49ers roster 2024: Chase Lucas is a wild card in crowded secondary

Could Chase Lucas wind up finding a more prominent role with the 49ers after joining them in free agency this offseason?
Detroit Lions cornerback Chase Lucas (27)
Detroit Lions cornerback Chase Lucas (27) / Rey Del Rio/GettyImages

Mostly a special teams ace, Chase Lucas nevertheless crowds an already overflowing number of players in the 49ers defensive backfield.

The San Francisco 49ers had only a handful of splash moves in free agency this offseason, and the pickup of former Detroit Lions cornerback Chase Lucas certainly wasn't one of them.

Lucas, who had a slight altercation with one of the Niners' cornerbacks during last season's NFC Championship game, Deommodore Lenoir, now finds himself in the same locker room heading into 2024.

And it'll be quite the competition for Lucas, who'll hopefully be on friendlier terms with Lenoir moving forward.

Almost exclusively a special teams ace during his stint in Detroit, is it feasible for the 27-year-old defensive back to find himself assuming a larger role with his new team? Or will he continue to be someone who merely assists on the underappreciated-yet-vital third phase of the game?

What contract did Chase Lucas sign?

Lucas, a 2022 seventh-round NFL Draft choice by the Lions out of Arizona State, inked a one-year deal worth up to $985,000 with zero in guaranteed money, according to Over the Cap.

That points to the reality of Lucas being on the fringes of the roster, as the Niners can part ways with him at any point during the year (including pre-Week 1 roster cuts) without any dead-money implications.

On the flip side, Lucas is scheduled to be a restricted free agent in 2025, which might help San Francisco guard against some likely free-agent attrition scheduled to hit the position a little less than a year from now.

If Lucas has promise, particularly beyond just his contributions on special teams, a restricted free-agent tender is much cheaper than going after big-name free agents next offseason.

What are the 49ers looking to get out of Chase Lucas?

Over the last two years combined, the 5-foot-11 and 184-pound Lucas saw just six defensive snaps. In contrast, during 2023 alone, he played 230 special teams snaps.

Despite making it all the way to the Super Bowl, San Francisco's special teams ranked 25th in the entire league last season, according to Pro Football Focus. While Lucas' 57.1 overall PFF grade on special teams from 2023 doesn't sound great, it's clear the addition was made to help bolster this third phase.

Beyond that, though, Lucas is very much in the mix for backup duties at cornerback, primarily at nickel where Lenoir is pegged as the day-one starter with others like Ambry Thomas, Rock Ya-Sin and rookie Renardo Green are also in the discussion.

The lack of meaningful defensive field time is a bit of a concern, but the 49ers clearly had eyes on Lucas' potential beyond just being a special teams contributor, although they're not going to hinge significant hope upon anything aside from the positional competition that'll take place later this summer during training camp and in preseason games.

Either way, Lucas' journey with the Niners will be interesting to watch, especially if he can set himself apart from the rest of the cast vying for roster spots.

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