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49ers considered free agent Julius Thomas, releasing Vernon Davis, according to Gregg Rosenthal

This certainly would have caught 49ers fans off guard. It is only a rumor, but it would have heated up free agency.

Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

The San Francisco 49ers will likely cut a few players at the end of the preseason that will catch us a little off guard. NFL teams are always trying to get younger and cheaper, and that frequently comes at the expense of veterans. NFL.com writer Gregg Rosenthal took a look at 15 potential surprise roster cuts, and Vernon Davis was number one on his list (h/t reedkrase for spotting it).

There has been some discussion in the comments about Davis's future. He had a very poor 2014 season, and while injuries were at least partially responsible, it is also possible he is just getting old and approaching the end of his career. Rosenthal's discussion about Davis included some new rumors:

Around the NFL heard whispers that the 49ers "sniffed around" tight end Julius Thomas when he was a free agent. If the 49ers were able to consummate that deal, Davis would have been released. Davis has received predictable offseason buzz this offseason for a potential bounceback. He's due $4.35 million in the final year of his deal.

Bay Area Sports Guy made a strong argument for why Rosenthal's report is weak. From my perspective, the idea of "heard whispers" and "sniffer around" allow for plenty of room for interpretation. Given that the 49ers were decimated at tight end last year, it made sense to consider any and all options. In the end, the biggest additions were the drafting of Blake Bell and Busta Anderson. But it would make sense for the 49ers to at least kick the tires on a guy like Thomas to see what kind of money he would be looking for in free agency. And as BASG pointed out, had the 49ers signed Thomas, they would almost assuredly have unloaded Davis.

The 49ers could very well consummate some kind of trade to unload Davis, but even that seems unlikely at this point. The team has a lot of tight end options, but if they legitimately believe Davis just needed to get healthy this year, he retains significant value for this offense. He is entering the final year of his deal, and would seemingly be motivated to finish it strong and build his market value.

I see little reason to believe he will be playing for the 49ers in 2016, but he could still earn a nice little payday elsewhere with a big bounce-back year. And in the meantime, the 49ers can figure out what options they have as they look to the future at tight end.