49ers predictions: 5 dark-horse additions to 53-man roster in 2021

Jauan Jennings #17 of the San Francisco 49ers (Photo by Michael Zagaris/San Francisco 49ers/Getty Images)
Jauan Jennings #17 of the San Francisco 49ers (Photo by Michael Zagaris/San Francisco 49ers/Getty Images) /
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Alex Barrett, Alex Smith, San Francisco 49ers, Washington Football Team
Washington Football Team quarterback Alex Smith (11) ) throws against San Francisco 49ers defensive end Alex Barrett (64) Mandatory Credit: Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports /

Each year, there are unpredicted additions to the 49ers’ regular-season roster, and these five dark-horse candidates could squeak by Week 1 cuts.

The San Francisco 49ers haven’t been strangers to putting players on the deeper ends of the offseason roster bubble onto the regular-season roster.

In 2019, undrafted rookie linebacker Azeez Al-Shaair managed to work his way up from a training camp hopeful onto the 53-man roster, where he ended up contributing on special teams and even managed to start five games that year in light of injuries at an otherwise stacked position.

This year, despite the Niners already having the bulk of their starting positions figured out for 2021, a number of depth spots remain open despite general manager John Lynch’s actions in free agency and the NFL Draft.

Hence there will be some room for dark-horse candidates to wind up finding a spot on the team when Week 1 rolls around. They’ll have to perform well during training camp and the preseason, yes. And being able to contribute on special teams can surely help, too.

Here are five currently on the bubble who could find themselves on the 53-man squad when the regular season begins.

No. 5: 49ers DE Alex Barrett

San Francisco has plenty of depth options for its defensive line, but finding a quality 3-technique reserve player remains something the team has to think about heading into 2021.

Kentavius Street, the 49ers’ fourth-round pick from the 2018 NFL Draft, hasn’t exactly shown much value in his limited playing time, while defensive tackle Kevin Givens’ legal issues could potentially push him off the roster this offseason altogether.

Instead, the Niners seem to have found a quality rotational player in the veteran, Alex Barrett, who managed five tackles and two quarterback hits in 2020 while appearing on just 12 percent of the defense’s snaps last year.

Plus, Barrett’s prior experience under San Francisco’s defensive line coach, Kris Kocurek, back with the Detroit Lions in 2017 probably gives the 27 year old a slight edge over some of the other depth candidates vying for a spot on the 53-man roster.

Barrett might end up being inactive on game days as long as the rest of the cast is healthy. But that should at least allow him to stay with the regular-season crop.