49ers roster 2023: Thank George Odum for special teams improving

Looking at the difference between the 49ers' special teams units of 2021 and 2022, it's safe to say signing George Odum a year ago was a good idea.
San Francisco 49ers safety George Odum (30)
San Francisco 49ers safety George Odum (30) / Michael Zagaris/GettyImages

While it wasn't solely on his shoulders, George Odum was a big reason why the 49ers' special teams improved in 2022.

In 2021, the San Francisco 49ers boasted the seventh-worst special teams unit in the NFL, according to Football Outsiders.

So, as a direct result of that insufficiency, the Niners spent considerable effort revamping that critical third phase of the game, including changing out special teams coordinators and making a number of key free-agent moves.

Chief among those player moves were the signings of wide receiver/return specialist Ray-Ray McCloud, linebacker Oren Burks and safety George Odum.

Odum, who had been named a first-team All-Pro for his work on special teams with the Indianapolis Colts back in 2020, saw only 38 defensive snaps with his new team in 2022 but had 345 special teams snaps.

While he wasn't the sole reason, San Francisco's special teams improved to 15th last season, according to Football Outsiders' same metrics.

Odum had a lot to do with that, and the 29 year old out of Central Arkansas finished the year with 22 tackles en route to being named a second-team All-Pro special teams ace.

What is George Odum's contract with the 49ers?

The 49ers inked Odum to a three-year free-agent deal in 2022 that is worth up to $9.5 million, according to Spotrac, with $3.7 million fully guaranteed.

With one of those three years now in the books, Odum is scheduled to earn $1.34 million in base salary this season and will count $1.84 million against the salary cap.

While it's highly unlikely, should the Niners move on from Odum this year, they'd incur a dead-cap hit of $2.265 million.

What will George Odum's role with 49ers be in 2023?

Odum has started on defense before, having done so 10 times during his four-year stint with Indy. Yet his first training camp with San Francisco showed a bit of worry on the defensive side of the ball, and it surely seemed smarter to limit Odum to special teams whenever possible.

Additionally, and despite losing free safety Jimmie Ward to free agency last March, the 49ers have a full crop of defensive backs capable of playing that position, including the presumed starters, Tashaun Gipson and Talanoa Hufanga.

Odum will back up those two along with the Niners' top NFL Draft choice from this year, Ji'Ayir Brown.

Read more: Ji'Ayir Brown reveals riveting story about how 49ers drafted him

However, it's still going to be on special teams where Odum makes his impact felt, both as part of the kick-coverage units and as a gunner on punts and kickoffs.

As long as San Francisco's special teams unit doesn't fall from the middle of the pack where it was a year ago, that money spent on Odum will continue to be worthwhile.

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