The 49ers reduced their roster to 53 players with several players who had been on the proverbial bubble, including quarterback Josh Johnson and receiver Brandon Lloyd, making the cut, at least for now. The day also was kind to a pair of upstarts -- undrafted rookies Dillon Farrell, an offensive lineman, and James McCray, a safety.
Farrell is one of just seven healthy offensive linemen currently on the roster. He made the squad in place of veteran Adam Snyder. The 49ers save $1 million against the salary cap with Snyder's release. McCray, meanwhile, outplayed veteran safety C.J. Spillman on special teams and also is a bargain in comparison. Spillman was due to make $1.2 million this season.
Two other veteran special teamers, Bubba Ventrone and Kassim Osgood, also were let go. Osgood was due to earn $955,000 while Ventrone's salary was $855,000. Osgood also was released at this point last year but brought back. That’s because the yearly salary for a veteran like him is guaranteed if he’s on a team’s Week 1 roster.
The 49ers appear poised to go with a young core of special teamers that includes McRay, who played at Catawba College, as well as fellow rookie Jimmie Ward and 2013 holdover Nick Moody. McCray and Ward are the frontunners to serve as gunners on the 49ers’ punt coverage units.
The special teams unit will include a new longsnapper, Kyle Nelson, who beat out Kevin McDermott, who has been dealing with an elbow injury, for the job. It didn’t hurt that Nelson caught two touchdown passes Thursday in Houston.
“There’s young players that are going to have to rise tio the challenge,” Harbaugh said of the special teams unit. Harbaugh said virtually the same thing when asked about Farrell, McCray and Nelson -- that he felt that they had earned their spot on the roster
Here’s a breakdown of some other position groups:
The healthy backups on the offensive line are Jonathan Martin and Farrell, who went undrafted out of New Mexico. Another backup lineman, rookie Marcus Martin, will be sidelined for two months with a knee injury. The 49ers likely want to place versatile Ryan Seymour and tackle Carter Bykowski on the practice squad.
In stark contrast with last season, the 49ers have four veteran receivers -- Anquan Boldin, Michael Crabtree, Stevie Johnson and Lloyd -- who have had 1,000-yard receiving seasons in their career. It’s unknown whether Lloyd will be active for games, which means he could be released and then reacquired at some point during the season. Youngsters Quinton Patton and Bruce Ellington round out this group.
The 49ers’ starters are Tramaine Brock and Chris Culliver. The backups are a pair of veterans, Chris Cook and Perrish Cox, and one member of their rookie class, Dontae Johnson. Another draft pick, Kenneth Acker, was placed on injured reserve. Harbaugh said Acker had been playing with a foot injury and that he recently had an MRI that led doctors to advise Acker to stay off his feet for while. Darryl Morris, who last year proved to be valuable on special teams, was cut.
The 49ers have just three tailbacks -- Frank Gore, Carlos Hyde and LaMichael James -- on the 53-man roster. They will try to get Glenn Winston onto the practice squad. Meanwhile, Marcus Lattimore, currently on the non-football injury list, is eligible to join the active roster after Week 6.
T Carter Bykowski
TE Asante Cleveland
WR Lance Lewis
LS Kevin McDermott
CB Darryl Morris
G Al Netter
DL Lawrence Okoye
WR Kassim Osgood
OL Michael Philipp
NT Mike Purcell
G/T Ryan Seymour
LB Shayne Skov
RB Alfonso Smith
G Adam Snyder (CSN Bay Area)
S C.J. Spillman
OLB Chase Thomas
S Bubba Ventrone
WR L’Damian Washington
RB Glenn Winston
CB Kenneth Acker
FB Will Tukuafu