The San Francisco 49ers were busy in free agency, signing four potential starters and two depth options. Center Weston Richburg and running back Jerick McKinnon are expected to slot in immediately as starter. Cornerback Richard Sherman is rehabbing his torn Achilles, and when he gets back on the field, there’s a good chance he claims a starting role. Finally, Jonathan Cooper is currently slotted in as a starter at one of the two guard positions opposite Laken Tomlinson, although Joshua Garnett will be competing as well.
But what about the two depth options? The team signed Jerry Attaochu to compete for an opportunity as an edge rusher. The 49ers are likely going to add an edge rusher in the draft, but Attaochu should still get plenty of opportunities as a rotational guy.
Earlier this week, the 49ers signed linebacker Korey Toomer. He will be viewed as a depth and special teams guy, but he’s an intriguing option given his background. He played for the Chargers the last two seasons, with last year coming under the direction of defensive coordinator Gus Bradley. Toomer got his start with the Seattle Seahawks, with his first year being Bradley’s last as Seattle’s defensive coordinator.
Toomer will have some familiarity with the defense. As noted by David Lombardi, Toomer topped NFL linebackers in PFF’s run stop rate in 2016, and was tenth in 2017. He did not have a ton of such snaps (177 and 150, respectively), but he found success when he was out there.
My question is which of Toomer, Attaochu, and Cooper end up the biggest sleeper addition of the offseason? Cooper is the most likely to secure a starting role, which gives him a leg up in that regard. If he plays well, he’ll almost assuredly end up with more snaps than Attaochu and Toomer (possibly combined).
Attaochu will be in the pass rush rotation, but his impact will depend in part on how much more the 49ers invest. Arik Armstead is the likely LEO, but the team could add a Harold Landry or Marcus Davenport in the first round. If they go edge rusher in the first round, what does that mean for Attaochu (and Cassius Marsh for that matter)?
Toomer will compete with Brock Coyle as a depth option. Reuben Foster’s future is the biggest question as to what kind of work Toomer and Coyle will get. If Malcolm Smith stays healthy this year, it all comes down to Reuben Foster. Injuries remain a question for him, but his domestic violence case is the biggest question at this point.