49ers roster 2023: Demetrius Flannigan-Fowles is due a promotion... right?

The 49ers have long valued Demetrius Flannigan-Fowles as a backup and special teams contributor, but could he be in line for a bigger role in 2023?
San Francisco 49ers linebacker Demetrius Flannigan-Fowles (45)
San Francisco 49ers linebacker Demetrius Flannigan-Fowles (45) / Michael Zagaris/GettyImages

The free-agent loss of Azeez Al-Shaair opens up the door for the 49ers to bump Demetrius Flannigan-Fowles up the depth chart. But it might not be that simple.

For the first two years of his pro career, linebacker Demetrius Flanningan-Fowles was quickly classified as one with a tough chance scraping his way onto the San Francisco 49ers' 53-man roster.

And that was the case in his rookie 2019 season when he landed on the practice squad.

Over the last two years, it's been hard to envision the Niners roster without him.

Granted, the former undrafted free agent out of Arizona is a niche player, primarily spending his time on special teams while occasionally making the spot start when San Francisco has dealt with injury shortages at the position.

However, with a notable free-agent loss of Azeez Al-Shaair to the Tennessee Titans in 2023, the door is open just a bit wider for Flannigan-Fowles to take on a bigger role moving forward.


























But the 26-year-old reserve linebacker won't be handed a starting strong-side job automatically. No, the 49ers have other returning players who'd also love to fill the void left by Al-Shaair.

And there are a couple of new faces, too, NFL draftees in the form of Dee Winters and Jalen Graham. They'd also like to assume Al-Shaair's former role as well.

Facing such stiff competition, will Flannigan-Fowles end up assuming a greater role in 2023?

Will Demetrius Flannigan-Fowles take over for Azeez Al-Shaair on 49ers roster?

Both Winters and Graham are candidates to be the top SAM linebacker this season, and it's effectively a backup role anyway with the Niners playing in the two-backer nickel formation most of the time.

Flannigan-Fowles, who has impressed head coach Kyle Shanahan and Co. ever since 2021, likely has the edge over both rookies. Yet he'll have to also beat out some returning veterans such as Oren Burks and Marcelino McCrary-Ball, both of whom are also in the running to be the primary SAM backer.

Burks, another special teams ace, might actually be the favorite to start here, as he had one more start than Flannigan-Fowles last season.

Read More: Oren Burks to play more than just special teams for San Francisco?

If Burks wins the SAM job, though, Flannigan-Fowles would still appear to be the No. 1 reserve option, which would essentially be a promotion for him.

What are the 49ers paying Demetrius Flannigan-Fowles this season?

Flannigan-Fowles is currently on a one-year contract worth up to $1.825 million, according to Over the Cap, and $750,000 of that is guaranteed.

He will be an unrestricted free agent after this season, though, so it's safe to say Flannigan-Fowles will be desperate toward putting together a strong season in hopes of landing a much more lucrative contract in 2024.

Will Demetrius Flannigan-Fowles make the 49ers' 53-man roster?

As is the case with most non-core reserve players, it's hard to guarantee a roster spot for Flannigan-Fowles this season, but he's surely on the stronger side of the bubble if not guaranteed a spot.

For starters, $750,000 in guaranteed money is quite a lot for a role player, and it's already established San Francisco appreciates his special teams versatility and contributions. Tack on a small uptick in defensive snaps over the last two years, and Flannigan-Fowles is checking off that box, too.

Winters and Graham can both threaten Flannigan-Fowles' spot on the depth chart, while McCrary-Ball is in the mix. Burks, like Flannigan-Fowles, is guaranteed a spot as well, though, meaning these two veterans are likely safe to round out the linebacker group behind Dre Greenlaw and Fred Warner.

Should any one of those better-known names suffer an injury, though, it could easily be Flannigan-Fowles' name called upon.

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