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.
Ahmad Brooks has been able to play a number of positions over his 11 seasons in the NFL. He’s played defensive end, outside linebacker and even inside linebacker. This season, he’ll be playing the “Sam” position in Robert Saleh’s 4-3 defense, which is technically a new role for him.
But the 33-year-old pass rushing specialist has earned high marks from both Saleh, a first-year defensive coordinator, and head coach Kyle Shanahan. He’s impressed the new coaching staff with his drive and his play this offseason, and seems in line for a starting job next year.
Brooks has seemingly been on the chopping block for the last few seasons. We talk about whether or not the 49ers will move on from Brooks a whole lot here at Niners Nation, especially recently. When Aldon Smith was breaking out, we got excited about the potential for the 49ers to find someone else to pair with him and replace Brooks.
When Aaron Lynch showed initial promise, many thought Brooks was on the way out. Tank Carradine and Eli Harold have also been brought into the mix, seemingly at the potential detriment to Brooks.
But through all of this, Brooks has done what he’s always done: played above-average football. He’s not an amazing pass rusher and he’s not great in coverage, either. But he’s reliable, and played in 16 games with the 49ers a year ago. He’s trustworthy and dependable, and that counts for a huge amount.
Harold, free agent pickup Dekoda Watson and undrafted rookie Jimmie Gilbert have all taken snaps at Brooks’ new position this offseason. Barring some big setback, Brooks is likely looking at starting next season.
Experience: 11 accrued seasons
Weight: 259 lbs
Brooks’ 2017 base salary hit a de-escalator this offseason, taking it from $6.95 million to $4.45 million. His cap hit for 2017, the final year on his contract, is $6.148 million. The 49ers would save $5.3 million in cap space and take a dead money hit of $848,750 if they were to release Brooks.
Why he might improve
Brooks hasn’t slowed down, which is a good sign. He’s getting up there in years, but his skillset and conditioning both seem as good as they always have been. He’s playing for coaches that really like and believe in him. He’s playing a position that suits him in a defense that accentuates his playing style.
Why he might regress
Then again ... a new position, yet another new defense, another new head coach, more young, hungry players, more competition ... maybe all of those things work against Brooks. He’s on the wrong side of 30 and regression would not be surprising in the slightest.
Odds of making the roster
At this point, I don’t see the 49ers releasing Brooks to save money. Even if he regresses and isn’t the starter, he’s a valuable player to have on the field and in a “put the best 11 players out there” scenario, Brooks is often there or just after that cutoff. He’s making the roster without much issue.