Alex Barrett aims to finally stick around on 49ers' 53-man roster

The Niners certainly appreciate Alex Barrett. But, after spending year after year on the practice squad, he'll hope to finally land himself a job on the 53-man roster entering 2024.
San Francisco 49ers defensive lineman Alex Barrett (58)
San Francisco 49ers defensive lineman Alex Barrett (58) / Ric Tapia/GettyImages

Spending years on the 49ers practice squad, could 2024 be the season in which Alex Barrett finally carves out a role on the 53-man roster?

A year ago, San Francisco 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan stressed the importance of looking at his offseason roster and developing relationships that would help comprise not only the 53-man regular-season squad but also the practice squad.

Additionally, those relationships could help determine whether or not a player who failed to make either squad entering the regular season could be a go-to option as a free-agent add, should the Niners end up needing an extra body because of an injury or another transaction of some kind.

Since 2019, defensive lineman Alex Barrett has been one of those fringe players, occasionally getting an in-season call-up from the practice squad to help plug gaps on the D-line when needed.

But, for the most part, the 6-foot-2, 250-pound lineman out of San Diego State has spent his San Francisco career on the team's practice squad.

Could that change in 2024, though?

What's working in favor of Alex Barrett's roster chances in 2024

Barrett, who joined the league as an undrafted free-agent pickup of the Detroit Lions in 2017, saw his most action as a regular-season contributor back in 2020 when the 49ers' D-line suffered serious injury attrition.

That year, Barrett saw action in seven games as a rotational player, notching five tackles and two quarterback hits.

He hasn't been activated for a regular-season game since.

During the offseason, the Niners lost edge rushers Chase Young, Clelin Ferrell and Randy Gregory to free agency. Sure, other transactions helped address the departures, but it's safe to say Barrett is squarely in the mix to compete for a rotational pass-rushing job. Considering third-year pro Drake Jackson has failed to make that next-level leap, all Barrett effectively has to do is beat out both Jackson and one of those offseason pickups, Yetur Gross-Matos, who is also in the discussion for a situational pass-rusher role.

The opportunity is certainly there.

What's working against Alex Barrett's roster chances in 2024

At 30 years old, it's probably safe to assume we've seen the best Barrett has to offer. He's not likely going to make some significant leap of improvement to justify a roster spot after years of being relegated to the practice squad.

Sure, San Francisco seems to appreciate his value there as an emergency depth piece and member of the scout team.

But, barring another 2020-like slew of injuries, Barrett will have yet another tough road ahead of him when it comes to making the regular-season cut.

The 49ers haven't fully given up on Jackson yet, and they seem to envision Gross-Matos as a player worth developing after not being in an ideal situation with the Carolina Panthers the previous four years.

If the choice comes down to the younger, potentially more-promising Gross-Matos and an aging back-end-of-the-roster kind of player in Barrett, it's pretty simple. The Niners would go with the former, not the latter.

Training camp will ultimately decide Barrett's fate this year, but one would likely assume he's on the outside, looking in.

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