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Why Saturday is not really ‘final’ roster cuts for 49ers

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The 49ers will cut down to 53 players on Saturday, and then make more moves in the coming days.

NFL: Los Angeles Rams at San Francisco 49ers Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The San Francisco 49ers will make 18 roster moves on Saturday to cut down to the 53-man roster, but this is only the beginning of formulating their roster for the 2017 season. There will be roster moves made throughout the season, but the 53-man roster cut really is a two-week process. There is effectively a three-step process that includes waivers, injury list decisions, and veteran signings.


The 49ers will make their roster cuts on Saturday, and all players with less than four years of accrued service time will run through waivers. Veterans like Matt Barkley and Tim Hightower are immediately free agents because they are vested veterans.

All players eligible for waivers will run through it on Sunday at 9 a.m. PT. The 49ers have the No. 2 waiver priority behind only the Cleveland Browns. The Browns get first claim on every single player available on waivers. For any players the Browns do not claim, the 49ers then get priority. It is different from most fantasy football leagues, where waivers is rolling and once a team claims a player, they move to the bottom of the waiver order.

Given the number of players that will be available on waivers, there is a very good chance the 49ers claim at least one or two. That means that they will have to likely waive some players to make room for these new additions.

Injured Reserve

One way the 49ers could clear room for a player claimed on Sunday is placing another player on injured reserve. If the 49ers think an injured player can return during the upcoming regular season, they cannot place them on IR until after final roster cuts. Joshua Garnett is the most notable example, and we are still awaiting word on his status. If the 49ers think he can return, they will move him to IR after Saturday, thus opening up a roster spot. If they don’t think he can return, they will place him on IR on Saturday.

Veteran guarantees

If a vested veteran is on the 53-man roster for Week 1, his 2017 contract becomes fully guaranteed. If a vested veteran is signed after Week 1, his 2017 contract is not fully guaranteed, unless it is negotiated as such. That means that there are veterans that are being released who will be sitting out Week 1, and then finding themselves on an NFL roster for Week 2.

I don’t know if the 49ers have this in mind for any veterans, but it’s an option. The decision to release Matt Barkley could have been impacted by that a bit. I don’t expect the 49ers to bring him back for Week 2, but there will be plenty of Barkley-like quarterbacks on the free agent market if Brian Hoyer gets hurt and they are not comfortable with an extended starting appearance by C.J. Beathard.