SANTA CLARA – No Jerick McKinnon, again. No more waiting for Joshua Garnett. No breaking up the receiver corps for Jordan Matthews. And no quarterback getting trading.
Saturday’s unveiling of the 49ers’ initial 53-man roster offered a few surprises, and more could be coming as they stand No. 2 in the waiver-wire queue.
“We’ll be sitting around here, waiting for that (waiver list) to come and see who’s out there,” general manager John Lynch said on a media conference call, underscoring how fluid rosters always are in the NFL.
Let’s explain who got past the bouncer Saturday and into, as we’ll call it, Club 53:
IN: Jimmy Garoppolo, Nick Mullens, C.J. Beathard
OUT: Wilton Speight
Analysis: Garoppolo is all set for a Week 1 comeback from knee reconstruction, the best-case scenario that’s been plotted since last September. Coach Kyle Shanahan is waiting until Monday to inform Mullens and Beathard who’ll be the top backup, presumably Mullens, who, by the way, became a first-time father Friday.
Lynch quote, on trade talks for their backups: “A certain price had to be met and it wasn’t. We go in happily with these three.”
RUNNING BACKS (4)
IN: Matt Breida, Tevin Coleman, Raheem Mostert, Kyle Juszczyk
OUT: Jerick McKinnon (injured reserve), Jeff Wilson Jr., Austin Walter, Brandon Wilds
Analysis: Breida’s blazing speed and improved versatility, plus Coleman’s size and experience, should serve as enough 1-2 punch to thrive without McKinnon, who went on injured reserve a second straight season in need of knee surgery. Having Raheem Mostert in reserve is more enticing after seeing his capabilities over the past year. Wilson would be nice to stash again on the practice squad.
Lynch quote: “The decision was made he needed to undergo another procedure, where being available in eight weeks (off short-term IR) wasn’t an option. We’re hopeful for Jerick that this one will be successful. There were some mechanical issues that did not allow him to play. That’s rough because he worked so diligently to get back.”
WIDE RECEIVER (7)
IN: Marquise Goodwin, Dante Pettis, Deebo Samuel, Jalen Hurd, Kendrick Bourne, Trent Taylor, Richie James
OUT: Jordan Matthews, Malik Henry, Chris Thompson, Nick Williams (injured reserve)
Analysis: Look for Goodwin, Pettis, Samuel, Bourne and James to all rotate in the season opener, and that includes in the slot to cover for Taylor (foot) and Hurd (back). Matthews, a five-year veteran, did not convince he was a better option than incumbent, younger ones.
Lynch quote: “He’s kind of a victim of circumstance. The draft aligned in such that we got two wide receivers and that made it an uphill battle for Jordan. I told him today I’m thankful for the professionalism he brought into this building.”
TIGHT END (4)
IN: George Kittle, Kaden Smith, Ross Dwelley, Levine Toilolo
OUT: Daniel Helm, Tyree Mayfield
Analysis: Kittle is a focal point entering his third season, and the 49ers, for now, retained so many other tight ends as “a stated goal” to ease Kittle’s burden of playing almost every snap. One backup likely could be expendable if a roster spot is needed. Dwelley made great offseason strides, and Smith came on the past couple weeks.
Lynch quote: “George is a great player and you can run into, ‘Let’s have him out there every single play of the season.’ There was a responsibility for George’s well-being, for our team’s well-being, that we pushed some people around him.”
OFFENSIVE LINE (8)
IN: Joe Staley, Laken Tomlinson, Weston Richburg, Mike Person, Mike McGlinchey, Ben Garland, Justin Skule, Daniel Brunskill
OUT: Joshua Garnett, Sam Young, Wesley Johnson, Najee Toran, Ross Reynolds, Andrew Lauderdale (waived/injured)
Analysis: Eight is enough? Look for the 49ers to hunt for another team’s castoff in the next 24 hours, including at swing tackle if they don’t bring back Young.
Lynch quote: “We only went with eight offensive linemen but you go to versatility and position flex, in terms of both Justin Skule and Daniel Brunskill have both played guard and tackle. It’s an ongoing (question) who would be the first (backup) tackle.”
DEFENSIVE LINE (10)
IN: DeForest Buckner, Dee Ford, Nick Bosa, Arik Armstead, Solomon Thomas, Sheldon Day, Ronald Blair, Kentavius Street, D.J. Jones, Jullian Taylor
OUT: Damontre Moore, Jeremiah Valoaga, Kevin Givens, Jamell Garcia-Williams, Jay Bromley, Jordan Thompson
Analysis: This is the 49ers’ money unit, stacked with five first-round picks (Armstead, Bosa, Buckner, Ford, Thomas). Street, with his own ACL complications, will slide to injured reserve with a possible midseason return. Valoaga’s 4 1/2 sacks were second most in the league, and Moore had two sacks to complement his team-high nine quarterback hits, so they’ll resurface in the league, perhaps with the 49ers.
Lynch quote: “The clarity we have on Nick is he will be ready for practice on Monday. How that goes, we’ve seen that with other circumstances where guys look good and then you have to go practice and play. At Nick’s position, you play against big bodies and have to be able to turn. That’s a big step. He’ll be ready to practice Monday and see where it goes from there.”
IN: Fred Warner, Kwon Alexander, Dre Greenlaw, Mark Nzeocha, Azeez Al-Shaair
OUT: David Mayo, Elijah Lee, LaRoy Reynolds, Malcolm Smith (released Tuesday), Demetrius Flannigan-Fowles
Analysis: Alexander’s ACL comeback is a go for his return to Tampa in Week 1, and he’ll have young, fast linebackers next to him in Warner (second year) and Greenlaw (rookie). Neither Lee’s starting experience last season nor Mayo’s $1.1 million in guarantees assured their return, even after the 49ers earlier cut Malcolm Smith. So welcome aboard Azeez Al-Shaair, the only undrafted rookie on this 53-man unit.
Lynch quote: “Azzeez earned his way onto the roster and beat some really good players, when you talk about guys like Mayo and LaRoy Reynolds, that had really strong camps. That tells you how well Azeez played in our mind.”
DEFENSIVE BACK (10)
IN: Richard Sherman, Ahkello Witherspoon, Jimmie Ward, Jaquiski Tartt, Tarvarius Moore, K’Waun Williams, Emmanuel Moseley, Jason Verrett, D.J. Reed
OUT: Marcell Harris, Antone Exum, Adrian Colbert (waived/injured), Dontae Johnson, Quinten Rollins, Tyree Robinson, Chris Campbell, Jordan Holland
Analysis: Verrett did not last a week with the first string before getting hurt in camp, so his health is a gamble, and one certainly worth taking at a thin position. Moore’s conversion from cornerback went so well that an injured Colbert became replaceable.
Lynch quote: “The good news for Jason is that his recovery from ankle injury is going very well and it’s a strong possibility we’ll have him for Week 1. That’s still in play. We decided he was worth carrying onto the roster and we’re pleased with that.”
IN: Robbie Gould, Mitch Wishnowsky, Colin Holba
OUT: Kyle Nelson (suspended first six games; PEDs)
Analysis: Gould got handsomely paid upon reporting to camp, and his new holder is Wishnowsky, a rookie from Australia who could be an ‘X’ factor with his towering, topsy-turvy punts.
Lynch quote, in urging the NFL to increase roster size: “The hard part about today, I won’t speak of one decision but of a number that we felt a guy earned his way on to the roster but we weren’t able to keep him.
“I suppose that’s a good sign, because we’ve improved to where we have decisions like that. That hasn’t always been the case. There certainly were today three or four guys that earned their way on and it’s difficult to look a young man in the eye and say, ‘Yeah, you earned it. We don’t have a spot for you.’ “