MIKE: Fred Warner, Elijah Lee
WILL: Kwon Alexander, David Mayo
SAM: Dre Greenlaw, Mark Nzeocha
Trimming a roster down to 53 players ultimately means taking some risks, especially against injuries. And Kyle Shanahan may be forced to do that here.
San Francisco drops from seven linebackers in our last prediction piece down to six. The one notable name missing is veteran linebacker Malcolm Smith.
Smith’s tenure with the 49ers has been disappointing, enough for his contract to be renegotiated down to a one year-deal for 2019. And while cutting Smith after the preseason would generate a lofty $4.2 million in dead money for the season, it ultimately frees up a roster spot Shanahan will happily use elsewhere.
Even if it means taking that risk and fully hoping the team’s primary free-agent pickup from the offseason, Kwon Alexander, returns healthy enough to contribute after tearing his ACL with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers last year.
Rookie Dre Greenlaw has been seeing a lot of first-team reps during training camp, essentially unseating Smith’s previous hold on the SAM spot during OTAs. And while SAM linebackers don’t see the field as much as both the MIKE and WILL backers, Greenlaw’s projected role figures to be a good one this season.