49ers roster 2023: Marlon Davidson just needs a fresh start

The 49ers inked a former second-round NFL Draft pick, Marlon Davidson, to beef up their defensive line. Can Davidson resurrect his career in San Francisco?
Atlanta Falcons defensive lineman Marlon Davidson
Atlanta Falcons defensive lineman Marlon Davidson / Cooper Neill/GettyImages

The San Francisco 49ers have a brief history of taking on reclamation projects for their defensive line and turning them into quality players.

Thanks to defensive line coach Kris Kocurek, linemen like Arden Key, Kerry Hyder, Charles Omenihu and Jordan Willis have turned otherwise lackluster careers around into semi-lucrative contracts on the other end, frequently with other teams.

While two of the Niners' other reclamation defensive linemen, Clelin Ferrell and Austin Bryant, will likely command much more attention, former Atlanta Falcons defensive lineman Marlon Davidson will be looking for that same sort of rebirth in a new context.

For those unfamiliar with Davidson (probably a lot of you), he was a second-round NFL Draft choice by Atlanta back in 2020 out of Auburn. His rookie season, COVID-19 impacted his availability, and he ultimately got into only eight games that year, registering eight tackles and one pass broken up.

In 2021, Davidson was more impactful and managed 21 tackles, one of which was for a loss, and even had a pick-six interception off Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady.

Knee surgery prematurely ended his 2022 campaign, though, and Atlanta parted ways with him later that year.

San Francisco then inked the 25-year-old defensive lineman in May of 2023 to a one-year deal.

Why did the 49ers sign Marlon Davidson?

Davidson was a respected prospect coming out of the SEC back in 2020, and the 6-foot-3 and 303-pound lineman finished his collegiate career on a high note with 6.5 sacks and 11.5 tackles for a loss.

His build might suggest more of an interior presence, but NFL.com's Lance Zierlein actually noted that Davidson is more effective outside than on the interior.

That's interesting, as Davidson's best shot to making the 49ers' 53-man roster would probably be on the inside and not as an edge rusher or defensive end.

Still, the Niners' D-line is notably topheavy behind the starters, Nick Bosa, Arik Armstead, Javon Hargrave and likely Drake Jackson on the other end, meaning someone like Davidson could have equally as good a chance at hanging around as Ferrell or Bryant.

From that perspective, San Francisco is clearly taking a flier on Davidson's upside that got him drafted in Round 2 and hoping that a so-so situation down in Atlanta will be behind him.

How much are the 49ers paying Marlon Davidson in 2023?

According to Over the Cap, Davidson's one-year deal with the 49ers is worth up to $940,000 but carries zero in guaranteed money.

That effectively means the Niners can part ways with Davidson at any point with zero yearlong financial ramifications. From the larger perspective, it would appear Davidson is more of a training camp body and not so much of a serious candidate to make the 53-man roster.

Read more: How much money do NFL practice squad players make?


What does Marlon Davidson need to do to make 49ers' 53-man roster?

Davidson is clearly on the weaker side of the roster bubble, yet going from a bad Falcons defensive line to one of the most elite D-lines in football could potentially help him.

Particularly under Kocurek's tutelage.

It's likely Davidson would have to do two of three things. First, he'll have to play on special teams, which is almost always a given for back-end reserves on the roster. Second, he'll either have to show plenty of versatility to be something of an "uber backup," capable of playing both on the inside and on the end equally well enough.

Third, he'll have to beat out Ferrell and/or Bryant to stand a chance. And that might not be easy, considering San Francisco has more invested in both, especially in terms of dead money.

The harsh reality is Davidson is likely ticketed toward being a third-string option during camp and preseason games, and he'll likely be shown the door once the regular season rolls around.

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