On a very young team, journeyman linebacker and ST ace Dekoda Watson is a wise old man at 30. The 2010 seventh-round pick is a strong veteran special teamer — he was Denver’s ST captain when the Niners signed him in free agency — and a credible backup SAM linebacker.
He made a lot of sense for the Niners last year, with his combination of solid play, veteran smarts, and experience playing under defensive coordinator Robert Saleh for one season when Saleh was the linebackers coach at Jacksonville. But the talent level is rising rapidly and he’ll have to ball out in training camp to make this roster.
Age: 30 (turns 31 on March 3, 2019)
Experience: 8 accrued seasons
Watson is entering the second season of his three-year contract. He is due a base salary of $1,050,000, plus a $200,000 roster bonus and a $50,000 workout bonus. If cut, the Niners will have $333,000 in dead money and save $1,275,000 in cap money.
Why he might regress in 2018
30 is starting to get to that age where there are no guarantees, and his production dropped a lot last year. Despite playing 288 (62 percent) of the 49ers special teams snaps last year, he only had four special teams tackles, down from 11 in 2016. The story was similar when he filled in at linebacker — he wasn’t embarrassing but his stat line is pretty quiet.
Every new player (aside from McGlinchey) is focused on special teams as their way to make the team, while 3rd round pick LB Fred Warner and athletic redshirt LB Pita Taumoepenu are gunning for the few defensive snaps he got. As if all that weren’t enough, he injured his calf during mini-camp and had to leave early.
Why he might improve in 2018
Uh, reading a good self-help book? Signing up for Tom Brady’s TB12 food and exercise program?
The only hope of significant improvement is that he realizes he’s on the cusp of getting cut and considers ways to reinvent himself as a football player.
Odds of making the team
Not good. Watson’s had a good run, but I don’t see a place for him on this squad barring one or two injuries. The good news is, he should be able to find a slot on a team with a worse roster.