SANTA CLARA The 49ers began trimming their roster Monday by sending veteran linebacker Parys Haralson to the New Orleans Saints and cutting one of their five quarterbacks, Scott Tolzien.
A year ago, outside linebackers were scarce on the 49ers' roster, especially after Haralson suffered a torn triceps in an exhibition game in Denver. This year, the 49ers have an abundance of young reserves behind starters Aldon Smith and Ahmad Brooks.
Third-round pick Corey Lemonier, has looked particularly good in the preseason, and the 49ers likely want to get him on the field as much as possible this year. Haralson was the top backup before Monday's deal.
News of the trade broke when Haralson began shaking hands and saying goodbye to about 20 suddenly ex-teammates in the locker room. Running back Frank Gore approached Haralson and said, "Go easy on me."
The Saints and 49ers have met in each of the last three seasons, and they'll play again Nov. 17 in New Orleans. If Haralson makes the Saints' roster as expected, the 49ers will be compensated with a seventh-round pick in next year's draft.
Tolzien, meanwhile, was the only 49ers quarterback who didn't play Sunday against the Vikings.
The 49ers signed him in 2011, after the Chargers released him, with the intention of placing him on their practice squad. He never threw a pass in a regular-season game but was a valuable resource to Alex Smith and Colin Kaepernick when preparing for opponents during the week.
Tolzien beat Josh Johnson for the No. 3 spot a year ago despite being outplayed by Johnson in the preseason finale. Tolzien's struggles continued through the current preseason. He completed 18 of 34 passes with an interception. Two other would-be interceptions were dropped. Johnson, meanwhile, has been the No. 2 quarterback in Cincinnati this summer. He has a 98.6 passer rating through two games and has rushed for 91 yards.
After Sunday's game, Jim Harbaugh said Colt McCoy would be Kaepernick's primary backup. The team also has good-looking rookie B.J. Daniels and just-signed veteran Seneca Wallace (Cordova High School, Sacramento City College). Look for Daniels and Wallace to get most of the work in Thursday's finale in San Diego.
Daniels and Tolzien are eligible for the practice squad.
The 49ers also waived linebacker Joe Holland, guard Al Netter, running back D.J. Harper and former UC Davis punter Colton Schmidt, whose four punts this preseason averaged an impressive 50.3 yards.
The 49ers still must reduce their roster by nine players today to reach the 75-man limit. They must be down to 53 players Saturday.
Haralson, 29, began the season with a relatively high salary cap figure. But he wanted to remain with the team and agreed to cut that salary almost in half. His base pay went from $2.57 million to $1.3 million.
Two years ago, Haralson started at right outside linebacker opposite Brooks. Haralson left the game on passing downs, which enabled Smith to go in. Haralson has fully recovered from last year's triceps injury and was enjoying a strong preseason.
The Saints lost one of their starting outside linebackers, Will Smith, to an ACL tear Sunday. Haralson is expected to compete for a starting role with New Orleans. He's entering the final year of his deal.