The San Francisco 49ers settled on their 53-man roster over the weekend, or at least one version of it. On Monday, the team claimed Taylor Hart from the Philadelphia Eagles, and cut Bruce Miller. They will make further changes over the course of the season, but we at least have a really good idea of the Week 1 roster. With that in mind, I thought we would take a look at each position and compare it with the roster in Week 17 and Week 1 last year. We move on to the tight ends.
Current: Vance McDonald, Garrett Celek, Blake Bell (PS: Je’Ron Hamm)
Week 17, 2015: Vance McDonald, Blake Bell, Brian Leonhardt (PS: Jamie Childers)
Week 1, 2015: Vernon Davis, Vance McDonald, Garrett Celek, Blake Bell
The 49ers tight ends do not have the name-brand recognition we saw when Vernon Davis was leading the way, but they could be plenty busy in 2016. Blaine Gabbert frequently targeted his tight ends in 2015, and 2016 preseason saw him developing something with Vance McDonald. And considering McDonald is a free agent after this season, that is pretty good timing for his potential value.
Garrett Celek signed a four-year extension this offseason, and is now signed through 2019. He has never been a huge stand-out, but like McDonald, he had a bit more success once Gabbert took over at quarterback. And Blake Bell received some significant playing time after the Vernon Davis trade and Garrett Celek injury late in the season. The one-time college quarterback is entering his third year at tight end (dating back to his last college season). It seems like McDonald will be the No. 1 tight end, but I imagine we’ll see plenty of work from the second and third options.
Now that Bruce Miller has been released, the other question is if they bring Je’Ron Hamm back up to the 53-man roster at some point. He showed some things in the latter half of the preseason. Injuries could get him a promotion, but maybe the high volume leads to an opportunity. He played special teams in the preseason, so he is no stranger to that aspect of a role.