The 49ers’ roster must be shaved to 53 players by Tuesday, so here is a test run of how that might go
SANTA CLARA, Calif. – Is it too soon for Brock Purdy to be named NFL Comeback Player of the Year?
His full-speed return from elbow surgery is the 49ers’ ideal scenario, and it complements a preseason in which all other starters, as far as we know, avoided serious injury.
The 49ers have been without Nick Bosa, the reigning NFL Defensive Player of the Year, for the past month. However, this may not be the disadvantage you believe. It might be in their best interests to postpone his contract extension until after Tuesday’s 53-man roster deadline.
Because he is on the reserve/didn’t-report list, Bosa does not count toward that. The 49ers could use that spot on one of several injured roster-bubble players.
Here’s a rough plan for reducing the roster to 53 players:
IN: Brock Purdy, Sam Darnold, Brandon Allen
Analysis: The ending of last season screams for the 49ers to go with a three-man band. Trey Lance was traded to Dallas after Sam Darnold won the No. 2 spot. And it welcomed Allen as the No. 3 quarterback, though the 49ers could likely cut him and re-sign him on Wednesday if they are desperate for a roster spot; Allen is not eligible for waivers.
RUNNING BACK (5)
IN: Christian McCaffrey, Kyle Juszczyk (FB), Elijah Mitchell, Jordan Mason, Ty Davis-Price
OUT: Jeremy McNichols, Brian Hill, Jack Colletto (FB)
Analysis: If the Colts release Jonathan Taylor, they may come calling for Mitchell, Mason, or Davis-Price. Put your money on McCaffrey winning Offensive Player of the Year. They’re a dynamic duo if Mitchell can shake his injury-prone ways.
WIDE RECEIVER (6)
IN: Brandon Aiyuk, Deebo Samuel, Jauan Jennings, Ronnie Bell, Ray-Ray McCloud (injured), Danny Gray (injured)
OUT:, Chris Conley, Willie Snead IV, Tay Martin, Isaiah Winstead, Anthony Miller
Analysis: Gray’s shoulder sprain may prompt the 49ers to carry him onto the active roster before reverting him to Injured Reserve, as they will almost certainly do with McCloud. Conley’s shoulder sprain on Friday hurts his bid, so go with Snead or Martin as a roster dark horse.
TIGHT END (4)
IN: George Kittle, Ross Dwelley, Charlie Woerner, Brayden Willis
OUT: Cameron Latu, Troy Fumagalli
Analysis: Latu is set to have meniscus surgery on his knee, and being placed on Injured Reserve allows him to redshirt his rookie season. The selection of two tight ends (Latu and Willis) put Dwelley and Woerner in jeopardy, but neither rookie made a particularly compelling case during training camp. Fumagalli has made some nice plays but isn’t a roster lock.
OFFENSIVE LINE (9)
IN: Trent Williams (LT), Aaron Banks (LG), Aaron Banks (C), Spencer Burford (RG), Colton McKivitz (RT), Jaylon Moore (OT), Jon Feliciano (G/C), Nick Zakelj (G/C). (Alfredo Gutierrez is a practice-squad exemption as an international player.)
OUT: Matt Pryor (OT), Leroy Watson (OT), Keith Ismael (C), Jason Poe (G), Joey Fisher (G), Ilm Manning (T), Corey Luciano (C)
Analysis: The camp’s top priorities on the offensive line were a swing tackle (Moore) and a versatile interior lineman (Feliciano). These choices have a low level of confidence. Pryor has experience, while Watson has potential.
DEFENSIVE LINE (9)
IN: Javon Hargrave, Arik Armstead, Drake Jackson, Clelin Ferrell, T.Y. McGill, Marlon Davidson, Javon Kinlaw, Kerry Hyder Jr., Robert Beal Jr. (Bosa does not count toward the roster until he reports and/or signs.)
OUT: Kevin Givens, Austin Bryant, Kalia Davis, Alex Barrett, Breeland Speaks, Spencer Waege, La’Darius Hamilton
Analysis: This is the 49ers’ engine, and aside from Bosa, their second-string players must be up to the task. The edge rush does not appear to be dominant at this time. There are numerous options on the interior, and excluding Givens is absurd, but so is this exercise. The 49ers will avoid dumping Kinlaw just days after unloading Lance.
IN: Fred Warner, Dre Greenlaw, Demetrius Flannigan-Fowles, Oren Burks, Jalen Graham
OUT: Dee Winters, Marcelino McCrary-Ball, Curtis Robinson, Kyahva Tezino
Analysis: Graham and Winters stood out throughout camp. Flannigan-Fowles and Burks bring experience and value to the team. Burks injured his knee two weeks ago, and one has to wonder if that has any bearing on his job security.
IN: Charvarius Ward, Deommodore Lenoir, Isaiah Oliver, Sam Womack, D’Shawn Jamison
OUT: Ambry Thomas, Qwuantrezz Knight, , Nate Brooks, A.J. Parker (injured), Tre Swilling, Darrell Luter Jr. (on physically-unable-to-perform list)
Analysis: The nickel back position became the most suspect during the preseason, but Oliver should stay due to his nearly $3 million guaranteed salary and limited options. Womack may be more valuable on special teams than Thomas, whose 2022 season put him in a hole from which he may or may not have emerged.
IN: Talanoa Hufanga, Tashaun Gipson Sr., J’Ayir Brown, George Odum
OUT: Tayler Hawkins, Myles Hartsfield
Analysis: Odum’s shoulder injury hampered a strong camp, and Hufanga is battling a cyst behind his knee. Hawkins received a higher roster offer this year, but he now faces surgery for a fractured hand.
IN: Jake Moody (K), Mitch Wishnowsky (P), Taybor Pepper (LS)
OUT: Zane Gonzalez (injured)
Analysis: Oh my goodness, what a shambles. Moody has a quadriceps strain that will keep him out of the season opener, and Gonzalez will miss the game due to a calf injury sustained during Friday’s pregame warmups. As a result, Moody will make the roster (assuming his quadriceps is not torn), and the 49ers will sign a free agent at some point as a backup plan for the season opener.