The San Francisco 49ers are 16 days from their first training camp practice which means we'll start to get a better handle on who will rise and who will fall in the competition for roster spots. To prepare for training camp, we're going to go through a bubble watch of the entire roster. The plan will be to go position-by-position, and then compile it into our first bubble watch of training camp.
We continue our run through the positional depth charts, with a look at the tight ends. Thus far, we've broken down the quarterbacks, the running backs, the fullbacks, the wide receivers, the offensive line, the defensive line, the outside linebackers, and the inside linebackers. We're back to wrap up the offensive side of the ball with the tight ends. The veterans will report on July 23, and the rookies will report on July 16.
Locks: Vernon Davis, Vance McDonald
Strong Bubble: Garrett Celek, Derek Carrier
Weak Bubble: None
Longshot: Asante Cleveland, Kevin Greene
This one strikes me as clear in some respects, complicated in other respects. Vernon Davis and Vance McDonald are locks to make the roster. Of course, the one issue with Davis is his holdout. Will he be back in time for Week 1? My guess is he will, but util we see him at camp, we can't know for certain. If Vernon Davis holds out, all bets are off for how this group shakes out.
It would seem like Garrett Celek and Derek Carrier are competing for one roster spot. The team carried four tight ends last season starting in Week 11. Carrier spent the first ten weeks on the practice squad, but was promoted when Celek suffered a hamstring injury. Celek was inactive for four straight weeks. When Celek returned for Week 15, Carrier remained on the roster, and was inactive the rest of the season.
Carrier joined the 49ers for the first time when he signed with the practice squad last September. That means he's now had a full offseason to work with tight ends coach Eric Mangini, and develop his craft. He is a more athletic tight end, and I imagine spent a good chunk of this offseason working on the blocking aspects of the tight end role. I think Celek carries the edge heading into camp, but we'll see what a full offseason has done for Carrier.
Asante Cleveland and Kevin Greene joined the 49ers as undrafted free agents. My guess is they are competing for a practice squad spot, at best. And even that is a tough bet. Derek Carrier still has practice squad eligibility, although it is limited. He was on the Eagles practice squad for most of 2012, and then on the 49ers practice squad the first ten weeks of 2013. Although he spent the final seven weeks on the 53-man roster, and was active for five games, it requires nine games to lose any remaining practice squad eligibility.
A player has a third year of practice squad eligibility so long as his team maintains the full 53-man roster during Carrier's entire time on the practice squad. That means, if he was on the practice squad, and the 49ers released a player from the 53-man roster, they would either have to promote Carrier from the practice squad, or waive him from the practice. If he cleared waivers, he could sign back with the 49ers practice squad after that, so long as the 53-man roster was full again. Gotta love the random details.