49ers free-agent report: Dan Skuta

The San Francisco 49ers have 14 potential unrestricted free agents who would hit the market when the new league year begins on Tuesday. Let’s continue our countdown with a backup linebacker who has actually started more than half of the games in which he’s played for the Niners.

OLB Dan Skuta

Originally an undrafted free agent out of Grand Valley State, Skuta made his NFL debut with the Cincinnati Bengals in 2009. He spent four years with the Bengals before coming to the Niners in 2013, ostensibly to provide depth at linebacker and help on special teams.

49ers career: With Aldon Smith in rehab, Skuta started eight of 16 games in 2013 and performed admirably. And with Smith serving a nine-game suspension to begin this past season, Skuta was again thrust into a starting role as he started nine of the 14 games in which he played. He had a career-high five sacks (after having 0.5 sacks in his previous five years combined) in 2014 while leading the Niners with three forced fumbles.

Argument for keeping Skuta: He’s stepped in when Smith has stepped out of line in the past and with Smith’s track record, Skuta is good insurance. Plus, Skuta came on strong at the end of last season; three of his sacks came in the last four games. And he is a quality special-teamer, with seven special-teams tackles.

Argument for letting Skuta walk: Honestly, I can’t think of a single good reason, unless the Niners feel they can get similar production out of an undrafted free agent or a late-round draft pick who would be cheaper.

A bold prediction: Skuta said late in the year he wanted to return to Santa Clara and the stars seem to line up for him. Unless he prefers some other place like Cincinnati again.