There still could be more to the story, as ESPN's John Clayton suggests in the accompanying video. There were indications Edwards wasn't fitting well with the 49ers, and there was certainly a gap between his name recognition and his actual value on the field this season.
2011 Braylon Edwards Playing Time
The chart at right, provided by Jason Starrett of ESPN Stats & Information, shows what percentage of offensive snaps Edwards had played in games for which he was active.
Those percentages peaked at midseason, but they were generally in retreat more recently. That was the case even against Seattle in Week 16, when the 49ers were without one receiver (Ted Ginn Jr.), lost another receiver (Kyle Williams) and lost tight end Delanie Walker to a broken jaw.
The 49ers are holding out hope Walker can return while the playoffs are ongoing. As a result, they have not placed him on injured reserve. Releasing Edwards buys flexibility to sign another player, possibly a tight end. Vernon Davis and Justin Peelle are the remaining healthy tight ends on the roster. Konrad Reuland is on the practice squad.
San Francisco generally prefers using a second tight end over a third wide receiver, particularly on early downs. That tack gives coach Jim Harbaugh and offensive coordinator Greg Roman flexibility in the running game -- flexibility the team has put to good use.
"They're not a typical running football team in that they have a lot more scheme involved than other teams," Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said. "Their commitment to it and the variety of runs that they throw at you are different than other guys and they have more. They're looking for the right plays that fit that day as they go through their call sheet and all. They are just more challenging than some other teams scheme-wise."
That is high praise from an opponent and consistent with what we discussed on the blog in January. The 49ers will presumably continue favoring heavier personnel even without Walker. Releasing Edwards suggests they're not planning to become more receiver-oriented in the immediate future. The team is presently on pace have as many rushing attempts as pass plays (attempts plus sacks) for the first time since 1997.