The 49ers concluded the preseason with a 0-0 win/loss to the Houston Texans on Thursday evening. With the roster already at 75 players, the deadline to cut the roster to 53 players is on Saturday at 1:00 p.m. PT.
Here is a position by position breakdown of how I project the 49ers 53-man roster:
Quarterbacks (2): Colin Kaepernick, Blaine Gabbert
Cut: Josh Johnson
Explanation: The 49ers have never had two quarterbacks on the 53-man roster in Week 1 of the Jim Harbaugh era, but it appears that will change this season. Last year, there were two QBs at the end of the season with McLeod Bethel-Thompson on the practice squad as the third string quarterback. The 49ers will most likely pursue him again for 2014.
Running Backs/Fullbacks (5): Frank Gore, Carlos Hyde, Bruce Miller, LaMichael James, Alfonso Smith
Cut: Glenn Winston, Will Tukuafu
Other: Marcus Lattimore (Non-Football injury list), Kendall Hunter (Injured Reserve), Trey Millard (Non-football injury list)
Explanation: With Lattimore still recovering from two torn ligaments, he will be out for at least the first six weeks of the 2014 NFL season. Alfonso Smith appears to have an advantage over his competition in training camp. The bigger question mark is, do the 49ers need a reserve FB in Tukuafu? LaMichael James will make the 53-man roster due to the injuries to Hunter and Lattimore. Alfonso Smith will make the team through his ability to play special teams.
Wide Receivers (5): Anquan Boldin, Michael Crabtree, Quinton Patton, Stevie Johnson, Bruce Ellington
Cut: Kassim Osgood, Brandon Lloyd, L’Damian Washington, Lance Lewis
Explanation: It is possible that Osgood could be a sixth WR if the 49ers value him on special teams, but they could also be hoping he clears waivers and they can re-sign him for a lower price. A roster bonus and higher cap hit would be guaranteed if he makes the 53-man roster. The experiment with Lloyd doesn’t appear to have done much, the 49ers should be looking to get younger rather than older at wide receiver.
Tight Ends (3): Vernon Davis, Vance McDonald, Derek Carrier
Cut: Asante Cleveland
Other: Garrett Celek (Physically unable to perform list)
Explanation: This is clear cut, as all three tight ends were on the 53-man roster last year. Carrier could be cut when Celek is ready to return from his injury.
Offensive Line (9): Anthony Davis, Marcus Martin, Joe Staley, Mike Iupati, Daniel Kilgore, Joe Looney, Adam Snyder, Jonathan Martin, Ryan Seymour
Cut: Al Netter, Carter Bykowski, Dillon Farrell, Michael Philipp
Other: Alex Boone (Reserve/Did not report), Brandon Thomas (IR), Luke Marquardt (IR)
Explanation: If Alex Boone ends his holdout, Ryan Seymour could be off the roster to make room. It doesn’t appear that either side is close to a new deal, leaving him on the outside. Snyder and Seymour were initially bubble players, but the recent injury to Marcus Martin increases Snyder’s value of versatility among the offfensive line.
Defensive Line (7): Justin Smith, Ray McDonald, Ian Williams, Tank Carradine, Quinton Dial, Tony Jerod-Eddie, Glenn Dorsey
Cut: Demarcus Dobbs, Mike Purcell, Lawrence Okoye
Other: Kaleb Ramsey (PUP)
Explanation: It’s possible the 49ers could keep Dobbs, but there are younger and more athletic linemen available in Dial and Carradine which makes him expendable. Jerod-Eddie’s versatility to play any position on the defensive line gives him the edge over Dobbs. Dorsey will need to be on the 53-man roster when the first cuts are made and he should be added to the injured reserve/designated for return list. Tuesday is the first day where this move is allowed, so the 49ers will add someone who was cut back to the 53-man roster.
Inside Linebackers (4): Patrick Willis, Michael Wilhoite, Chris Borland, Nick Moody
Cut: Shayne Skov
Other: NaVorro Bowman (PUP)
Explanation: Wilhoite should be the starting inside linebacker for the first six weeks of the season as Bowman recovers from his torn ACL. Borland and Moody should be special teams contributors for the time being.
Outside Linebackers (4): Ahmad Brooks, Corey Lemonier, Dan Skuta, Aaron Lynch
Cut: Chase Thomas
Other: Aldon Smith (Reserve/suspended)
Explanation: Smith is presumably suspended to begin the year and at minimum, it will give more opportunities for Corey Lemonier as a pass rusher. Lynch has shown flashes as a pass rusher in the preseason and appears to be the last OLB to make it.
Cornerbacks (5): Chris Culliver, Tramaine Brock, Perrish Cox, Dontae Johnson, Darryl Morris
Cut: Chris Cook, Kenneth Acker
Other: Keith Reaser (NFI)
Explanation: Kenneth Acker is in danger of being claimed off waivers by another team if the 49ers cut him. Last year, it was Marcus Cooper who was picked up by the Chiefs where he became a decent starter in Kansas City. Acker would be a long-term project and would most likely be inactive for the 2014 season if he makes the roster.
With what the 49ers value, it appears there isn’t much room for him on the roster. Morris gets the edge as a special teams player and is versatile enough to play any CB position they want. Chris Cook might have had a stronger training camp and preseason, but Perrish Cox has more versatility for the secondary combined with his ability to play on special teams. Cook is too one-dimensional to keep on the roster.
Safeties (6): Eric Reid, Antoine Bethea, Jimmie Ward, Craig Dahl, Bubba Ventrone, L.J. McCray
Cut: C.J. Spillman
Explanation: Spillman could be viewed as expendable with the emergence of McCray on special teams. Ventrone is still a useful blocker for Andy Lee on punt coverage units where he has value. It has been a lackluster performance by Spillman on defense throughout the preseason and in training camp. Dahl will be the first reserve safety off the bench, as indicated by Vic Fangio.
Special Teams (3): K Phil Dawson, P Andy Lee, LS Kevin McDermott
Cut: LS/TE Kyle Nelson
Explanation: There is no drama with all three players securing their spots. McDermott won the battle in 2013 and the 49ers kept him for economic and performance reasons. The only way Kyle Nelson makes the team is as a tight end due to Derek Carrier’s hamstring injury.
Practice Squad (10): QB McLeod Bethel-Thompson, RB Glenn Winston, WR L’Damian Washington, OT Carter Bykowski, OG Al Netter, DL Lawrence Okoye, NT Mike Purcell, LB Shayne Skov, TE Asante Cleveland
Explanation: Each player must clear waivers in order to be signed to the practice squad. While it’s most likely someone could be picked up by another team after roster cuts, this list is what the 49ers would desire if everyone cleared waivers. There should be names on the practice squad whom the 49ers haven’t seen in the 2014 training camp who are eligible.
Other possible scenarios:
-The 49ers cut the roster to 52 players in order to claim someone else they see off waivers.
-Trent Baalke trades a reserve player who makes the team for a late round draft pick if he impressed another team in the preseason.
-Alfonso Smith doesn’t make the team, but Will Tukuafu does.