49ers roster: Early bubble watch after adding Arden Key, Maurice Hurst

Arden Key #99 of the Oakland Raiders (Photo by Stephen Maturen/Getty Images)
Arden Key #99 of the Oakland Raiders (Photo by Stephen Maturen/Getty Images) /
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Dee Ford, San Francisco 49ers
San Francisco 49ers defensive end Dee Ford (55) and defensive tackle Arik Armstead (91) Mandatory Credit: Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports /

49ers early defensive line roster bubble

It’s still unclear how the NFL will formulate rules for teams’ practice squads this season. A reversion back to the 2019 format will mean the return of ineligible players who have accrued too many seasons at the pro level to be placed here. Yet if the league is still guarding against COVID-19 and/or potential injuries suffered in the wake of an again-altered offseason program, it’s possible practice squads could once more reopen to veteran-type players. The same goes with the modified 55-man game-day rosters, too.

Either way, the bubble still stands.

49ers locks for the defensive line

  • Arik Armstead
  • Nick Bosa
  • Samson Ebukam
  • D.J. Jones
  • Javon Kinlaw

No big surprises here. The 49ers already have big commitments to Armstead, Bosa and Kinlaw, while Ebukam signed his lofty two-year, $12 million free-agent contract this offseason, per Over the Cap.

Jones gets the nod based on the $1 million guaranteed in his one-year deal to return. While the 49ers could afford the dead money if he fails to make the roster, that’s a lot to dish out for a player if he was presumably on the bubble.

49ers strong-bubble defensive line players

  • Maurice Hurst
  • Zach Kerr
  • Jordan Willis

The Niners are banking on the upsides of players like Hurst and Willis. And while the financials behind Hurst’s deal aren’t known yet, he still has a ways to go before ensuring a spot on the 53-man roster.

Kerr and Willis both signed deals where the guaranteed money is small or nonexistent — $200,000 and $0, respectively. No problem moving on there, should San Francisco want to, although all three players boast the speed factor the 49ers have seemingly been interested in redeploying after the D-line was so slow last season.

San Francisco 49ers
San Francisco 49ers /

San Francisco 49ers

49ers weak-bubble defensive line players

  • Alex Barrett
  • Darrion Daniels
  • Daeshon Hall
  • Kentavius Street

Barrett managed to get himself into seven games last season, so that’s reason enough to suggest he has a chance to land one of those final depth spots in camp. The Niners, too, liked Daniels last year, although he failed to make the Week 1 cut.

It’s probably time San Francisco moves on from its fourth-round pick from the 2018 NFL Draft, Street.

49ers long-shot defensive line players

  • Josiah Coatney
  • Dee Ford
  • Kevin Givens

Givens impressed in a major way in 2020, thanks to injuries to players like Jones, registering 19 tackles, three quarterback hits, a sack and a fumble recovery last year. But Givens getting himself into some alleged offseason trouble likely means he’s gone.

If anything, the 49ers’ other moves for their defensive interior suggest so anyway.

Ford is on the long-shot list simply because it’s highly doubtful he’ll be ready to go after missing all but one game with a serious back injury last year. He’ll technically be on the team but likely starts Week 1 on an injury list rather than the 53-man roster.

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