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Veteran 49ers whose roster spots are in jeopardy

The pressure is on.

Seattle Seahawks v San Francisco 49ers Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

The San Francisco 49ers are in Year 3 with general manager John Lynch and coach Kyle Shanahan at the helm. In that time, the team’s roster has seen tremendous turnover. Only nine players remain that were inherited after the organization parted ways with former GM Trent Baalke in 2017. As the team prepares for organized team activities on May 20, new competition brings with it a new group of veterans in danger of losing their spots on the roster. Let’s take a look at some familiar faces that could be on the outside looking in after training camp:

Garrett Celek

Celek time may be running out. The beloved seven-year veteran only accounted for five receptions for 90 yards and two touchdowns last season. The 49ers drafted Stanford tight end Kaden Smith in the fifth-round this year and signed Tyree Mayfriend as an undrafted free agent. Newly-signed Levine Toilolo and second-year tight end Ross Dwelley will be in the mix, as well. Celek will be competing for the backup role behind starter George Kittle. There’s a real chance the team elects to get both younger and cheaper this offseason.

Josh Garnett

Garnett’s presence on this list surprises no one. The former first-round pick has never produced the impact you would expect from his draft position, struggling with injury and only appearing in 22 of 48 games, starting just 11. The 49ers recently declined to pick up Garnett’s fifth-year option, signaling what’s likely his last year on the team. The starters along the offensive line are mostly entrenched, with veterans Mike Person and Laken Tomlinson occupying both spots at guard. Garnett’s best chances at making the roster are as a quality backup, but his roster spot is far from guaranteed if he can’t stay on the field throughout the offseason.

K’Waun Williams

Williams’ appearance on this list isn’t an indictment of his play. He’s been stable over the past two seasons as the 49ers’ slot cornerback on defense. Williams allowed just .93 yards per coverage snap, per Pro Football Focus - good for 6th among defensive backs. Second-year corner D.J. Reed has been in the mix both at safety and filled in for an injured Williams late last season. The results were impressive, and Reed looked much more comfortable near the line of scrimmage at cornerback. Williams doesn’t deserve to be cut, but if numbers get tight at other positions, he could be a surprise exit.

Ronald Blair III

Blair had his best season in 2018. He racked up 36 total tackles, 10 tackles for loss, 14 quarterback hits and 5.5 sacks in his third year with the 49ers. Those are quality numbers given his status as a rotational player. Unfortunately for Blair, the defensive front is more stacked than ever. The 49ers added defensive end Nick Bosa with the No. 2 pick and traded for Dee Ford this offseason. They’ll join DeForest Buckner, Arik Armstead and Solomon Thomas on a defensive line filled with first-round picks. The 49ers kept nine defensive linemen in 2018. When you add in D.J. Jones, Sheldon Day, Kentavius Street and Jullian Taylor, it becomes clear just how intense the competition will be for Blair to hold on to his spot.

Malcolm Smith

Smith is one of the team’s first marquee free agents under Lynch and Shanahan, and his tenure so far has been disappointing. He missed all 16 games in 2017 after suffering a torn pectoral during training camp. He only started five games in 2018 after opening the season on the physically unable to perform list. Smith was effectively replaced by Elijah Lee, a 2017 seventh-round pick by the Minnesota Vikings. The 49ers added linebacker Kwon Alexander through free agency and Dre Greenlaw in the draft. Even with a restructured contract, the pressure is on Smith to remain healthy and prove his worth.