The San Francisco 49ers cut their roster from 90 to 53 ahead of Tuesday afternoon’s deadline. While several players who were released or waived ahead of the deadline will make it to the 17-man practice squad, others have played their final game with the 49ers.
We already saw San Francisco make a significant move ahead of the deadline, sending quarterback Trey Lance to the Dallas Cowboys on Friday. That pretty much settles the quarterback situation in Northern California, with Brandon Allen now on the 53.
Wide receivers Danny Gray and Ray-Ray McCloud are expected to miss several weeks due to injury. Neither player was placed on injured reserve ahead of Tuesday’s roster cut deadline. That would have forced them to miss the entire 2023 season. The same thing can’t be said for rookie tight end Cameron Latu who was placed on injured reserve with a torn meniscus in his knee.
Veteran kicker Zane Gonzalez joins him on injured reserve as do cornerback A.J. Parker and safety Travis Hawkins. Meanwhile reigning NFL Defensive Player of the Year Nick Bosa will not count against the initial 53 as he continues his long holdout.
San Francisco 49ers 53-Man Roster
With all of that in mind, let’s take a look at the 49ers’ initial 53-man roster. Keep in mind that it will change a lot ahead of Week 1 against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Brock Purdy, Sam Darnold, Brandon Allen
The trade of Lance pretty much ended any discussion about who San Francisco was going to keep on its 53-man roster at quarterback. There is a chance that the 49ers do look outside of the organization for an upgrade over Allen. But that seems unlikely at this point.
Will Grier showed out in his final appearance with the Dallas Cowboys this weekend. He could be an option after being released by Dallas.
Running Backs (5)
Christian McCaffrey, Elijah Mitchell, Ty Davis-Price, Jordan Mason, Kyle Juszczyk
Veterans Jeremy McNichols and Brian Hill were the odd men out. One will likely land on the 49ers’ practice squad. Ty Davis-Price did enough during the preseason to earn a spot on the 53. Despite a fumble in the preseason finale, Mason’s downhill running ability is something nice to have as a reserve.
At fullback, undrafted free agent Jack Colletto will likely find himself on the practice squad should another team not claim him. He impressed big time during the summer and could eventually be the heir apparent to Juszczyk moving forward. But it was risky to expose him to waivers.
Tight Ends (4)
George Kittle, Charlie Woerner, Ross Dwelley, Brayden Willis
With Latu going on injured reserve, San Francisco’s tight end situation is not great. Woerner was rostered because of his blocking ability, not his pass-catching ability (eight receptions in three seasons). A veteran of five seasons with San Francisco, Dwelley caught a mere three passes in 12 games last year.
It was interesting to see San Francisco keep rookie seventh-round pick Brayden Willis out of Oklahoma. He offers the most upside from a pass-catching perspective of any San Francisco tight end outside of Kittle. This is one position I expect San Francisco to look outside of the organization for an upgrade ahead of Week 1.
Wide Receivers (6)
Deebo Samuel, Brandon Aiyuk, Jauan Jennings, Danny Gray, Ronnie Bell, Ray-Ray McCloud
This situation is a bit cloudy due to injuries to both McCloud and Gray. I expect both to be placed on injured reserve after final cuts, enabling them to return at some point in the first half of the season. At that point, the 49ers will likely re-sign Willie Snead and Chris Conley to the active roster or practice squad after they were released in final cuts.
However, Ronnie Bell is the name to watch here. The seventh-round pick from Michigan showed out big time during the preseason. Will it be enough for him to earn a big role heading into the regular season? Time will tell on that front.
Offensive Line (9)
Trent Williams, Aaron Banks, Jake Brendel, Spencer Burford, Colton McKivitz, Jaylon Moore, Matt Pryor, John Feliciano, Nick Zakelj
San Francisco typically keeps eight offensive linemen. But with question marks at right tackle and guard, going with nine made sense.
That’s where veterans Pryor and Feliciano come into play. Both can suit up at multiple positions, creating a ton of versatility off the bench. As for former undrafted free agent Jason Poe, San Francisco is hoping to hide the talented second-year player on the practice squad for another season after waiving him on Tuesday.
Defensive Line (8)
Clelin Ferrell, Drake Jackson, Javon Hargrave, Arik Armstead, Javon Kinlaw, Robert Beal Jr. Kevin Givens, Kalia Davis
The 49ers kept only eight defensive linemen in their final 53 with the aforementioned Bosa remaining a holdout. They hope that veterans Austin Bryant and Kerry Hyder Jr. return on the 17-man practice squad. If not, San Francisco will have to look outside of the organization for depth at the edge.
San Francisco is hoping for something out of two youngsters in that of defensive end Robert Beal Jr. and defensive tackle Kalia Davis. Beal is a rookie fifth-round pick out of Georgia while Davis missed his entire rookie season after the 49ers made the Central Florida product a sixth-round pick in the 2022 NFL Draft.
Fred Warner, Dre Greenlaw, Oren Burks, Dee Winters, Jalen Graham, Demetrius Flannigan-Fowles
I am not sure if the 49ers are going to end up keeping six linebackers. It was interesting that both Winters and Graham made the initial 53.
A sixth-round pick out of Texas Christian back in April, Winters displayed a ton of athleticism and field awareness during training camp. Meanwhile, Graham was the 49ers’ last pick in the 2023 NFL Draft. He might have been the biggest surprise of the summer camp. Burks, Winters, Graham and Flannigan-Fowles can also play special teams, which helped their cause.
Charvarius Ward, Deommodore Lenoir, Samuel Womack, Ambry Thomas, Isaiah Oliver
The one surprise is that Oliver made San Francisco’s 53-man roster. He struggled big time in training camp and during limited preseason action. Apparently, the $2.9 million Oliver received in guaranteed cash during NFL free agency played a role here. He’ll compete for starting nickel cornerback duties moving forward.
Undrafted rookie free agent D’Shawn Jamison from Texas was seen as a favorite to earn a spot on the 53. The 49ers are hoping he makes it through waivers after a solid summer performance. If not, they’ll have to look elsewhere for depth.
Talanoa Hufanga, Tashaun Gipson, Ji’Ayir Brown, George Odum
None of these four are a surprise. Hufanga and Gipson are San Francisco’s unquestioned starters with the former having earned All-Pro honors last season. Brown played extremely well during the preseason. As a third-round pick from Penn State, I am expecting him to see action in nickel situations out of the gate.
Meanwhile, Odum is a special teams standout. He actually earned second-team All-Pro honors in his first season with the 49ers in 2022.
Jake Moody, Mitch Wishnowsky, Taybor Pepper
San Francisco’s first pick in the 2023 NFL Draft, Jake Moody is currently sidelined with a quad injury. It remains to be seen if the rookie third-round pick will be able to go Week 1. The 49ers did bring in multiple veteran kickers this week and could potentially look to re-sign Robbie Gould.
As for the other two positions, there was no real intrigue here. Wishnowsky was a lock to make the team as a punter and Pepper has been a standout long snapper during his time in San Francisco.