After spending the past two seasons on the San Francisco 49ers’ practice squad, safety Michael Thomas has found a new home. The Miami Dolphins signed Thomas off San Francisco’s practice squad to their 53-man roster this week.
Thomas was a safety San Francisco’s coaching staff coveted and he was a player of the future in the secondary. The Niners wanted to keep Thomas so much that they bumped his weekly salary from $6,000 to just under $9,000 for this season. Jim Harbaugh saw Thomas not only as someone who could play safety for his defense, but also as a potential slot cornerback. Thomas saw action at the position during training camp.
Harbaugh knows what type of player Thomas can be on the field, at least at the collegiate level. Thomas was coached by Harbaugh from 2008-2010 and by defensive coordinator Vic Fangio in 2010, while attending Stanford.
Coach Harbaugh is known for trying to keep players on his practice squad that are of future value to the 49ers. One example is guard Al Netter who, since last season, is being paid $23,000 a week to keep him from being signed to the 53-man roster of another team. It has been reported that Netter has turned down opportunities to join the 53-man roster on other teams to remain a Niner.
A big reason why Thomas was valuable to the 49ers — despite him not having any NFL experience — is because of the free agents to be in the secondary. After this season, safety Donte Whitner and cornerbacks Tarell Brown and Eric Wright will be free agents. There is also the possibility that cornerback Carlos Rogers will be released in the off-season because he is due over $8 million in 2014. And even though rookie Eric Reid is the future at free safety, there are health concerns with him because he has suffered two concussions this season.
The other safeties on the roster are C.J. Spillman (primarily a special teamer) and Craig Dahl (signed a three-year contract in the off-season).