Ayodele's an Odd Curiosity for the 49ers

Another reserve inside linebacker...

There's a phrase that general managers often use, "strengthening your strength," which is a philosophy where no matter how strong a team is at one facet of the game or how deep they are at one position, that it's more advantageous to improve on that than to shore up your biggest weakness.

The reasoning behind it is that even if you build up your weakness - passing game, safety, etc. - to the point that now it's average, average will still get you beat. However, if you improve yourself to the point where you're the best at something, then you'll go into every game knowing you have the edge in at least one area and that it's something you can count on.

All of this is a convoluted way of explaining why the 49ers are pursuing free agent linebacker Akin Ayodele, formerly of the Miami Dolphins, who was in for a visit yesterday.

Ayodele, an eight year veteran, has been a starter since his second season. He's above average in coverage, but not much of a blitzer. His instincts versus the run are lacking and he gets swallowed up by blockers too easily. His past three seasons he totaled 71, 75, and 57 tackles, which are poor numbers for a starting 'backer.

So why would the 49ers be interested in him? Because Ayodele, still in his athletic prime at 30 years of age, wouldn't be a starter for them. While he's an average starter - at best - he would be a good reserve.

Still, the 49ers already re-signed Matt Wilhlem this off-season and they have Scott McKillop, last year's 5th-round pick out of Pitt. Do they need a fifth inside linebacker?

Probably not. But Mike Singletary, one of the finest middle linebackers to ever play, is the coach. There's no way he'll ever field a team that's not strong up the middle, and he wants to cover his bases in case aging starter Takeo Spikes (who's 33) goes down or loses a step.

When you've already got Patrick Willis, the finest inside linebacker in the league, on your side, one would think you'd be pretty set there. But the 49ers just want to strengthen their strength.

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