A glaring omission to the 49ers’ initial 53-man roster is Nick Bosa, because he’s yet to report amid a contract dispute
SANTA CLARA, Calif. — The evolution of the 49ers’ roster from today to Feb. 11 will be fascinating, especially if they do play in the Super Bowl at the end of the season in Las Vegas.
The 53-man roster announcement on Tuesday was neither fascinating, shocking, nor troubling.
Four days earlier, the 49ers unloaded quarterback Trey Lance on the Dallas Cowboys in exchange for a fourth-round pick. It was a collaborative effort to move on with other quarterbacks, grant him a trade, save a few million dollars on next year’s salary cap, and — here comes the hard part — accept accountability and criticism for trading up to the No. 3 pick in 2021 for such a raw prospect.
“Fortunately, we still have a really good football team that I think has a legitimate shot,” said general manager John Lynch Friday night. “We’re concentrating on Game 1, but we have a championship-caliber roster.” Now it’s up to us to make the best of it.”
Lynch will have more to say about the roster when he and coach Kyle Shanahan meet with reporters separately before today’s 3 p.m. practice; Beyoncé will take the stage at Levi’s Stadium at 8 p.m.
The 49ers have yet to respond to roster depth and injury luck. So here are the three issues with the roster as of now:
- THE ABSENCE OF NICK BOSA
If you haven’t heard, Nick Bosa’s name isn’t on the initial roster because he has yet to report to the team. He skipped training camp and the preseason, as expected by the 49ers, to await a contract that would make him the NFL’s highest-paid non-quarterback.
Now that practices have transitioned into regular-season mode, Bosa should sign and reunite with his teammates. Sessions are scheduled for Wednesday and Thursday, followed by Week 1 practices on Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday before flying to Pittsburgh.
What if Bosa’s strike prevents him from playing in the season opener, as it did with the Los Angeles Rams and Aaron Donald in 2017? Instead of stockpiling defensive ends this offseason, the 49ers spent big on defensive tackle Javon Hargrave, who will ideally ride shotgun with Bosa.
Drake Jackson and Clelin Ferrell are the team’s top defensive ends; Kerry Hyder Jr. and Austin Bryant were released on Tuesday but are expected to re-sign today due to paperwork issues. Last year’s defensive ends Samson Ebukam (Colts), Charles Omenihu (Chiefs), and Jordan Willis (Raiders; released Tuesday) all left town.
- HURT RESERVE PATH
Is it possible that rookie kicker Jake Moody will be placed on Injured Reserve, missing his first four NFL games due to a quadriceps injury, prompting the 49ers to sign Tristan Vizcaino or another free agent in the coming days? Outside of Bosa’s contract, this is the most compelling drama.
Only two players from the 49ers’ nine-man draft class made the final cut and are currently on injured reserve: tight end Cameron Latu (third round) and cornerback Darrell Luter Jr. (fifth round).
Latu had far too many drops and penalties in his first camp, but he caught Lance’s final touchdown pass in a 49ers uniform (on Aug. 19 preseason action) before blowing out a meniscus in his knee in Friday’s preseason finale. As a rookie, redshirting him on Injured Reserve is a wise decision.
Luter hyperextended his knee in June and will be eligible to play after four games if the 49ers choose to activate him from the PUP list.
The 49ers also placed kicker Zane Gonzalez (calf), safety Tayler Hawkins (hand), and cornerback A.J. Parker (hamstring) on injured reserve.
- SURPLUS AT LINEBACKER AND RECEIVER
The 49ers’ defensive hype man, captain, and leader of a crowded linebacker room is Fred Warner. Dre Greenlaw, Oren Burks, and Demetrius Flannigan-Fowles are among the veteran incumbents. Jalen Graham (seventh round) and Dee Winters (sixth round) both made the roster as rookie linebackers. Marcelino McCrary-Ball and Curtis Robinson were left out, despite the latter receiving a lot of first-team reps in practice in place of Burks at strong-side linebacker.
So, why is linebacker depth so critical? Since the 49ers’ first practice against the Raiders, Greenlaw (hamstring) and Burks (knee) have been nursing injuries. Graham could be a surprise starter on the strong side in Week 1.
Veterans Willie Snead IV, Chris Conley, and Anthony Miller missed the cut at wide receiver, while Tay Martin and Isaiah Winstead were likely relegated to the practice squad.
So, despite a shoulder injury, the 49ers kept Danny Gray on the roster, giving him a chance to play this season even if he is placed on Injured Reserve. McCloud is only a few weeks removed from wrist surgery, so don’t be surprised if he returns punts in 11 days.
The overall goal is to place as few players on Injured Reserve as possible between now and February 11.