The Chicago Bears picked up linebacker Dan Skuta on May 8, in part because of his familiarity with Vic Fangio’s defense from their time in San Francisco together. Skuta played with the ‘Niners from 2013-2014, and when signed, it was believed he’d be primarily a special teams performer for them, but he ended up making 18 starts in his 30 games there. His best season was 2014, when he racked up 5 sacks with 3 forced fumbles.
His performance in San Francisco netted him a five year, $20.5 million contract with the Jacksonville Jaguars before the 2015 season. The Jags cut him earlier this year, after only starting 10 of the 26 games he appeared in.
Skuta was originally an undrafted free agent of the Cincinnati Bengals in 2009, and during his four years there he played special teams, outside linebacker, inside linebacker and even a little fullback in his 56 games (4 starts).
While Skuta may have some position flexibility, most of his experience has been at outside linebacker. Back in 2013, 49ers’ head coach Jim Harbaugh had this to say about him, "He's got some good versatility outside and inside," Harbaugh said via CSN Bay Area. "But, right now, (we are) mainly working as an outside linebacker. But he has the ability to go inside as well."
His time in Jacksonville was at OLB in their 4-3 hybrid scheme, so we’ll need to monitor where he’s working out for the Bears this offseason to see if they believe he’s versatile.
Experience: 9th-year pro
Weight: 252 pounds
Contract and salary cap:
According to Spotrac, Skuta’s deal is for one season, but the specifics were not disclosed. I would imagine he’s not getting much more than the veteran minimum.
Reason for improvement in 2017
At this point Skuta is fighting for his NFL life. He’s a 31 year old reserve that will need to prove to be the best veteran linebacking option on the team, while also holding off a few young UDFAs that the Bears brought in at his position. Desperation has away of bringing out the best in a player.
Reason for regression in 2017
He didn’t live up to expectations in Jacksonville, but some of that could have had to do with health. He was bothered by a groin injury in 2015, that led sports hernia surgery the following offseason. Even though he played most of 2016, maybe his 31 year old body is nearing the end.
Final roster odds
I asked David Fucillo, one of the top guys over at SB Nation’s Niners’ Nation, to give me the skinny on Skuta’s time in San Francisco, and here’s what he told me.
He was brought in as a special teams guy, but Aldon Smith's trip to rehab in 2013 opened the door for him to get some snaps on defense. He split time with another OLB in the 49ers’ 3-4 defense. The 49ers used bigger OLBs (260-270 pounds), and then those OLBs lined up at defensive end in the nickel.
Skuta had a decent enough year in 2014, finishing with five sacks. As a defensive player, I'd say he's slightly better than replacement level. He's a good replacement option, but if he is a starting OLB Week 1, your depth chart has some issues.
At this point in his career, he’s just trying to hang on as a backup/special teamer, and Skuta seems to fill the same space on the Bears’ roster that Sam Acho does. Pernell McPhee, Leonard Floyd, Willie Young, and Lamarr Houston are probably the top four OLBs on the Bears’ roster, so Skuta will be in a battle with Acho and a few youngsters to make the final 53.
He may try and prove capable of backing up at inside linebacker as well, but regardless, his roster spot isn’t a lock. I don’t see a place for him, but an injury could open the door a crack.