SANTA CLARA -- With two slot receivers dealing with injuries, the 49ers on Sunday traded for someone familiar that role, Lions receiver Jeremy Kerley.
In exchange for Kerley, the 49ers sent offensive lineman Brandon Thomas to Detroit. News of the trade first was reported by NFL.com
Kerley, 27, has run 77 percent of his routes from the slot position over the last three seasons, according to Pro Football Focus. His best season as a receiver was 2012 when he caught 56 passes for 827 yards as a member of the New York Jets. He has 182 catches for 2,225 yards and nine touchdowns over his five-year career, making him - by far -- the 49ers’ most experienced receiver after Torrey Smith.
Kerley also has handled 134 punts, critical for the 49ers after Bruce Ellington went down with a hamstring injury Friday and another receiver-returner, rookie Bryce Treggs, injured his knee a week earlier.
DeAndrew White became the 49ers' top slot receiver after Ellington was injured. Along with White, cornerback Chris Davis and running back Shaun Draughn were returning punts in the 49ers practice on Sunday.
Thomas, meanwhile, was taken in the third round in 2014 after he suffered an ACL injury in the run-up to that year's draft. The 49ers thought he could be an eventual replacement for then-guard Mike Iupati. Thomas, however, didn't play at all in 2014 because of his injury and last year was inactive for all 16 games.
The 49ers on Sunday also cut tackle Erik Pears, a prominent member of last year's offensive line that allowed an NFC-worst 53 sacks. Pears started all 16 games last season while Jordan Devey started nine games. Neither is on the team this year.
Pears had been the backup for Joe Staley at left tackle during training camp. He gave up two sacks and committed a false-start penalty in the 49ers' three preseason games so far.
His release, however, means that the team will have to groom someone else to be the swing tackle -- a lineman who can fill in should Staley or right tackle Trent Brown get hurt. The job could go to Anthony Davis, who started Friday’s preseason game at right guard.
The 49ers also released tight end Rory Anderson, a seventh-round pick last year. They now have 77 players on the roster. They must trim to 75 by Tuesday.
Et cetera -- Neither Ellinton nor defensive lineman Quinton Dial (knee) practiced Sunday. Running back Carlos Hyde (concussion) was on an exercise bike. Rookie tackle John Theus (injury unknown) also did not practice.
* Three defensive players who left Friday’s game -- safety Eric Reid, outside linebacker Eli Harold and nose tackle Mike Purcell -- were on hand for the start of practice.
* Draughn, who has not played in the last two preseason games, was wearing a blue practice jersey that signals he is not to be hit. Draughn took a shot to the ribs during a scrimmage with the Broncos earlier this month. The 49ers’ healthy running backs are Mike Davis, DuJuan Harris and rookie Kelvin Taylor.