The San Francisco 49ers cut down to their 53-man roster on Saturday, with a variety of moves that were mostly expected. There were no down-right shocking moves, but there were some that give us a hint at the direction of the team.
Brian Jennings released
The most notable cut was 13-year veteran Brian Jennings. The 49ers decided to make a change at long snapper, switching to undrafted rookie free agent Kevin McDermott. The move can be viewed almost exclusively as a salary cap maneuver. Jennings had a base salary of $940,000 plus prorated signing bonus money, while McDermott was set to earn the league minimum. That $500,000 and change difference is not huge for one year, but when we are talking about a team with so many key players coming up for contracts, this was not surprising.
Nate Stupar surprises
The most surprising player to make the roster compared to the start of the preseason had to be Nate Stupar. He had some limited time with the 49ers practice squad at the end of last season, but a poor performance against the Broncos seemed to have him destined for release. Instead, he bounced back, finished strong, and secured himself a spot on the 53-man roster.
The extra inside linebackers does raise the question of whether Patrick Willis will be back when the season starts. If the 49ers do sign Owen Marecic, Nate Stupar seems like a likely cut, but it's possible he is around because Willis' hand might need a little more time to recover. We'll see how the coming week develops.
Cuts not done
The most notable thing to take away from these roster cuts is that they are far from finished. The 49ers are rumored to be planning on signing fullback Owen Marecic. If that signing happens, the 49ers will have to clear a player off the roster. Additionally, the team placed Demarcus Dobbs on the reserve/suspended list for his one game suspension. If the team is planning on keeping him, they would be looking at a second cut next week.
Furthermore, the team has several players on the PUP and NFI list who could make their return at some point this season. Mario Manningham will hopefully be ready to play when his time on the PUP list comes to an end. Michael Crabtree could be ready in late November or early December. And of course, the 49ers have Tank Carradine and Quinton Dial potentially coming off the NFI list. This is quite a contingent of talent potentially available.
Offensive line depth
At this point the 49ers are heading into the season with Daniel Kilgore, Adam Snyder and Joe Looney as their reserve offensive linemen. The team could decide to claim players off waivers over the next day, but I suspect the line is set as is. We have had plenty of grumbling about Snyder, but in the latter half of the preseason he did reasonably well. He will not blow anybody away, but there is not exactly a lot else out there to replace this group.
Special teams guys
The team made a big move releasing Brian Jennings, but otherwise, they are keeping around several guys who will act as specialists. Raymond Ventrone is the most prominent, given that he played no defense during the preseason. Dan Skuta is likely to get some work as a situational pass rusher, but I think he spends most of his time on special teams. Nick Moody and Nate Stupar will also have an opportunity to get special teams work.
Five wide receivers kept
This is not particularly surprising. The 49ers gave Chad Hall a lot of opportunities, Lavelle Hawkins did what he could with his opportunities, and Austin Collie had the most veteran experience. And yet, none of them really seemed like they had a particularly realistic roster shot as the preseason wore on. And so, Colin Kaepernick and the 49ers head into the season with Anquan Boldin, Kyle Williams, Marlon Moore, Quinton Patton and Jon Baldwin out there waiting for his passes. I think Patton is the guy who makes the biggest leap, but we'll see.
Who are your inactive seven?
The team will have 46 players active on gameday, leaving seven players in civilians. The 53-man roster will change, but just based on what we see right now, my guess at next week's inactive seven would be:
QB B.J. Daniels
LB Nick Moody
LB Cam Johnson
DT Tony Jerod-Eddie
OG Joe Looney
LB Nate Stupar (he's my guess for released player if Marecic signs)
RB LaMichael James (injury)
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