Safety Craig Dahl has been a solid NFL pro, with seven seasons in the league including the past two with the 49ers.
But heading into this training camp, Dahl figures to be on the roster bubble.
The Niners have a strong set of starting safeties in Eric Reid and Antoine Bethea, plus two young safeties taken high in the past two drafts, rookie Jaquiski Tartt, a second-rounder this year, and last year’s No. 1 pick, Jimmie Ward.
Though Dahl has been a solid No. 3 safety and good special teams player, it seems he’ll have his work cut out to maintain his spot if Tartt and Ward are healthy. In addition, the 49ers have another safety in second-year man L.J. McCray, who played special teams in 2014 and rookie free agent Jermaine Whitehead.
It may be that Dahl – who ranked No. 1 on the 49ers’ scoring system for special teams play in 2014 – may be a victim of a youth movement and cost control. Dahl was scheduled to count about $1.7 million against the salary cap in 2015, but recently restructured his deal. Now he will count just $1.3 million against the cap. That’s still a more expensive price tag than McCray or Whitehead. And if both perform well in training camp and exhibition games, the revamped coaching staff may be even more inclined to go with the younger talent.
In assessing the 49ers’ roster recently, Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee, who covers the team, wrote that “Dahl must battle to retain his spot.”
The danger, of course, is in losing the team’s most experienced backup safety, one who’s played 102 games and started 43 for the Giants, Rams and 49ers, and been a leader on special teams.
If the 49ers release Dahl and something should knock Bethea or Reid out of the lineup, his absence might be costly.