SANTA CLARA In the cold, cruel world of NFL roster maneuvering, even the longest-tenured player is shown no mercy.
That was the case with Brian Jennings, who for 13 seasons was nearly flawless as the 49ers' long snapper and who earned two trips to the Pro Bowl in that span. Thirteen years, however, also drove up Jennings' salary, and the 49ers replaced him Saturday with a younger, cheaper version, undrafted rookie Kevin McDermott.
McDermott got the lion's share of the long-snapping repetitions in the 49ers' final two preseason games and was solid in each of them. In keeping McDermott over Jennings, the 49ers save $535,000 this season. Any cap savings this year roll over into next season, when players like quarterback Colin Kaepernick, linebacker Aldon Smith and others are expected to be awarded lucrative new contracts.
Jennings was drafted by then-general manager Bill Walsh in 2000 and was teammates with Jerry Rice. He turns 37 in October, but he was still performing at a high level.
"Brian Jennings to me we breathe the same air," said coach Jim Harbaugh, who called Jennings a "top-level" talent.
"That decision was one we thought was in the best interest of the team," he said. "On a personal level, that was as tough as it gets."
In a statement, Jennings said he felt "as though I've been honorably discharged from the team I love."
Cut-down day also saw several local players sent away, including wide receivers Austin Collie (Oak Ridge High School) and Lavelle Hawkins and offensive tackle Kenny Wiggins (Elk Grove High School).
Hawkins' last two games included a 105-yard kickoff return and a 45-yard touchdown reception in which he juggled the ball before pinballing off three Chargers defenders on his way to the end zone.
Collie and Hawkins were signed Aug. 2 when the 49ers had a spate of injuries at receiver. Neither, however, took many practice repetitions with the top offense, and they typically entered preseason games late in the second half.
Both acts signaled the 49ers already had made up their minds about which receivers would make the squad. That group: Anquan Boldin, Marlon Moore (Natomas High School), Kyle Williams, Quinton Patton and Jon Baldwin. Mario Manningham and Michael Crabtree will begin the season on the physically unable to perform list but are expected to join the 53-man squad at some point this season.
The team's quarterback depth cloudy a week ago also became clear.
The 49ers will enter the season with Colt McCoy and seventh-round draft pick B.J. Daniels backing up Kaepernick. They cut Seneca Wallace (Cordova High School, Sacramento City College), who did not join the team for the trip to San Diego last week.
Many teams thought Daniels would have been better off playing running back in the NFL. The 49ers had him practice some at tailback and wideout this offseason. But in the second preseason game in Kansas City, it became clear the rookie not only was an NFL quarterback but that cutting Daniels to put him on the practice squad likely would have resulted in another team stealing him.
The outlook also was positive for two young linebackers who impressed in the preseason finale Cam Johnson and Nate Stupar.
Johnson finished the game with two sacks, a blocked punt and a touchdown. He is one of five players at outside linebacker, a thin position for the 49ers a year ago but one where they bulked up in the offseason.
The energetic Stupar, an inside linebacker, often stood out in offseason practices, and he led the 49ers in tackles in the preseason.
"You talk about it being a meritocracy that's evident with Nate Stupar," Harbaugh said.
As is typical at this time of year, the 49ers likely will tinker with their roster over the next few days.
They can begin building an eight-man practice squad today, and some of the rookies cut Saturday, such as cornerback Marcus Cooper and tight end MarQueis Gray, could be brought back.
The team also reportedly is interested in signing fullback Owen Marecic, a Harbaugh favorite at Stanford. Marecic was cut by the Browns last week.
Harbaugh declined to discuss any pending moves.
Read Matthew Barrows' blogs and archives at www.sacbee.com/sf49ers and listen for his reports Tuesdays on ESPN Radio 1320.