San Francisco 49ers: Why Tank Carradine Is Primed for Big Things in 2014

Dan MoriCorrespondent IMay 31, 2014

Tank Carradine hopes to make a big impact in 2014.
Tank Carradine hopes to make a big impact in 2014.Phil Sears/Associated Press

Cornellius "Tank" Carradine was selected by the San Francisco 49ers with the 40th overall pick in the 2013 draft. He was a first-round talent that slipped to the second round, due to a torn ACL he suffered in November.

Now fully healthy, Carradine will battle Justin Smith and Ray McDonald for playing time at the defensive end position. At a minimum, he will be a valued member of the rotation along the 49ers' defensive front.

Carradine was having a monster season prior to his injury, which occurred in Florida State's last regular season game of 2012. Carradine had 80 tackles, including 47 solo and 11 sacks, according to had glowing praise for Carradine. Here's an excerpt of what it had to say:

Carradine has a blend of immense burst and power off the line of scrimmage and possesses the speed to help against perimeter runs and passes. His tackle count for 2012 is unheard of for a defensive end, and that in combination with his size projects favorably for a starter's role in the NFL.

Right defensive end Justin Smith will be 35 years of age in September. He is still a very productive player, but at his age, periodic rest will benefit him. Carradine should have an excellent opportunity to spell Smith from time-to-time.

Justin Smith is still going strong at age 34.
Justin Smith is still going strong at age 34.USA TODAY Sports

Smith earned Pro Bowl honors last year, but his age and hefty contract could be an issue coming into next season.

Smith is under contract with the 49ers through the 2015 season. He is due to make nearly $7 million this year and just under $6.5 million in 2015.

Smith is safe for now, as the cap hit will be too much for the 49ers to absorb this year. However, he could have a tough time making the team next season if his production drops off. The cap hit in 2015 would drop to just over $2 million.

Ray McDonald, the 49ers' left defensive end, will be 30 years of age in September. Unlike Smith, McDonald's productivity was mediocre. He had 37 tackles and 3.5 sacks, compared to Smith's 49 tackles and 6.5 sacks.

McDonald, like Smith, is under contract through 2015. He is also safe for now, as the 49ers will not want to take a huge cap hit of over $7 million this year, if they cut him. If San Francisco decided to release McDonald prior to the 2015 season, the cap hit would only be about $3.2 million.

Contract data for Smith and McDonald is courtesy of

Carradine has the ability to play on either side of the line. If he plays well in the preseason, he will push McDonald for the starting job. 

Carradine will see plenty of action and if he proves he can play, we could see him supplant McDonald, at some point this season.

If the 49ers lose Aldon Smith to a lengthy suspension, defensive coordinator Vic Fangio could also try using Carradine as a pass rushing linebacker. Fangio will be looking for ways to get Carradine on the field and this is another option.

Looking ahead, Carradine has the skills and athleticism to be an impact player. Look for him to have a breakout season in 2014.