Ambry Thomas

49ers Notes: Gipson, Purdy, Yiadom, Mond

Safety became an issue for the 49ers last season, with Talanoa Hufanga suffering a season-ending injury on Thanksgiving. The team brought in Logan Ryan as an emergency pickup, and the versatile veteran ended up sliding into a key slot role down the stretch. Ryan has since retired, and another safety regular to close out San Francisco’s Super Bowl season is unsigned. Although Tashaun Gipson is going into an age-34 season, John Lynch said the team has engaged in talks about re-signing the veteran. Gipson has been a full-time starter in San Francisco over the past two seasons. However, the 49ers are looking at other experienced safeties.

The safety market took a beating,” Lynch said, via The Athletic’s Matt Barrows (subscription required). “It took years to get the guys to where they were being compensated. A bunch of them got cut, so a bunch of great players are out there. It’d be foolish of us to not take a look.”

With Hufanga on the way back, the 49ers have a host of options to consider outside of Gipson. The Broncos released four-time All-Pro Justin Simmons, while the Seahawks cut Jamal Adams and Quandre Diggs. Eddie Jackson and Marcus Maye are also available due to roster cuts, and Micah Hyde remains unsigned as well. This many proven options available will cut into this group’s earning potential, but it represents good news for safety-needy teams. Though, the 49ers rostering 2023 third-rounder Ji’Ayir Brown may limit their interest in spending much for a veteran.

Here is the latest out of San Francisco:

  • Had the 49ers not ended the 2022 draft by selecting Brock Purdy, he would already be extension-eligible due to UDFAs only needing to play two years before being free to sign for veteran terms. The 49ers must keep the former seventh-round pick on his rookie deal through at least the 2024 season, but the Super Bowl starter did fare well via the NFL’s proven performance escalator system. Tied to an $870K base salary in 2023, Purdy nearly doubled his money via PPE earnings ($740K),’s Adam Schefter tweets. Purdy, 24, is tied to a $985K base salary this season; 49ers owner Jed York is already discussing the prospect of a monster extension come 2025.
  • Recent signee Isaac Yiadom is set to compete for a regular job on the outside, Lynch said. Yiadom, a former Broncos third-rounder who enjoyed a quality season with the Saints after his career struggled to take off for years, will join Ambry Thomas, Darrell Luter and Samuel Womack in competing for the primary boundary job opposite Charvarius Ward. A member of that quartet impressing would allow the 49ers to move Deommodore Lenoir inside in sub-packages. Lenoir has played both outside and inside in his career; he closed last season on the outside, as Ryan patrolled the slot.
  • Former Vikings third-round pick Kellen Mond worked out for the 49ers on Wednesday, Barrows adds. The Texas A&M product has been with three teams in three years. After a Vikings cut led Mond to a third-string role with the Browns, his failure to make Cleveland’s 53-man roster last year keyed a move to the Colts’ practice squad. Mond did not see any action in 2023, and the Colts did not keep him on a reserve/futures deal. The 49ers lost Sam Darnold to the Vikings but re-signed Brandon Allen and added recent Vikings starter Joshua Dobbs. While teams regularly bring four QBs into offseason programs, Mond would not seem to have much upward mobility if he caught on with San Francisco.
  • A recent roster violation led the NFL to strip the 49ers of a 2025 fifth-round pick. Lynch said the penalty stemmed from (via NBC Sports Bay Area’s Matt Maiocco) the team overpaying an unspecified player by $75K during the pandemic period. Rather than contacting the NFL about this, the 49ers’ effort to recoup the money brought on the violation.

49ers RB Christian McCaffrey, CB Ambry Thomas Out For Week 18

The 49ers have locked up the NFC’s top seed, making their regular season finale a game with no impact on the standings. That is a welcomed development given the team’s injury situation at a few key positions.

Running back Christian McCaffrey exited Sunday’s win with a calf injury, and it will lead to an absence to close out the campaign. The NFL’s rushing and scrimmage yards leader is dealing with a mild calf strain, per head coach Kyle Shanahan. To no surprise, therefore, McCaffrey will sit out the 49ers’ season finale against the Rams.

Since arriving via trade in San Francisco last year, the two-time Pro Bowler has been a vital component of the team’s vaunted skill-position group. McCaffrey has posted 2,205 yards and 20 touchdowns on the ground in 27 games with the 49ers, keeping himself in the MVP conversation through the 2023 season. Any missed time in the postseason would be crippling to the team’s offense, but an extra week of recovery (coupled with the first round bye) should have him healthy in time for the divisional round.

The same is expected to be true of cornerback Ambry Thomas. The 2021 third-rounder is set to undergo hand surgery today, as noted by ESPN’s Nick Wagoner. The procedure will keep him sidelined for Week 18, which will leave San Francisco shorthanded in the secondary. Fortunately, however, Thomas is on track to suit up for the team’s first postseason contest.

The 24-year-old has only logged a 49% snap share on defense this season, but he has established himself as a key member of the 49ers’ backend. Thomas has seen a career-high workload in 2023, spending almost all of his time on the perimeter. He has posted 43 tackles, seven pass deflections and one interception while recording a new personal best in PFF grades along the way. Thomas’ performance did not stop the 49ers from exploring a CB addition at the trade deadline, but any missed postseason action would be acutely felt on defense.

San Francisco will be shorthanded both by necessity and by choice to close out the regular season, but the team will face substantial expectations once their playoff journey begins. The health of both McCaffrey and Thomas will be important factors in the 49ers’ postseason success, so their respective recoveries will be worth watching over the next several days.

49ers Pursued Trade For Broncos CB Patrick Surtain

Backing off their previously designated “open for business” status at the trade deadline, the Broncos did not end up moving anyone beyond stripping their roster of veteran defensive ends Randy Gregory and Frank Clark. The team nevertheless fielded extensive inquiries into its top players.

While Justin Simmons and Jerry Jeudy generated interest, the latter drawing an offer of third- and fifth-round picks, Denver stood down. Even as the team was believed to be nearing sell mode after a 1-5 start, it was never believed to be open to trading its top player. But clubs still contacted the Broncos to see what it would take for them to move Patrick Surtain. At least three made offers. The 49ers may have been one of them.

San Francisco pursued a few corners at the trade deadline, being one of the initial teams reported to have negotiated with the Bears on Jaylon Johnson. The 49ers also discussed Nate Hobbs with the Raiders, but the San Francisco Chronicle’s Eric Branch indicates the team pursued Surtain as well. The Oct. 31 deadline came with the 49ers mired in a three-game losing streak, as the team played multiple games without Trent Williams and Deebo Samuel. But pass defense issues loomed as well.

This particular target was never especially realistic, with a separate November report noting the Broncos set a two-first-rounder price to even begin a serious conversation about a Surtain trade. The Jaguars received that haul for Jalen Ramsey in 2019, with the All-Pro seeking a path out of Jacksonville. Surtain, meanwhile, solidified himself as a Broncos cornerstone last season by becoming a first-team All-Pro corner — the franchise’s first such achievement at the position since Chris Harris and Aqib Talib each earned that distinction in 2016. Surtain, 23, will be signed through 2025 once the Broncos pick up his fifth-year option by May.

The 49ers, who did not add a corner at the deadline, swung for the fences on Surtain because they were concerned about the performances of Ambry Thomas and Isaiah Oliver, Branch adds. But the team, which is now riding a three-game win streak, has seen post-deadline improvement from the former. A 2021 third-round pick, Thomas has been the 49ers’ No. 3 during their recent surge. He has checked in as a part of San Francisco’s nickel package, working as a boundary corner and kicking Deommodore Lenoir into the slot in that frequently used package.

Pro Football Focus now rates Thomas as the 49ers’ top corner this season, slotting him 11th after 11 games. Oliver, who signed to play the slot role this offseason, has seen his usage significantly minimized. The ex-Falcons second-rounder has played a combined six defensive snaps over the past three games.

Denver’s lone in-season trade came with San Francisco, which acquired Gregory in a late-round swap of 2024 picks. Gregory has played a rotational role for the 49ers, who made a bigger move by obtaining Chase Young less than hour before the deadline. That deal came after the Commanders reduced their asking price on the former No. 2 overall pick. Gregory has one sack and four QB hits since joining the 49ers, working exclusively as a backup.

NFC West Rumors: 49ers, Cardinals, Metcalf

Not long ago, we wrote about the 49ers’ cornerback depth chart, claiming Charvarius Ward and Emmanuel Moseley were the starting outside corners this spring with Darqueze Dennard and rookie fifth-round pick Samuel Womack competing for the the starting nickel cornerback job, while second-year defender Ambry Thomas slots in as the No. 3 corner on the outside.

A slight alternative to the starting scenarios was proposed earlier this week by Cam Inman of The San Jose Mercury News. He agrees that Dennard and Womack seem to be going head-to-head for the nickel-back role, but posits that, should neither cornerback seize the starting opportunity, San Francisco could formulate a rotation that would see Moseley shift inside and Thomas come in to cover the outside.

If Dennard and Womack can’t convince the coaches that they’re more valuable to have on the field than Thomas, the above situation could unfold. It makes sense that the 49ers would want the best three defenders on the field and could utilize other cornerback combinations to take advantage of specific matchups.

Here are a couple of other rumors from out of the NFC West, starting with a note out of Glendale:

  • A little over two weeks ago, the Cardinals signed two former Chiefs’ defenders in cornerback Josh Jackson and linebacker Ben Niemann. The two have had diametrically contradicting career paths with the former second-round pick, Jackson, slowly falling into obscurity while the former undrafted free agent, Niemann has earned more and more responsibility each year he’s been in the league. Both of their contracts, though, will be worth the league minimum, according to Sports Illustrated’s Howard Balzer. While that’s a hard pill to swallow for Jackson after the high expectations that came with his draft position, Niemann is likely grateful to be heading into his fifth year of NFL football for the second team to give him an opportunity after initially going undrafted.
  • Seahawks wide receiver D.K. Metcalf has been pushing the organization for a new contract lately. The 24-year-old is set to head into the last year of his rookie contract and, while he does want to get paid, he’s also providing the Seahawks a head start on the rest of the league on what would be his eventual free agency. While Metcalf is looking at recent deals like that of his former college teammate, A.J. Brown, the absolute floor of Metcalf’s hypothetical extension was set this week when the Commanders extended star receiver Terry McLaurin, Doug Kyed of Pro Football Focus writes. Kyed justifies the opinion, saying that, while PFF grades Metcalf slightly lower than McLaurin, Metcalf is over two years younger and has produced at a slightly higher level than McLaurin over their first three years in the league. Whether or not Metcalf undoubtedly deserves more than McLaurin, McLaurin’s new deal sets an intriguing bar as extension talks continue in Seattle.

49ers Rumors: DEs, Thomas, Hufanga

Last season, the 49ers finished the season as one of the top five teams in the league in sacks. The team was led in sacks by star defender Nick Bosa (15.5), Jaguars’ offseason addition Arden Key (6.5), Arik Armstead (6.0), and Samson Ebukam (4.5). As they turn the page towards the 2022 NFL season, San Francisco is looking at how to replace the production of Key and get a little more out of their pass rushers not named “Bosa,” according to Matt Barrows of The Athletic.

Right now, the starting defensive line likely has some combination of Javon Kinlaw, Armstead, and Bosa. Kinlaw is pretty stationary in terms of his placement on the inside of the line, as is Bosa on the edge, but Armstead and Key both were used as pass rushers from the edge and interior last season. With Key gone and Dee Ford not likely to stay with the team, according to a quote from head coach Kyle Shanahan provided by Cam Inman of 95.7 The Game, one of the favorites to fill that vacant role on the line is free agent acquisition Kerry Hyder.

Referring to Hyder as if he is new to the program is a bit misleading as he is only a year and a half removed from the last time he wore a 49ers jersey. That season in San Francisco was the best of his career as he recorded career-highs in sacks (8.5) and tackles (49) and tallied his second-highest season totals in tackles for loss (10.0) and quarterback hits (18). Hyder has experience and ability to play on the inside of the line like Armstead and Key, but his most effective seasons have seen him line up on the end, making him a prime candidate to complete the starting lineup.

Ebukam was fourth on the team in sacks but, at only 4.5, they didn’t provide quite the impact that was expected from his addition. He and Jordan Willis (who totaled 3.0 sacks last year) specialize as speed rushers that maybe don’t have the versatility to run with the first string. 2022 second-round pick Drake Jackson falls into that category, as well, but, as a rookie, he should have plenty of opportunities to make an impact on the line. Former Colts defensive end Kemoko Turay was brought in, too, but his time in Indianapolis mostly saw him playing on a rotational basis.

Charles Omenihu may be the best competition for Hyder considering that, last year, San Francisco used Omenihu in a very similar role as Key. His large frame could land him more on the inside of the line than the outside, but he claims very similar versatility as Hyder, while lacking the top-end production.

Here are a few other rumors on depth chart decisions the 49ers face this offseason, based on the spring practice breakdowns of Barrows:

  • With Jason Verrett still recovering from a torn ACL suffered last September, the 49ers brought in Charvarius Ward on a three-year free agent deal. He ran opposite Emmanuel Moseley with the ones all spring. Barrows noted that last year’s rookie, Ambry Thomas, is currently the No. 3 cornerback on the outside behind Ward and Moseley. Veteran Darqueze Dennard is the first-team unit’s nickel cornerback, though 2022 fifth-round pick Samuel Womack will push him for playing time this season. With those two occupied in the slot, Thomas becomes the team’s top backup option on the outside.
  • This offseason, the 49ers saw longtime safety Jaquiski Tartt depart in free agency. They now have a decision to make on who to pair up with Jimmie Ward in the defensive backfield. The top candidates to replace Tartt have been Talanoa Hufanga, George Odum, and Tarvarius Moore. According to Barrows, Hufanga in the clear frontrunner following spring practices. Hufanga took all of the first-team snaps at strong safety while Odum and Moore ran as the second-team strong and free safeties, respectively. Hufanga made three starts as a rookie last year and will look to make the leap to full-time starter alongside Jimmie in 2022.

David Bakhtiari Not Playing Vs. Niners

Nine-year veteran tackle David Bakhtiari missed nearly the entire 2021 NFL season after tearing his ACL on New Year’s Eve during the 2020 season. Unfortunately, he will have to continue waiting to play in his first playoff game since January of 2019, as the team announced, via Twitter, that he will be inactive for tonight’s game against the 49ers. 

Bakhtiari had made a return for the Packers’ regular season finale, making the start in Detroit, but only playing 40% of the team’s offensive snaps. Head Coach Matt LaFleur shook off the early exit in a postgame press conference stating, “I wouldn’t say it’s anything we’re concerned about,” but it appears some continual discomfort throughout the week will keep the two-time All Pro from making a postseason return, just yet.

In the absence of Bakhtiari this year, the Packers have employed Elgton Jenkins at the blindside tackle position. Despite the reshuffled offensive line and several other injuries to key players, Green Bay still secured a first-round bye and homefield advantage. They will work tonight to extend their season another week and give Bakhtiari at least one more chance for a postseason return.

Other inactives for the Packers listed for the game tonight were safeties Shawn Davis & Vernon Scott, linebacker Jonathan Garvin, and wide receiver Marquez Valdes-Scantling. The 49ers will be without cornerbacks Ambry Thomas & Deommodore Lenoir, safety Jarrod Wilson, running back Trey Sermon, linebacker Marcell Harris, offensive lineman Jaylon Moore, and defensive lineman Maurice Hurst. Packers’ cornerback Jaire Alexander is expected to play tonight after being listed as questionable.

NFL COVID-19 List Updates: 1/7/22

Today’s updates for the Reserve/COVID-19 list:

Denver Broncos

Green Bay Packers

San Francisco 49ers

Tampa Bay Buccaneers 

NFL COVID-19 List Updates: 1/4/22-1/5/22

Here are Tuesday and Wednesday’s activations from and placements on the reserve/COVID-19 lists:

Arizona Cardinals

Atlanta Falcons

Baltimore Ravens

Carolina Panthers

Chicago Bears

Cincinnati Bengals

Cleveland Browns

Dallas Cowboys

Denver Broncos

Detroit Lions

Green Bay Packers

Houston Texans

Indianapolis Colts

Jacksonville Jaguars

Kansas City Chiefs

Las Vegas Raiders

Los Angeles Chargers

  • Activated from reserve/COVID-19 list: TE Jared Cook, LB Damon Lloyd (remains on IR)

Minnesota Vikings

New Orleans Saints

New York Giants

New York Jets

Philadelphia Eagles

Pittsburgh Steelers

San Francisco 49ers

Seattle Seahawks

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Tennessee Titans

Washington Football Team

College Football Notes: Winter Season, Slater, Lance

Just like everything else in the world, college football has been significantly impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. And the NFL, whose talent comes almost exclusively from the collegiate ranks, is willing to do whatever it can to make sure college football is played before the 2021 NFL draft.

As Albert Breer of writes, college coaches have discussed starting their season not in the spring, but on January 1, which would allow them to play out an eight-game season and even a postseason by mid-March. The NFL is willing to assist with that endeavor, whether that means offering its stadiums — like the Lions’ Ford Field — or pushing back its combine and draft.

Of course, the Big Ten and Pac-12 have already announced plans to postpone their fall schedules to the spring, but a winter season may make it more likely that top college prospects choose to play rather than declare for the draft. Either way, it seems inevitable that the NFL will need to make some serious adjustments to its 2021 offseason schedule, but the league seems prepared to do so.

Now for more collegiate notes that could have a major impact on the professional game:

  • Northwestern OT Rashawn Slater is opting out of the 2020 season, per Pete Thamel of Yahoo Sports (via Twitter). Slater is viewed as one of the best O-line prospects in the country — he was one of the few players to limit Ohio State star Chase Young last year — and Thamel believes Slater will not fall out of the first round.
  • Slater’s Big Ten colleague, Michigan CB Ambry Thomas, has also declared for the 2021 draft, a decision that Thomas himself announced via Twitter. Thomas just became a full-time contributor on defense in 2019, and he was excellent in press coverage. A likely Day 2 selection, he also has appeal as a kick returner.
  • One of the country’s premier FCS programs, North Dakota State, will not be playing football in 2020, as Andrew Groover of the NFL Network tweets. NDSU quarterback Trey Lance, whom analyst Daniel Jeremiah has compared favorably to former Colts QB Andrew Luck, is a candidate to opt out of the program’s spring season and declare for the draft.
  • Per Thamel, the NCAA Division I Council has decided that fall sport student-athletes can participate in any number of competitions this year without it counting towards their eligibility (Twitter link). So if, say, a senior in the SEC has a down season in 2020, he can return next year to try and rebuild his stock.