49ers roster 2023: You've never heard of A.J. Parker (and it likely stays that way)

You might see a bit of A.J. Parker during the preseason, but he's a massive long shot to make the 49ers' 53-man roster.
Detroit Lions cornerback A.J. Parker
Detroit Lions cornerback A.J. Parker / Rey Del Rio/GettyImages

The 49ers have plenty of unknown defensive backs competing for roster spots in 2023, and A.J. Parker is one of them (in case you were wondering).

If the name A.J. Parker is unfamiliar to you, it's OK.

The San Francisco 49ers signed the former undrafted free agent out of Kansas State to a reserve/future contract in January of this year after he spent the previous two seasons with the Detroit Lions.

Parker did have some field time for Detroit, primarily during his rookie year in 2021 in which he appeared in 13 games, started seven of them and even registered an interception. Tack on a forced fumble and seven passes defended, the 5-foot-11, 178-pound Parker seemed to be a player the Lions could look at as a long-term fixture, either as a starting nickel corner, or at the very least, a strong backup.

It wasn't to be, though, as he didn't make Detroit's initial 53-man roster the following season and spent most of the year on the practice squad.

Perhaps the Niners liked what they saw.

Why did the 49ers sign A.J. Parker?

Aside from the obvious "it's always good to have extra coverage guys for training camp and the preseason" argument, San Francisco probably liked the fact that Parker plays bigger than his size would indicate, although his smallish frame pretty much relegates him to nickel duties and little else.

According to one scouting report, Parker did showcase some solid coverage skills from his collegiate days, and it's feasible the 49ers simply felt they could turn the defensive back into an emergency reserve, either on their own practice squad or potentially at the very back of the 53-man roster.

How much are the 49ers paying A.J. Parker?

Reserve/future contracts are fixed, meaning Parker could earn up to $940,000 this season if he makes the Niners' regular-season squad.

However, according to Over the Cap, there is zero in guaranteed money and no dead money, if he was waived, so there isn't any sort of financial reason why San Francisco has to hold onto Parker this year.

Read more: Mid-training camp 49ers 53-man roster predictions for 2023

Will A.J. Parker make 49ers' 53-man roster?

There are hopefuls and darkhorse candidates, and then there's Parker.

Granted, the 49ers have a relatively fluid back end of the depth chart at cornerback, and aside from three players -- Charvarius Ward, Isaiah Oliver and Deommodore Lenoir -- the roster spots at corner are pretty much up for grabs.

Oliver is all but guaranteed the starting nickel cornerback job, while both Ambry Thomas and Samuel Womack likely have better shots at the 53-man group than Parker.

At the very least, Parker wouldn't only need to outperform one of those two, but he'd also have to outshine another rising name in 2023 undrafted free agent D'Shawn Jamison, who seems to have way more upside.

What likely happens is Parker winds up seeing some game time during the fourth quarter of the Niners' preseason contests.

At best, he impresses enough to earn a designation for the practice squad, but that's likely his ceiling with San Francisco.

Read more from Niner Noise