On a team with few proven wide receivers, Jerome Simpson would seem to be well positioned to earn a job with the 49ers in 2016.
Simpson, entering his eighth NFL season, is one of just three wideouts on the roster -- along with presumed starter Torrey Smith and Quinton Patton -- with more than a handful of catches. The 30-year-old has 150 catches for 2,058 yards and nine touchdowns in stints with the Bengals and Vikings.
But since coming to the 49ers, Simpson hasn't made much of an impact. Battling injuries and a suspension in 2015, Simpson played just five games and had only five catches for 54 yards and a TD.
But if he can stay healthy, Simpson could have a chance to win a roster spot and put himself in the rotation of pass catchers for Chip Kelly's spread offense. The competition at wide receiver appears wide open. Smith is a lock to start, with Bruce Ellington the leader to win the job as the slot receiver after a strong offseason program. That leaves Simpson competing against a mostly unproven cast of Patton, former Canadian Football League standout Eric Rogers, draft pick Aaron Burbridge, DeAndrew Smelter, DeAndrew White, Dres Anderson, Devon Cajuste and Bryce Treggs.
The 49ers signed Simpson to a two-year deal before the 2015 season, even knowing that he faced a six-game suspenson for violating the NFL policy on substances. So, general manager Trent Baalke obviously believed Simpson -- an often acrobatic player who's had 50- and 48-catch seasons in the league -- has the potential to help, even after sitting out the 2014 season.
Last season, Simpson finally had the chance to play in November and made the most of it. In a game against the Rams, he had three catches for 34 yards.
"Tough people last through tough times," he told reporters after that game.
He'll need more of that kind of production in training camp and exhibition games to earn a roster spot in September.