One of the more random aspects of the preseason is how teams appear to be attempting to hide certain players, in order to slip them on to their practice squad. In order to get a player onto the practice squad the following steps must happen:
1. The player is waived
2. The player clears waivers (for today's releases, waivers runs at 9:00 a.m. PT tomorrow)
3. If they clear waivers, they can then sign a contract to the practice squad
There has been a lot of discussion about the 49ers depth and the number of quality players they will have to release to make their way down to the 53-man roster limit. While they do have some tough choices, there is potentially some interesting strategy in play.
One such position of strategy is at wide receiver. The 49ers likely have the six guys with which they will enter the regular season. That leaves Chis Owusu and Nathan Palmer potentially on the outside looking in. They might have had some chance at a roster spot, but the odds seemed incredibly long.
53-Man Roster Projection
Given those odds, it became a battle for a spot on the practice squad, or even better, getting claimed by another team in waivers and getting a spot on their 53-man roster. Both players may or may not have some measure of loyalty to the 49ers (particularly with Owusu's Stanford connection), but when it comes to getting a job, the 53-man is generally better than the practice squad. I say generally because I suppose there might be instances where a player has learned the playbook and thinks there best opportunity could arise there. Just speculation.
Last night, the 49ers seemed to be spotlighting Nathan Palmer to a certain degree. We don't know the necessary reads and progressions in the play-calling, so it could have just been dumb luck. Early on though, it seemed like the team was going to Nathan Palmer quite a bit. That theory took a hit with the arrival of Chris Owusu on the field.
However, Palmer made the biggest impact of the two early in the third quarter. On Josh Johnson's first pass of the night, he threw a short pass to Palmer on the left side. Palmer then cut to his left and thanks to his fantastic speed and a poor angle from the defender, he was off to the races for a 51-yard touchdown reception.
It is entirely possible he clears waivers and ends up on a practice squad. Teams could see some quick video of the drops and be turned off. However, I think there has to be at least one team that will see that catch and run and be plenty happy to place a claim on Palmer. A team like the Dolphins will be scouring the waiver wire for any and all receiver talent.
But for the 49ers, that might be perfectly fine with them. If Coach Harbaugh and Trent Baalke actually want to keep Chris Owusu, they could throw the scent off in a sense. We don't know yet if that is in fact the case, but it is something to keep in mind. It is potentially similar to Cam Johnson. The 49ers seventh round pick has been inactive all camp with a knee injury and finally got on the field last night. I could see the 49ers trying to slip him through waivers and get him on to the practice squad for now. We'll find out tomorrow how this all plays out.