49ers’ 2019 ‘Who Is?’ series: Linebacker David Mayo

ATLANTA, GA - SEPTEMBER 16: David Mayo #55 of the Carolina Panthers warms up prior to the game against the Atlanta Falcons at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on September 16, 2018 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
ATLANTA, GA - SEPTEMBER 16: David Mayo #55 of the Carolina Panthers warms up prior to the game against the Atlanta Falcons at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on September 16, 2018 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images) /

The San Francisco 49ers brought in veteran linebacker David Mayo during the offseason, looking for him to fill both a backup and special teams void in 2019.

The San Francisco 49ers suffered an unheralded, yet key loss during the offseason, losing perennial backup linebacker Brock Coyle to a career-ending concussion.

The Niners cut Coyle, so he could receive his guaranteed cash, yet that ultimately created a void Coyle held since joining the team back in 2017.

As a preemptive measure, San Francisco inked 25-year-old veteran linebacker David Mayo to a two-year deal. Mayo, who was grabbed by the Carolina Panthers in Round 5 of the 2015 NFL Draft, likely fills the void left by Coyle.

And it’s something he’s done ever since joining the pro ranks.

David Mayo Defense & Fumbles Table

Provided by Pro-Football-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 6/16/2019.

Mayo has remained a special teams contributor for all four years of his career. But will the 49ers ask him to do more this season?

Niner Noise’s “Who Is?” series takes a deeper look.

Why David Mayo Improves in 2019

Mayo’s age still means he can grow into his prime further still, which is a good thing. And while he’s never served as a primary inside backer, Mayo does have that ability. He started four games for the Panthers between 2017 and 2018, particularly when the team was dealing with some injuries at the position.

At 6-foot-2 and 245 pounds, Mayo can adequately handle inside duties. With San Francisco’s switch to a wide-9 front, all three linebacking spots have become more interchangeable.

This serves to make Mayo’s presence even more valuable.

Yet San Francisco will ask Mayo to be more of a special teams contributor this season. While Pro Football Focus assigned him a lowish 59.7 special teams grade last year, the previous three years never saw Mayo’s special teams marks drop below 72.0.

Jumping back into the 70s here would prove a bonus for a Niners special teams unit, which ranked 14th in 2018, according to Football Outsiders.

Why David Mayo Regresses

While Mayo possesses solid special teams history and can serve a number of roles as an inside linebacker, there isn’t much else he does particularly exceptionally.

Against the run, Mayo owns a 48.5 PFF grade from last year. In pass coverage, this mark was 48.0.

Mayo also missed four tackles last season, which could be one of the reasons Carolina elected to let him walk. That won’t bode well for a backup, and the 49ers are looking to avoid the numerous tackling issues they had a year ago.

If Mayo winds up dealing with those issues on special teams, too, it wouldn’t be a shock to see his time in San Francisco end up being relatively brief.

Projected Role with the 49ers in 2019

Mayo’s two-year deal suggests San Francisco is planning on keeping him on the 53-man roster, at least for this year.

True, the Niners brought aboard two inside linebackers this offseason: Kwon Alexander and Dre Greenlaw, who both figure to be ahead of Mayo on the depth chart. But Alexander is coming off a 2018 ACL injury, while second-year linebacker Fred Warner is dealing with a knee issue which will keep him out until training camp.

Cutting Mayo this season would incur a $1.1 million dead-cap hit, with just $150,000 in savings. But there’s zero in guaranteed money for 2020, meaning the 49ers essentially committed to him for just one year.

This means Mayo is relatively safe on the depth chart for now, and he’ll likely be asked to serve that backup linebacker role and provide adequate production on special teams this season.

dark. Next. Predicting 49ers' linebacker depth chart for 2019

And if it goes well, Mayo will be asked to replicate those efforts again in 2020. But that’s a worry for next year’s “Who Is?” series.

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