49ers roster: Does Alex Barrett finally get his chance in 2022?

San Francisco 49ers defensive end Alex Barrett (64) Mandatory Credit: Darren Yamashita-USA TODAY Sports
San Francisco 49ers defensive end Alex Barrett (64) Mandatory Credit: Darren Yamashita-USA TODAY Sports /

The 49ers defensive line remains awfully deep, meaning Alex Barrett might have yet another uphill struggle to make much of a presence in 2022.

When one thinks of the San Francisco 49ers defensive line over the last three years, at least behind the big-name players like EDGE Nick Bosa and defensive tackle Arik Armstead, the 28-year-old Alex Barrett probably isn’t the first one who comes to mind.

It’s not entirely his fault. After all, the Niners have spent repeated high-profile assets to reinforce this group ever since head coach Kyle Shanahan and general manager John Lynch took over in 2017.

As a result, players like Barrett have been pushed to the periphery.

And if you’re wondering who Barrett is or how long he’s been on San Francisco’s roster, you might not be alone. He broke into the league with the Detroit Lions in 2017 as an undrafted free agent but saw minimal regular-season action before jumping ship to the now-defunct Alliance of American Football in 2018.

It’s important to note the 49ers scouted the AAF heavily (just ask right guard Daniel Brunskill), and Barrett caught their eye, as the Niners signed him to the practice squad late in 2019.

Alex Barrett Defense & Fumbles Table
1 yr1 yrDET200.010100
1 yr1 yrSFO700.050502

Provided by Pro-Football-Reference.com
Generated 5/26/2022.

San Francisco didn’t need Barrett to play a role that year, but amid the team’s rash of serious injuries in 2020, including Bosa going down with an ACL tear in Week 2, Barrett got another modest chance and appeared in seven games.

Then, in 2021 when the 49ers D-line was back to relative full strength, Barrett was once again relegated to the practice squad.

Should we expect the same for him again in 2022?

Why Alex Barrett finally breaks out for 49ers in 2022

“Breaking out” might be a relative term here, but let’s put it into Barrett’s perspective: having a shot to be on the gameday roster on a week-to-week basis.

Barrett’s 6-foot-2, 250-pound frame is more of an outside-linebacker build than an interior defender, so one might figure he could look towards being a situational edge rusher at best. It’s important to note he had a 4.97 40-yard time during his 2017 pro day, so the speed is on his side with regards to that aspect.

And going back to that 2020 campaign, two quarterback hits on 119 defensive snaps isn’t a wholly terrible number.

With the 49ers losing defensive end Arden Key and soon to part ways with EDGE Dee Ford, perhaps the path towards a regular roster spot is a bit clearer for Barrett now.

Why Alex Barrett remains a 49ers afterthought in 2022

Despite losing Key and eventually bidding farewell to Ford, Barrett still faces a long road ahead of him with regards to cracking the 53-man roster.

More on that in a second, but we’ve now looked at five full years with Barrett in the NFL ranks in one way or another. And while he might have flashed signs of promise here and there, the hard reality is he’s likely little more than a fringe player who is capable of showing up on a few training-camp practice reports and potentially making a handful of plays during preseason games.

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Other than that, he’s likely a scout team player during the regular season, only to be called up in the event of a series of injuries, as was the case in 2020.

Chances Alex Barrett makes 49ers’ 53-man roster

Just like his prospects for surviving post-preseason roster cuts a year ago when the Niners D-line was almost entirely healthy, Barrett’s hopes for playing above the practice squad are slim entering 2022.

Sure, Key and Ford aren’t going to play an obstacle role, but San Francisco elected to onboard former Indianapolis Colts EDGE Kemoko Turay, while also using a second-round NFL Draft pick on USC EDGE Drake Jackson.

Two players out, two new players in. The amount of D-linemen Barrett would have to beat in camp hasn’t changed at all.

Granted, the 49ers seem to appreciate Barrett’s depth role as it is, though, and they’ve shown this by retaining him in one form or another dating back to 2019. Even though scout-team and practice squad players share almost none of a team’s glory, those are important roles.

Barrett seems to epitomize that, and it’s likely where he’ll be heading once more in 2022.

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