Training camp is only days away for the San Francisco 49ers. With this comes the likelihood of a player’s career being derailed by a roster cut.
It’s one of the most unfortunate parts of the NFL season, when many players try to show what they can add to their respective teams. However, this league is more than just a game; it’s a business.
The 49ers are in the same boat as every other NFL team. They have fringe players on the bubble of their respective position groups. Some have endured injuries that have kept them from showing their full potential. Others are in a category of “too many cooks in the kitchen.”
Here are three potential training camp roster cuts for the San Francisco 49ers.
3. LB Malcolm Smith
It was a rough start to the Super Bowl XLVIII MVP’s tenure with the 49ers. After signing a five-year, $24.5 million deal with $13 million guaranteed, Smith suffered a torn pectoral during training camp in 2017. Analysts believed this to be a terrible signing.
Once he became healthy for the 2018 season, Smith put together a mediocre performance at linebacker that earned him an overall PFF grade of 63.4. He came away with only 35 total tackles (22 solo), three QB hits, three tackles for a loss, and one pass deflection — no impact in creating turnovers or even providing a critical edge in either rushing defense or passing defense.
The USC product elected to restructure his contract to avoid the likely roster cut that would come soon enough. However, he still has a lot to prove after having turned 30 weeks ago. With the drafting of Dre Greenlaw, Smith has plenty on his plate as he fights for his starting spot.
2. G Joshua Garnett
It has been an up-and-down career for the former Cardinal since being drafted in the first round in 2016 by the 49ers.
First, he struggled in his rookie year and earned a putrid PFF grade of 45.7 after starting in 11 games at guard. Then, as he attempted to overcome that rough start with a strong sophomore season, he tore his ACL. Last season, he hoped to make the leap and prove his worth as a first-rounder. Instead, he lost his starting spot to Mike Person and played a total of 59 snaps — he was injured yet again.
It’s going to be an uphill battle for the Stanford product. He will try to play in a rotation role with one of the guards on the offensive line. He will likely need to contend for the spot behind Laken Tomlinson after the fellow first-round interior lineman suffered an MCL tear in the season finale last year.
If Garnett wants to make an impact, it will be in a rotational role. Other than that, it’s unlikely he will stay in San Francisco.
1. WR Kendrick Bourne
It would be unfortunate to see Bourne leave after such a strong 2018 campaign in which he led all 49ers receivers in catches and receiving yards. But with an offense that continues to add younger and more versatile receivers, it’s hard to think he will stick around.
The emergence of Dante Pettis and the drafting of both Deebo Samuel and Jalen Hurd make life tougher for Bourne, a third-year wideout. With a healthy Trent Taylor coming back, the signing of Jordan Matthews, and the likeliness of Richie James remaining due to his returning skills, it’s hard to see Bourne in a significant role for 2019.
However, if he does impress the coaching staff and show chemistry with Jimmy Garoppolo, he will stay in the Red and Gold. If not, he’ll take his talents somewhere else after the 49ers let him go.