© Sergio Estrada-USA TODAY Sports
SANTA CLARA – The 49ers cut their roster down to 53 players on Saturday, and threw more than a few wrinkles into the mix. The biggest takeaway from the roster cutdown were as follows, with Lynch’s explanations for each decision included below:
- Three quarterbacks kept as expected
- 10 defensive linemen, but Damontre Moore and Kevin Givens weren’t one of them; Kentavius Street was.
- Seven wide receivers and four tight ends kept
- Only five linebackers, three safeties retained
- Most notable cuts: David Mayo, LaRoy Reynolds, Elijah Lee, Marcell Harris, Jordan Matthews, Jeff Wilson Jr., Kevin Givens, Joshua Garnett, Najee Toran
- Most notable retentions: Azeez Al-Shaair, Mark Nzeocha, Levine Toilolo, Kaden Smith, Justin Skule, Daniel Brunskill, Jullian Taylor, Kendrick Bourne, Richie James Jr.
Kentavius Street’s addition means at least one more change is coming
On Monday, head coach Kyle Shanahan said that Kentavius Street had a setback and like Dee Ford, and was dealing with knee tendinitis (albeit more severe). He said it was likely Street was heading for injured reserve, saying of his battle through pain that, “He can’t do it anymore.”
Street is still heading for injured reserve, but it’s the IR-return designation, not the season-ending injured reserve he was expected to end up on. His addition to the 53-man roster was required for the move and he’ll likely be placed on the IR-return tomorrow, opening up an additional roster spot. Considering the fact that the 49ers brought just three safeties on the roster, the move could be made there, or at linebacker. Safety has been an injury-prone position the last few years and seems much more dire than linebacker, considering the team’s move to more nickel packages.
Lynch said it’s “not unreasonable” to expect the team to add another safety, though he praised the positional flexibility of D.J. Reed Jr., Jimmie Ward and Tarvarius Moore.
That addition could be the more predictable re-signing of someone like Marcell Harris, who was a surprise cut as Jaquiski Tartt’s backup, or it could come through the waiver wire, where the 49ers have No. 2 priority. Lynch implied the 49ers are ready to use that, once, of course, they actually get their hands on the waiver wire list.
“We’ll be sitting around here, waiting for that (waiver list) to come and see who’s out there,” Lynch said.
Bosa, Verrett, Williams, Hurd and Taylor updates – and how that factored into receiver moves
The outlook for both Nick Bosa and Jason Verrett is positive, according to Lynch. K’Waun Williams’ status is more up in the air. Williams got work on the field with the 49ers’ medical staff on Saturday. His rehab “is trending well” according to Lynch, and the team will obviously know what his status is better as the Week progresses.
The good news is that both Bosa and Verrett are in play for Week 1. Bosa will be back at practice on Monday – a pretty significant step. Lynch said it will depend on how his week goes, but it’s fair to assume that he won’t be ruled out if he suffers no setbacks.
Verrett is also looking good, according to Lynch, maybe even more so than Bosa (it could also be that he wants to be more cautious when speaking about a No. 2 overall pick and potential franchise player in Bosa).
“The good news for Jason is that the recovery from this injury is going very well,” Lynch said. “Strong possibility that he’s ready for Week 1.”
On the other side of the ball, Trent Taylor won’t play in Week 1, and there was no real update on the status of Jalen Hurd (back tightness), who Kyle Shanahan said Thursday is unlikely to be available for Week 1.
“It’s a little more serious than we thought, still don’t know for sure,” Shanahan said. “We thought we would have a better chance at Tampa, and now that’s not looking as good… I don’t think we’ll have to consider a (IR) list, but we’re not as confident that he’ll be available now. We aren’t for sure, but I was a lot more optimistic about that two days ago.”
The health of Hurd and Taylor surely played into Lynch’s thinking when filling out the roster with seven wide receivers. It came down to Kendrick Bourne, Jordan Matthews and Richie James Jr. for the two final spots, and Matthews (who was probably more in competition with Bourne than James) found himself the odd man out; a decision which Lynch said was discussed “deep into last night.”
Lynch on Jordan Matthews: "That was a very tough decision for us. We decided to keep 7, probably somewhat factored in is that we have a couple guys (Hurd, Taylor) that we're not sure of for Week 1… deep into last night, [Matthews] was part of those discussions." #49ers
— Jake Hutchinson (@hutchdiesel) August 31, 2019
Four tight ends? That’s just protection for Kittle
Perhaps the biggest surprise of the 49ers’ roster was the team’s retention of four tight ends. Both Levine Toilolo and Kaden Smith were kept on the roster. While it’s surprising, the logic is there. Smith is a rookie sixth-round pick out of Stanford University and probably isn’t as reliable at this stage of his career as he projects to be, and Toilolo, at 6’8″, while not deft of foot, is incredibly useful for blocking and potential red zone schemes to take advantage of his height.
But as Lynch said, more than anything, the combination brings protection for George Kittle.
John Lynch said decision to keep four tight ends was in part to take the pressure of George Kittle, "for his well-being." Said Ross Dwelley "probably one of the most improved players on our roster." #49ers
— Jake Hutchinson (@hutchdiesel) August 31, 2019
The backup quarterback will be revealed Monday… and why neither was traded
To be clear, the backup quarterback has already been decided, Lynch said. It just hasn’t been announced. It should be Nick Mullens, but the team’s apparent infatuation with C.J. Beathard makes that less clear. Lynch said Shanahan will tell both quarterbacks in person on Monday, after which the decision should come into further focus.
As for those trade discussions, well, they went about as well as expected. In the final KNBR roster prediction, it was stated that teams might not value Mullens or Beathard anywhere near as highly as the 49ers do. Lynch said that was exactly the case when engaging in trade talks.
“You set a price on and you stay firm on it. While we had discussions, we never deviated on what that price was,” Lynch said. “A certain price had to be met and it wasn’t… We go in happily with these three.”
- Don’t assume that Justin Skule will be the swing tackle backup. Lynch praised Daniel Brunskill’s positional flexibility (he played all five positions at least adequately in the preseason) and said he could be there as well.
- Lynch said he hopes that Joshua Garnett can get healthy and become a starter somewhere else, but that the 49ers just couldn’t wait on him any longer. He wanted to make it clear the team wasn’t trying to call him out for questionable injuries or toughness. “Hard to see a guy like that go,” Lynch said. “You’d love to keep waiting. We just felt like we couldn’t do that any longer.”
- Azeez Al-Shaair was credited for beating out both David Mayo and LaRoy Reynolds, a pair of veterans who had solid camps. There was no word on why Elijah Lee was cut, but his broken thumb was probably a factor.