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Kyle Shanahan studied Garrett Celek before 2016 free agency

The 49ers are turning over the tight end depth chart, but one veteran might have a decent chance of returning.

The San Francisco 49ers tight end depth chart remains a work in progress, with numerous offseason additions competing for work. Rookie George Kittle is off to a strong start, but other than that, it’s hard to know who will fit into what role.

One player who has flown under the radar is Garrett Celek. After joining the 49ers as a UDFA, he was primarily a blocker his first three seasons. He emerged as a modest pass-catching threat the past two seasons, and got a four-year, $10.2 million contract extension a year ago.

Celek was due to hit free agency last spring, before he signed the extension. It turns out the 49ers new head coach, Kyle Shanahan, was intrigued by him. On Wednesday, someone asked Shanahan about Celek, who had made a solid catch on Tuesday. Shanahan talked about the position in general, and then said that he had looked at Celek before free agency.

“Yeah, we have some good competition there. We have six guys who I believe are all NFL players. Very rarely just six guys on our roster, if ever. So, we’ve got some good competition there. It’s going to be tough for the coaches, but it’s definitely a good problem to have. Speaking of Celek, he’s done a great job. I’ve been a fan of him throughout his career. I remember studying him a couple years ago when I thought he was going to be a free agent. I think it was last year, but they ended up signing him before he went to the market. He’s learning new stuff just like everyone else is, but that whole group in general is doing a real good job.”

We hear a lot of smoke blown about players, but I think it says at least a little something that he offered up this kind of specific information. It does not guarantee Celek a roster spot, but it bodes somewhat well. And in terms of roster projections, it’s one point in favor of including him.

Kittle seems like a lock at this point to make the 49ers, with Logan Paulsen a strong option as well. That would leave one, maaaaaybe two spots for Celek, Vance McDonald, Cole Hikutini, and Blake Bell. And if they go with one not two, my guess is they would try and slip Hikutini to the practice squad.