And to do that requires a distinct dogged personality.
The 49ers brought in several players likely to focus on special teams, and Dekoda Watson is one of them. The 49ers signed him in free agency, with a three-year deal worth $4.5 million. He joins the 49ers after spending 2016 with the Denver Broncos and leading the team with 11 special teams tackles.
Watson was originally a seventh round pick of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2010. He spent four seasons with the Bucs before bouncing between Dallas, Jacksonville, New England and Denver over the past three seasons.
Experience: 6 accrued seasons (7 total seasons)
Weight: 245 lbs
Signed three-year, $4.5 million contract. He received a $1 million signing bonus, and his 2017 base salary is $1 million.
Why he might improve in 2017
With seven seasons under his belt, it’s hard to see much room for improvement. He joins a team implementing a new base defense, and with some questions at the linebacker position. I think we see Watson primarily playing special teams, albeit with a significant role on those units. However, we could see him get some opportunities in the base defense, primarily if injuries are an issue. He is getting snaps at the SAM linebacker position in OTAs, but he is behind both Ahmad Brooks and Eli Harold for the role.
Why he might regress in 2017
He’s 29, so he’s not exactly a spring chicken in NFL years. Barring something unexpected, we kind of know what his ceiling is. There’s a good chance he can maintain that ceiling, but without much in the way of likely upside, that does not leave a lot of wiggle room.
Odds of making the roster
He has two linebackers in front of him for the SAM job, but it seems like his best shot at a roster spot has always been through special teams. The 49ers clearly like him, giving him a three-year deal worth a decent amount over the league minimum. That doesn’t mean they won’t cut him if a better option shows himself in training camp, but I suspect Watson will be a core special teamer for the 2017 season. I’d say 75 percent or better chance, although with a new coaching staff, any numbers like this are mostly guesses.