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There is currently a vast and less-than straightforward injury situation afoot in Santa Clara. The first step towards a roster remedy took place on Tuesday, as the team placed both center Weston Richburg (expected) and wide receiver Marquise Goodwin (not expected) on injured reserve.
Goodwin? Unexpected, but not unsurprising
Goodwin was inactive in Week 12 against the Green Bay Packers, did not take a snap against the Baltimore Ravens, and was inactive again in the 48-46 win over the New Orleans Saints at the weekend. Since Week 7, he’s had just one reception, which was for five yards, against the Arizona Cardinals in Week 11.
The tea leaves of Kyle Shanahan’s Monday press conference seemed to indicate that Goodwin was indeed dealing with something serious. Shanahan said the team was reviewing its medical options for him as he dealt with chronic knee and ankle issues, and with him effectively a non-factor in the offense, he was taking up a roster spot without any upside. What the roster moves mean is that the 49ers have a pair of free roster spots to use.
Injury situation, and how 49ers might spend roster spots
As reviewed on Monday, here’s what the 49ers are dealing with on the injury front:
Also injured, again, is Dee Ford. Shanahan said last week the team was being cautious to not rush Ford back in order to not re-aggravate his hamstring. Despite that precaution, Ford did re-injure that hamstring strain on Sunday, and is expected to be out “probably at least three weeks.” Shanahan confirmed that because it’s a re-aggravation, it’s worse than the initial hamstring strain he sustained, and will therefore take longer to recover. He’s out until the playoffs.
D.J. Jones still has an ankle sprain (it sounded from Shanahan like it was re-aggravated) and the team is waiting for his results to come back, while Richard Sherman has a grade two hamstring strain and will “probably be a couple weeks.” K’Waun Williams is currently in concussion protocol. Jullian Taylor is expected to be out for another week with an elbow ligament issue, and Jaquiski Tartt (rib fracture) will be evaluated on Wednesday.
So, what’s the plan? First, expect Kevin Givens or Kentavius Street to be put on the active roster. Both are interior defensive lineman. Givens was a preseason standout who was then signed to the team’s practice squad, where he’s remained. Street, meanwhile, has spent the duration of his career on injured reserve after being drafted out of North Carolina State in the fourth round last year.
The 49ers opened his three-week practice window last week, meaning he’s been practicing with the team and has to be activated by the end of that window or placed back on injured reserve. With Jones’ nagging injuries, Ford out for the foreseeable future along with Taylor for at least another week, the 49ers absolutely need help on the defensive line (with both Arik Armstead and Solomon Thomas able to play out on the edges).
There’s a chance the team could activate both Givens and Street, and while not a far-fetched scenario, the loss of Sherman and lack of clarity on Williams and Tartt, along with Richburg and Goodwin’s loss would probably suggest a move elsewhere.
Here are three potential moves that the 49ers could make with that extra roster spot:
- Re-sign Jordan Matthews: Matthews was cut by the Philadelphia Eagles and would likely be the 49ers’ first choice if they need a wide receiver. It’s feels unlikely because Pettis is expected to return to practice and the team doesn’t really need five wide receivers.
- Sign an offensive lineman: With Richburg out, Ben Garland is the new starting center, though Mike Person has experience playing there, and Daniel Brunskill also received reps there in the preseason. Because of the injuries to Joe Staley and Mike McGlinchey earlier in the season, both Brunskill and Justin Skule have carved out well-protected roster spots. An addition here would make the most sense, simply in the fact that seven offensive linemen is a tenuous situation, but Brunskill’s flexibility gives the 49ers options.
- Sign a defensive back: Dontae Johnson maybe? If all of Williams and Sherman are out, there might need to be a move made here from a depth perspective, as the team would be left with just three active corners (though Jimmie Ward could also play there). The team signed safety Antone Exum last week as cover for Tartt, so if Tartt returns, that could provide an opportunity for another spot by cutting Exum.
Practice squad moves
From the 49ers:
The team also signed LB Joey Alfieri to the team’s practice squad after releasing WR Deontay Burnett and LB Christian Sam from the unit. The 49ers also placed LB Demetrius Flannigan-Fowles on the practice squad Injured Reserve List.