With the wrap-up of the 2012 NFL Draft, most teams in the league have their rosters more or less set heading into training camp. That is to say, there's going to be battles and things of that nature to finalize the final 53-man roster, but for the most part, teams have wrapped up their signings and are good to go for training camp.
As noted, the 53-man roster will be the biggest point of focus going forward. Rosters are at 90 players right now, but they'll be trimmed down to 80, and then a couple more cuts later, we'll be at 53 players. There's going to be some very interesting position battles for the final 53, and then some more heated battles to see who is going to be inactive on gameday.
So we'll take a look at each position over the coming weeks, and for now, we'll start with quarterback. The San Francisco 49ers will almost assuredly carry three quarterbacks on their roster and one on their practice squad. Alex Smith is the unquestioned starter of course, but the interesting battle will be at backup. First, let's look at who is in the mix.
Smith is, again, the starter and only screwing up and leading the 49ers on a colossal losing streak will lose him that job at this point. 2011 was a fantastic year for Smith, and he'll be looking to build on that in 2012. Most are of the opinion that, if Smith can maintain his impressive turnover margins, he'll have a great year.
The starting quarterback job was actually in flux this offseason as the 49ers pursued Peyton Manning and Smith went unsigned and was courted by the Miami Dolphins. There was a sizable vocal group that would have been fine with Smith going even if the team couldn't land Manning, with Kaepernick taking over. That definitely would have been ... interesting, at this point.
As it stands, the main battle to watch will be Kaepernick vs. Johnson for the gameday active role - or rather, the primary backup role. Kaepernick is the QB the 49ers are invested in for the future - the team traded up to draft him in 2011. Some thought he might be starting by now, but Smith had a great year, so he's the backup. Or he was the backup, now it's not guaranteed with the signing of Johnson.
Johnson has history with Harbaugh, as the quarterback at San Diego State and is still very young with solid potential. Some feel that he got a little screwed in Tampa Bay when he "lost" a starting "battle" to Josh Freeman, the team's No. 1 draft pick. His signing came after the Smith signing, and caught many off guard, but in reality, it just promotes what this team has been doing all along.
It's all about competition. Harbaugh wants competition on this roster. That's why he (and Trent Baalke) drafted wide receiver A.J. Jenkins in the first round despite having signed Mario Manningham and Randy Moss, and why they drafted running back LaMichael James, despite having Frank Gore, Kendall Hunter, Brandon Jacobs and Anthony Dixon at the position.
Kaepernick and Johnson will throw down in training camp and preseason, but the scales do seemed to be tipped in Kaepernick's favors at this point. After all, he's the guy the team has invested in. Don't rule out Tolzien, who the team will try awfully hard to stash away on the practice squad. He competed very well with the San Diego Chargers in the preseason last year, and could be on some teams' radars as a guy worth developing, but he stands little chance of making the 53-man roster unless the 49ers like his contract better than, say, Johnson's.