49ers potentially face a logjam at linebacker if De'Vondre Campbell balls out

De'Vondre Campbell's presence on the Niners roster crowds a position that already includes plenty of other starting-caliber options.
Green Bay Packers linebacker De'Vondre Campbell
Green Bay Packers linebacker De'Vondre Campbell / Perry Knotts/GettyImages

De'Vondre Campbell lends his name to an already-crowded 49ers linebacker corps, which isn't necessarily a bad thing.

The San Francisco 49ers made no effort to hide the fact they were searching for a quality linebacker who could start right away in 2024 after losing star backer Dre Greenlaw to a torn Achilles in the Super Bowl the previous February.

Initially, the target was former Minnesota Vikings and Los Angeles Chargers linebacker Eric Kendricks, but after he turned down an offer from the Niners and joined the Dallas Cowboys instead, San Francisco fell back on a contingency plan.

Former Green Bay Packers linebacker De'Vondre Campbell.

Signing a one-year deal worth up to $5 million, of which $4.56 million is guaranteed, it's clear the 49ers have every intent of making the soon-to-be 31-year-old Campbell a significant part of their defense this season.

Especially if Greenlaw is unable to return anytime soon, leaving Campbell as the starting option alongside All-Pro Fred Warner.

A first-team All-Pro in 2021, Campbell might not be quite the player he once was during his heyday, although he's apparently loving playing football again for the first time in years. And there's always the hope Campbell reverts back to his previous All-Pro form.

Sounds great. But, what happens when Greenlaw returns?

How De'Vondre Campbell crowds 49ers depth chart at linebacker

Greenlaw is likely to miss the start of the regular season, perhaps starting off 2024 on an injury list.

Assuming he returns at some point during the year, though, what would the situation be if both Warner and Campbell are fully healthy?

The Niners typically operate out of their nickel defense, meaning there are only two backers on the field at any given time. While a rotation is good, it's not hard to see that someone will have to take a diminished role if the trio of Warner, Greenlaw and Campbell are fully healthy.

On the positive side, though, it affords San Francisco the opportunity to take things slow with Greenlaw's recovery, knowing it has a proven All-Pro to help fill the void.

The more serious implications are likely to be felt further down the depth chart where other linebackers like Demetrius Flannigan-Fowles, Dee Winters, Jalen Graham and the 2024 seventh-round rookie, Tatum Bethune, could watch their precarious holds on a roster spot diminish once Greenlaw returns.

Yet that's not a big problem for San Francisco. If anything, having too many options at a key position is a bonus.

Even if the position itself winds up being crowded.

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