Over the past couple of season, the 49ers have seemingly been snakebitten at the inside linebacker position. Year after year, the team has ended the season with special teamers and free agents starting, which has likely contributed to the fielding of middling (and worse) defenses. This year, however, things are certainly looking up.
The return of Malcolm Smith from his 2017 injury, the clearing of Reuben Foster’s name, the drafting of Fred Warner, the signing of Korey Toomer, and the extension of Brock Coyle bode well for the 49ers, with each player but Warner (a rookie) having starting experience in the NFL. Furthermore, the entire group of five only accounts for a shade over $10 million against the cap for the 2018 season, and the team has easy outs with both Coyle and Smith on the horizon. The team is hardly tied down to Toomer, who is on a one-year deal with minimal guarantees.
If injuries begin to pile up, having this kind of depth cannot be understated. Should the team begin to prune the ILB corps in the future, they have easy outs with Coyle next off season ($1.4 million), and with Smith the offseason after next ($4.2 million), when the possible dead money becomes signing-bonus-only. If the team decides to only roll with 4 inside linebackers (MIKE + WILL), cutting 29 year-old Korey Toomer will only leave $90,000 in dead money, making him either extremely low-cost depth or a candidate for the downside of the numbers game come cut day.
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