'Tis the season for poaching players off other teams' practice squads, and that's what happened with 49ers safety Michael Thomas. The Dolphins will sign Thomas, a safety who also can play nickel cornerback, to their 53-man roster, a source confirmed. The news first was reported by Niners Nation.
Thomas had been the 49ers' highest-paid practice squad player, getting a bump last month when, presumably, other teams started to ask about him. Thomas played for Vic Fangio at Stanford. He had a mastery of the defense other young players did not have, and therefore was seen as a solid emergency player who could play any of three spots -- strong safety, free safety and nickel cornerback -- if the 49ers had a need at any of them.
The 49ers have depth at safety, but at least some questions going forward. Starting strong safety Donte Whitner is a free agent at the end of the season. The 49ers drafted free safety Eric Reid in the first round, and he has been excellent in his first year as the starter. But he's also suffered two concussions, and the 49ers may have to have a back-up plan if that trend continues.
Veteran Craig Dahl is the first safety off the bench, followed by hard-hitting special teams standout C.J. Spillman. Another special teamer, Ray Ventrone, also is listed at safety but received scant snaps there this offseason. Venrone is very much a kick- and punt-coverage specialist.
Last year, a number of special teams players, including Thomas, receiver Ricardo Lockette and guard Al Netter, had chances to sign with other teams' 53-man squads but decided their futures were better with the 49ers. The 49ers also tried to persuade Thomas to stick around this year, but they couldn't find a spot on their crowded 53-man roster to convince him to stay.
Join me for a 49ers chat at 11 a.m. today. (I called your boss; he/she said it's cool). Log onto www.sacbee.com/live.
-- Matt Barrows