San Francisco 49ers: Biggest Snubs and Surprises from 53-Man Roster Cut
In Trent Baalke and Jim Harbaugh’s third offseason remodeling the San Francisco 49ers, the trailblazing general manager-head coach tandem dug deep into self-analysis once again, making several calculated decisions that ultimately resulted in the advancement of the roster.
For the club to continue it's progress in 2013, a lot of unemotional rulings had to be made during the recent evaluation period. Philosophically, this is an organization that largely bases its personnel decisions on merit. They also evaluate player value, weigh it against contractual value and determine if a player is worth a spot, all the while taking into account team needs.
This rough formula is how the 49ers strain 90 players down to a 53-man list in the span of only a couple months. And while a significant percentage of the roster was already set, there are always unforeseen factors that bring a little shock value to the final cut-down day before the start of the season.
The following is a complete presentation of 10 snubs and surprises that materialized from Saturday’s roster announcements at 49ers headquarters.
Surprise: Brian Jennings, Long Snapper, Cut
How far back did the tenure of now ex-49ers long snapper Brian Jennings go?
Listing as a TE/LS, Jennings put forth 13 exceptional years of service for the 49ers, operating as the club’s Pro Bowl special teams long snapper. However, with Jennings being 37 years old and due $2.1 million over 2013 and 2014, monetarily it made sense for S.F. to go younger at the position.
Throughout training camp, UCLA rookie Kevin McDermott gave Jennings a run for his money, and in the end, it turned out to be enough. Once again, the new regime put the past behind it, having made an objective business decision to part with yet another longtime 49er.
Sort of a letdown for fans, but hopefully McDermott can pick up where Jennings left off.
Going with rookie long-snapper Kevin McDermott over Brian Jennings saves the 49ers $535K on the salary cap.—Matt Maiocco (@MaioccoCSN) August 31, 2013
Snub: Lavelle Hawkins, WR
While he was a little overzealous in the exhibition season—drawing multiple taunting and excessive celebration flags—Lavelle Hawkins made several plays for the 49ers. Not to mention, the team was legitimately auditioning wide receivers because of its situation with Michael Crabtree (Achilles) and Mario Manningham (ACL), who both landed on the PUP list.
Unfortunately for him, the last three spots were taken by rookie Quinton Patton, wire pickup Marlon Moore and big-bodied Jonathan Baldwin, who had been acquired in a trade from the Kansas City Chiefs.
Hawkins was a long shot, but it does not mean he is undeserving of a slot on an NFL roster. At this point, he has to be considered a candidate to be picked up by another WR-needy team in the league, of which there are many.
Surprise: Nate Stupar, LB, Retained
This was a “last one in” sort of situation.
The 49ers are plenty healthy at the inside linebacker position, even after their two All-Pro starters. Backups Michael Wilhoite and Nick Moody have solidified this positional group as a whole, but it looks like Stupar secretly made a case for himself—at least for the time being.
All told, this will not be the final roster by Week 16 or even Week 2, for that matter.
Demarcus Dobbs is serving a one-game suspension and does not count against the final 53-man roster. Somebody will be let go when he returns for Week 2 at Seattle. Then there are players like Tank Carradine, Michael Crabtree and Mario Manningham, each of whom San Francisco anticipates getting back at various points during the upcoming season.
Being on the fringe of the roster, Stupar may be a cut candidate at an awfully deep position.
#49ers have 10 LBs. As expected, OLB Cam Johnson wasn't released. A surprise: ILB Nate Stupar remains.—Eric Branch (@Eric_Branch) August 31, 2013
Snub: Michael Thomas, S
In 2012, defensive back Michael Thomas came over from the farm at Stanford, having played under Harbaugh and defensive coordinator Vic Fangio once before. Even though he signed on as an undrafted free agent and was a favorite of the staff, he earned the right to stick around by showing up and competing everyday.
Thomas worked hard in Santa Clara and still appears to be a defensive back with an upside, trying his hand at both safety and cornerback this offseason. He brings versatility and stick-to-it-iveness, but the physical ability is not going to wow anybody.
In the end, more seasoned special teamers at his position boxed him out, preventing him from making the final cut. The 49ers require reserves to be ready to play on offense or defense when called upon; these players also need to be reliable on the kick coverage and return units.
The story is not over for Thomas, though. He can land somewhere and develop into a solid backup.
Got released this morning but still thanking God for the opportunity—Michael Thomas (@MJThomas36) August 31, 2013
Surprise: Trenton Robinson, S, Cut
Former Michigan State safety Trenton Robinson originally joined the 49ers as a sixth-round draft pick in 2012.
Even then, it never appeared that he would be anything more than a backup in San Francisco, but that opportunity was cut short. In paring down the roster to 53 players, the Niners gave Robinson his walking papers.
He is the third of seven members of Trent Baalke’s 2012 draft class who is no longer with the team, joining A.J. Jenkins and Jason Slowey (not including LB Darius Fleming, who is out with an ACL for the second season in a row).
Snub: Kassim Osgood, WR
Kassim Osgood came in as a journeyman player, hoping to make the final 53 with his persona as a special teams ace. At 6’5”, 220 pounds, Osgood demonstrated an ability to get downfield and put a lick on the returner, providing the defense with good starting field position.
Unfortunately, when called upon as a wide receiver, he did not excel.
Given the time and resources the 49ers invested in rebuilding the special teams coverage unit, which still has not recovered from losing notable contributors Blake Costanzo and Colin Jones, there was always a chance that Osgood could do enough to lock down a roster spot.
But when it came down to the wire, the 49ers ruled that the one-dimensional Osgood was not as valuable as other, more multifaceted, players.
Instead, S.F. will depend on guys like safety Craig Dahl, cornerback Perrish Cox and linebacker Dan Skuta to make special teams contributions—though all these players can step into the defensive lineup as well.
Nevertheless, Osgood is still worthy of being on an NFL roster, just not this one.
Well it was a great experience being in camp with the 49ers. Now lets see what the next move is.—Kassim Osgood (@kassimosgood81) August 31, 2013
Snub: Marcus Cooper, CB
As a seventh-round draft pick, Marcus Cooper generated a fair amount of hype in the offseason.
Given that he's a physical 6’2” cornerback who'll knock receivers around, it is no surprise that a lot of Niner fans wanted to see this guy succeed right away, especially given what the rival Seahawks boast on their back end.
But good things take time.
The coaching staff felt that Cooper was still pretty raw and could benefit from some more development. The depth provided by Perrish Cox, Nnamdi Asomugha and Tramaine Brock made Cooper expendable. If and when he clears waivers, the rookie from Rutgers seems like a virtual lock for the practice squad.
His combination of size and speed could've potentially given the 49ers another boundary corner in the mold of Chris Culliver. However, the day after he was released, Cooper was claimed by the Kansas City Chiefs, per Matt Barrows of The Sacramento Bee.
Surprise: Ray Ventrone, S, Retained
Safety Ray Ventrone is an authentic NFL journeyman who, time and time again, has continued to stay relevant with his versatility and feistiness.
When he first joined the 49ers, Ventrone was not only behind the starters; he was also behind top-tier backups C.J. Spillman and Craig Dahl, as well as a developing draft pick and a promising UDFA who played for this coaching staff at Stanford.
It was an uphill battle for Ventrone from the get-go, which is why many were quick to write him off.
Now that the decision has been made, and Ventrone is a 49er, retaining him makes sense, seeing as how a new member of the Niners' coaching staff has been instrumental in sustaining Ventrone's career up to this point. Senior offensive consultant Eric Mangini has coached Ventrone with the Patriots, Jets and Browns, bringing him along on his various NFL coaching stops.
Ventrone also had two seasons with 49ers current special teams coordinator Brad Seely, having worked with him in Cleveland in 2009 and 2010.
Brad Seely favorite. RT @caplannfl: 49ers announced that they signed veteran S Ray Ventrone. Excels on special teams.—Ryan Burns (@FtblSickness) June 3, 2013
Snub: Jewel Hampton, RB
From the start, Jewel Hampton was going up creek without a paddle.
With Frank Gore, Kendall Hunter and LaMichael James, a versatile Anthony Dixon and a recovering Marcus Lattimore already in tow, the 49ers knew they had positively no room to stash another running back (unless he was the second-coming of Jim Brown).
While Hampton wasn’t that good, he wasn’t terrible. In fact, at times, he looked like a better pure runner than Dixon.
Unfortunately for him, he did not offer that added dimension on special teams, which lowered his overall value. With San Francisco’s knack for finding talented tailbacks, another NFL team could conceivably pick him up.
Hampton looks ready enough for a full 16-game season in a supporting role.
Snub: Austin Collie, WR
Coming back from knee and head injuries, Austin Collie was an easy player to root for.
However, with limited reps in camp and during the exhibition, Collie's opportunity to rejoin the NFL sort of slipped away before it even really began.
Word was that Collie was healthy and ready to get back into the swing of things. And if the 49ers were getting the version of Collie from his days in Indianapolis, this could’ve been a huge under-the-radar pickup. But in the preseason games, Collie didn’t enter till late and could not seem to find a rhythm.
Catchable balls went incomplete, and there were no big plays to be had. All the while other receivers competing against Collie—Lavelle Hawkins, Quinton Patton and even Chuck Jacob—had a few moments in the spotlight.
Hopefully Collie can catch on elsewhere.
Austin Collie cut by #49ers. Comeback stalled for now.—Tom Pelissero (@TomPelissero) August 31, 2013