In a first for the NFL, teams will have one official deadline to reduce their rosters. Instead of having to cut-down from 90 to 75 first, all 32-teams will choose their 53-man roster by this Saturday at 4 PM EST.
HC Kyle Shanahan has already said that most starters will play sparingly or not at all in some cases. This shouldn’t be the case for many positions though as the 49ers have many more glaring holes to fill and must ensure that they are doing so with the right personnel.
Teams such as New England, Green Bay, and Atlanta have a bevy of talent at their skill positions, making it much easier to evaluate and settle on their starters. The 49ers have not been so lucky over the last four years.
When Shanahan and GM John Lynch signed matching six-year contracts earlier this year and inherited a 2-14 roster, they had their work cutout for themselves. Changes had to be and and they turned over 26 percent of the 2016 team right out of the gate. As such their evaluation process might be longer than many other teams and their room for error much, much smaller.
Here we look at those players who are in serious danger of being released this weekend if they don’t give great performances on the field this Thursday.
RB Tim Hightower
When the 49ers brought him in and ultimately signed the veteran running back to a one-year deal, it was believed he would be used to spell Carlos Hyde. What Hightower soon found out was that he was going to be competing with Joe Williams, Matt Breida, Kapri Bibbs, and Raheem Mostert.
Shanahan has said that the team feels comfortable with what Hightower brings to the field being that Shanahan has coached him and against him the last two-years when the back was in New Orleans. Still, one would think that the team will need to see him in extended action this week so they can see what he can bring in 2017.
WR Kendrick Bourne
A clear longshot to make the team, Bourne had a great first preseason game in Kansas City against the Chiefs. His line in that game was four-catches for 88-yards and a touchdown. He also added in a beautiful grab on a two-point conversion. Since that night, he hasn’t shown much else that would secure him a roster spot past this weekend.
He is also battling undrafted rookie, WR Victor Bolden Jr. for a spot on the roster, unless one of them can impress the coaching staff and front office this week they will be looking at a possible practice squad spot or their outright release.
There is speculation that if the 49ers do in fact attempt to place either Bourne or Bolden on the practice squad that they would be picked up and placed on another team’s 53-man roster.
DT Quinton Dial
It was rumored earlier this month that the 49ers were bringing in multiple defensive lineman because they were shopping or at least gauging the trade market for Dial. Such a move would make sense being that he and NT Earl Mitchell are very similar in stature and style.
Dial is however not on the same level as Mitchell and as such the new regime might not be as sold on him remaining a member of the 49ers as their predecessors were. This is not to say that Dial is incapable of turning his fortunes around or that him being released is a foregone conclusion. If he can come out strong and show the staff that he belongs, the team very well may keep him.