The 49ers were one of the last teams to officially announce their roster cuts on Tuesday afternoon, as their press release was sent out well past the 1 PM PT deadline. Given the numerous difficult roster choices on hand, it was understandable that the decision went down to the wire.
Here’s the initial 53-man roster (I say initial because there will be some corresponding injured reserve moves that will create some additional roster spots):
Starting on the offensive side of the ball, it was smart for the 49ers only to keep two quarterbacks on the active roster. While there will be around $250k in dead money associated with the guaranteed money in Nate Sudfeld’s contract, he’ll be a strong candidate to return to the practice squad and can be elevated on game days in need of a third quarterback.
It was surprising to see the 49ers keep both Jalen Hurd and Jauan Jennings while releasing Travis Benjamin, but they felt comfortable enough with Hurd’s health after the final preseason game. Additionally, with the ability to utilize Brandon Aiyuk as the full-time punt returner, Benjamin became expendable.
The weakest position group for the 49ers’ offense might be their offensive line. The starting unit should be one of the better offensive lines in the NFL this season, given the retention of Trent Williams and signing of Alex Mack, but their depth behind those five guys is slim. Tom Compton was the sore spot during the 2019 Super Bowl, and he’s one injury away from being inserted into the starting lineup. Jaylon Moore shows some promise as the swing tackle, but Aaron Banks hasn’t shown much at right guard.
Defensively, I think Kyle Shanahan and John Lynch are trying to capture the magic that fueled them to a Super Bowl run in 2019 by building out a defensive line that will harass opposing quarterbacks into the parking lot. Of course, it is always a question of which linemen they would release, but with the roster spots saved at quarterback and tight end, the 49ers managed to keep 11 defensive linemen (it’ll become 10 once Maurice Hurst is placed on short-term injured reserve, but still).
The linebacking group is stout and has good depth behind Fred Warner and Dre Greenlaw. They were so deep. The 49ers could trade away former undrafted free agent Jonas Griffith to the Broncos for a sixth-round pick and a swap of seventh-round picks.
My primary concern is with the defensive backfield, as their depth is thin behind the starters. Deommodore Lenoir will slot in nicely as the backup outside corner at corner, but Ambry Thomas is a huge question mark. At safety, Talanoa Hufanga is playable in the event of injury for either Jaquiski Tartt or Jimmie Ward.
Given the salary cap and injuries, it’s impossible to build the perfect roster in the NFL, but the 49ers have assembled a highly talented and motivated group for this upcoming season. It’s clear that Shanahan’s building an offensive bully that’s spearheaded by its rushing attack while letting the defensive line lead the way for DeMeco Ryans’ unit.
They have talented playmakers all over the field who can be dangerous with the ball in their hands and youth at nearly every position group.
This roster formula almost netted them a Lombardi Trophy in 2019, but have they made enough tweaks since then to earn themselves a trip to Los Angeles next February?