With the 49ers already evaluating who’ll make the 53 man roster in 2022, these five bubble-watch players can’t afford to be let go by Week 1.
In an ideal world, NFL teams would embrace the NCAA practice of having up to 125 active players on a roster.
Instead, the NFL is limited to just 53.
For playoff-caliber teams like the San Francisco 49ers, this ultimately means some good-quality players who’d likely start somewhere in the league won’t ultimately make their 53-man roster out of training camp.
In most cases, this is a good thing. It means the talent above is excellent and deep.
However, there are some fringe players on the Niners roster bubble whom general manager John Lynch and Co. simply can’t cut by the time Week 3 of the 2022 preseason wraps up.
Let’s look at five such players and why they have to be considered indispensable heading into the upcoming season.
49ers bubble player No. 5: Defensive back Dontae Johnson
We all love some Dontae Johnson.
The veteran defensive back who seemingly finds himself off and on San Francisco’s 53-man roster on nearly a weekly basis during the regular season has found himself a new role during organized team activities: a safety.
The 49ers stockpiled at cornerback during the offseason, meaning Johnson might not cut it on the depth chart there. But the 30-year-old veteran has been seeing time with the second-string safety group during early practices.
The Niners have more questions at this position than at cornerback, namely with prior special teams aces like Talanoa Hufanga and George Odum competing for the starting strong safety job alongside free safety Jimmie Ward.
Considering Ward does have an injury history, and neither Hufanga nor Odum have been regular full-time starters at the pro level, Johnson’s versatility and experience might play out well here for depth purposes.
Even if San Francisco risks cutting Johnson, which it shouldn’t, the team shouldn’t hesitate to keep his number on speed dial just in case.