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49ers roster: 3 positions that improved this offseason and 2 that are worse

Rohan Chakravarthi
May 24, 2022 at 12:00 PM--

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Following their defeat to the Los Angeles Rams in the NFC Championship Game, the San Francisco 49ers sought to improve their roster this offseason, expecting a quarterback change for 2022.

Fast-forward a couple of months and the 49ers now have a clearer picture of their 2022 team, which has experienced some significant roster turnover at certain positions.

Which position groups on the roster improved following free agency and the draft, and which got worse?


1. Wide Receiver

Despite rostering a strong wide receiver group in 2021, headlined by "wideback" Deebo Samuel, who caught 77 passes for 1405 yards and six touchdowns, the 49ers continued to improve the position during the offseason, adding the likes of Ray-Ray McCloud and Danny Gray via free agency and the draft, respectively.

McCloud, who started his career with the Pittsburgh Steelers, caught 39 passes for 277 yards last season, but was one of the NFL's top returners, returning 38 punts (1st in NFL) for 367 yards (1st in NFL), averaging 9.7 yards per return (3rd in NFL).

Additionally, McCloud was a good kick returner, returning 35 kicks (3rd in NFL) for 776 yards (4th in NFL), averaging 22.2 yards per return (15th in NFL).

McCloud's production was hindered in Pittsburgh due to quarterback Ben Roethlisberger's lack of arm strength, which limited his route tree and explosive speed. He should be used in a more versatile role in San Francisco, where he can use his acceleration after the catch to make big plays in his limited role.

SMU wide receiver Danny Gray possesses elite deep speed, as he ran a 4.33 40-yard dash at the combine, and that speed was reflected at rookie minicamp. His speed provides the 49ers with something they've lacked at the receiver position, as well as his ability to work after the catch.

The 49ers looked to fortify their final receiver position as well, adding veterans Malik Turner and Marcus Johnson in free agency, while picking up undrafted free agents Tay Martin and Taysir Mack to compete for a roster spot.

Returning their top three receivers from 2021, who all add another year of development under their belt, while also acquiring talented players in the offseason, the 49ers improved at the wide receiver position.

2. Defensive End

The 49ers sported a strong group at defensive end in 2021, which was reflected by their top-five rankings in both the number of sacks accumulated and sack %.

But, the 49ers lost breakout player Arden Key, who had eight sacks in 2021, to the Jacksonville Jaguars in free agency, losing a key member of their depth.

However, the 49ers strengthened the position, adding former Colts edge rusher Kemoko Turay in free agency and retaining a number of valuable players in 2021 like Jordan Willis, while also selecting USC edge rusher Drake Jackson with their first pick of the 2022 NFL Draft.

The 49ers have incredible depth at the edge position, matched by the top-tier talent of Nick Bosa and Arik Armstead, providing them with an even stronger group heading into 2022.

3. Cornerback

Despite having Jason Verrett and Emmanuel Moseley to begin the season in 2021, the 49ers were forced to look to the streets and acquire veterans Josh Norman and Dre Kirkpatrick early in the season because of injuries and the lack of depth at the position last year.

The 49ers sought to change that issue this year, not only with depth, but also with available talent, signing former Kansas City Chiefs cornerback Charvarius Ward to a three-year deal to take over their top cornerback spot on the depth chart.

Additionally, the 49ers retained key members of their 2021 unit in Dontae Johnson and the injured Jason Verrett for depth, while also selecting two cornerbacks in the draft: Toledo's Samuel Womack and Penn State's Tariq Castro-Fields.

While there is an open competition at the slot cornerback position following the departure of veteran K'Waun Williams, the overall talent and depth of the group has improved ahead of 2022.


1. Offensive Line

It was inevitable that the 49ers would face turnover at the offensive line position, as guard Laken Tomlinson was expected to fetch a significant offer in free agency, and got exactly that with a three-year, $40.5 million deal with the New York Jets.

Tomlinson's replacement, second-year player Aaron Banks, essentially had a redshirt year in 2021, and now is expected to take over at left guard—the position in college.

Additionally, there is still uncertainty surrounding Alex Mack and whether he will return for another NFL season, meaning the 49ers will have to rely on either a young player or veteran Daniel Brunskill at the position, both of which are currently worse options.

Right tackle Mike McGlinchey is expected to be the starter opposite Trent Williams at the tackle position, but is coming off a torn quadriceps injury which could hinder his play early on as he makes his return.

With the number of questions and the turnover on the offensive line, the position group is worse than last year for now.

2. Safety

The 49ers had the opportunity to improve at the safety position in 2021, as there were a number of available free agents without a ton of demand, including the likes of Terrell Edmunds and Jayron Kearse, who returned to their respective teams.

Instead, they opted for special-teams ace George Odum, who was an All-Pro in 2020 after accumulating 20 special-teams tackles, which led the NFL, while missing zero tackles for the entire year.

The 49ers lost a trusted starter in Jaquiski Tartt and as of now, it appears there are no inclinations to bring the 31-year-old safety back for another season.

There are questions for the position opposite Jimmie Ward, given that Tarvarius Moore is coming off an ACL injury, Talanoa Hufanga lacks elite athleticism, and Odum doesn't have a lot of experience playing safety, which is why the position group is worse for now.
The opinions within this article are those of the writer and, while just as important, are not necessarily those of the site as a whole.


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