The 49ers, whose coverage units have been shoddy through five weeks, plan to sign veteran Ray Ventrone, who was brought in last year to solidify the special teams but who did not make the 49ers’ initial squad.
The transaction hasn’t been submitted to the league office yet and is not official. The 49ers would have to release a player from their 53-man roster, and there is no word yet on who will be let go.
The 49ers’ special teams units have been inconsistent since coach Jim Harbaugh and coordinator Brad Seely arrived in 2011. They were excellent that year, but slipped the following season, which included a kickoff return for a touchdown in the Super Bowl.
The following season, they brought in veterans Kassim Osgood and Ventrone, who tightened up the 49ers’ coverage. Osgood returned this season, but Ventrone and another specialist, C.J. Spillman, were let go to make room for younger players such as rookie L.J. McCray.
Through four games, the kickoff coverage has given up 23.9 yards a return while opponents are averaging 14.8 yards per punt return, tying the 49ers for league-worst with the Dolphins in that category. That includes an 82-yard punt-return touchdown by the Eagles’ Darren Sproles last week. The Chiefs’ D’Anthony Thomas nearly had an identical return Sunday.
“Well, we’ve got to do a better job,” Harbaugh said Monday. “We’ve got to do a better job of covering those punts. Need a little more hang time. And that’s always been our best unit. We’ve set records around here on the punt team. … So we’re extremely capable and I know we’ll get it done.”