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Linebacker bubble watch awaits word of potential Reuben Foster suspension

The San Francisco 49ers are waiting on an NFL decision regarding Reuben Foster discipline. If he gets suspended, it opens up a spot for some amount of time.

The San Francisco 49ers wrapped up minicamp and are now a month away from the start of training camp. The 90-man roster is just about set, although a transaction here or there would not be entirely shocking. Shortly after the draft we put together a complete roster bubble watch, and now it’s time to re-visit it. The offseason workout program did not lock in most roster spots, but it might give us some hints here and there.

Over the next two weeks, we’re going to take a look at each position, and what the bubble watch looks like. As we’ve done for a while 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. Additionally, this does not reflect whether or not a player will be traded. Trades can and probably will happen during training camp, but the positioning on this focuses on whether or not they’d be cut.

Running back
Wide receiver
Tight end
Offensive Line
Defensive Line

Today, we move on to the linebackers.

Lock: Reuben Foster, Malcolm Smith, Eli Harold, Fred Warner
Strong Bubble: Dekoda Watson, Korey Toomer, Brock Coyle, Pita Taumoepenu
Weak Bubble: Elijah Lee, Mark Nzeocha
Longshot: None

The San Francisco 49ers linebacker situation was mostly clarified with Reuben Foster’s domestic violence case getting dismissed, but his marijuana and weapons charges leave open the likelihood of some kind of NFL suspension. If he starts the season on the suspended list, that opens the door for one of the players on the bubble to secure a roster spot for at least a week or two.

Last season, the 49ers had eight or nine linebackers for much of the season, but closed with seven linebackers. They could realistically open the season with the eight players listed as either lock or strong bubble. Depending on how many linebackers the 49ers want to keep, Toomer and Coyle would be competing for a reserve strong/weak spot, while Watson and Taumoepenu would be competing for a reserve SAM role.

Given the versatility of linebackers when it comes to special teams roles, keeping eight linebackers would not surprise me. Lee and Nzeocha are on the outside looking in for now, but if Foster faces a suspension, one of them could find himself on the roster early in the season.