NFL Nation: Jon Baldwin

Brandon Lloyd is not the big-hit free-agent addition that DeSean Jackson or Julian Edelman would have been for the San Francisco 49ers.

Lloyd
But for the one season he has signed for, Lloyd might be able to help the team. Lloyd, 32, didn't play last season, but he did enjoy late-career success. He led the NFL in receiving yardage in 2010 with Denver and had 74 catches for the Patriots in 2012.

So there is reason to believe Lloyd can help the 49ers as a No. 3 or No. 4 receiver. But if he doesn't have a good camp, I could also see the 49ers moving. This is a low risk, look-see deal.

Let's take a look at whom the signing can affect:

Who could be affected: Kassim Osgood and Jonathan Baldwin. If Lloyd makes the team, Baldwin will likely be out. The team re-signed Osgood this offseason because he is a huge part of the special teams. But the 49ers will likely not keep more than six receivers. If Lloyd makes the team, it will be him, Anquan Boldin, Michael Crabtree, Quinton Patton and likely a rookie. Osgood would be the sixth man and perhaps become vulnerable, depending on needs at other positions.

Who it doesn't affect: Patton and the team's plans to take a receiver early in the draft. Patton finished the season strong in 2013 as a rookie. The team will allow him to develop as quickly as he can. If he's ready to be the No. 3 receiver in 2014, he will probably get the job. Lloyd and Boldin are 33 and Crabtree is a free agent after this season. San Francisco will take a receiver in the draft, no doubt about it.

The Lloyd signing is simply a chance to see if the team can get a productive season from a veteran who has produced recently.

49ers contract status update

February, 28, 2014
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Free agency starts in 11 days. Along with every other team, the San Francisco 49ers are putting together their final plans. The 49ers are in pretty nice shape. They are poised to be $15-16 million under the salary cap.

The team has gained cap room by reducing deals for backup safety Craig Dahl and backup receiver Jon Baldwin. They want cornerback Carlos Rogers back at a much reduced salary from the $6 million he is due. If he doesn't accept a pay cut, he will likely be cut. General manager Trent Baalke has said he doesn't think the team needs to reduce the salary of running back Frank Gore, who is set to make $6.4 million.

The deadline giving a player the franchise tag is Monday. The 49ers are not expected to use the tag. They have been close to a deal with receiver Anquan Boldin. Boldin, 33, is likely looking at a two- or three-year deal. He could be paid up to $17 million if it is a three-year deal. The team's other priority free agents are safety Donte Whitner, kicker Phil Dawson and cornerback Tarell Brown.

The 49ers extended the deal of Daniel Kilgore on Thursday. He was set to be a free agent next year. That means he is in line to start next year and that the 49ers likely won't re-sign Jonathan Goodwin, who started at center the past three years.

The team is not expected to give the restricted free-agent tender to backup defensive lineman DeMarcus Dobbs and cornerback Perrish Cox. That would make them unrestricted free agents.

No surprises on 49ers' inactive list

December, 29, 2013
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GLENDALE, Ariz. -- There isn’t much intrigue on the San Francisco 49ers’ list of inactives Sunday at Arizona.

And that’s a good thing for the team. This team is very healthy. All six of the team’s inactive players are young, depth players. The 49ers have only 52 players on the roster after putting receiver Mario Manningham on the injured reserve Friday. The 49ers are expected to fill the roster in the next couple of days.

Here are Sunday’s inactive players: tight end Derek Carrier, linebacker Nick Moody, guard Ryan Seymour, defensive tackle Quinton Dial, guard Joe Looney and receiver Jon Baldwin.

49ers second-quarter checkpoint

October, 30, 2013
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SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- The second quarter of the San Francisco 49ers' season is complete. Now let’s look at some key developments as the defending NFC champions sit at 6-2:

Story of the quarter: The perfect quarter. The 49ers went 4-0 in the second quarter of the season and have won five straight games. San Francisco has been dominant in all three phases of the game and have scored at least 31 points in each game during the streak. It is the first time they have done that since 1997. It’s been a stunning rebound from a team that started 1-2 with a lot of adversity. Heading into the second half of the season, the 49ers are clearly a team capable of finishing the season with a downtown parade.

[+] EnlargeVernon Davis
Jan Kruger/The FA via Getty ImagesVernon Davis has scored at least one touchdown in four of San Francisco's past five games.
Offensive MVP of the quarter: Tight end Vernon Davis. Last season, there was talk Davis and quarterback Colin Kaepernick had a lousy chemistry. That changed during the 2012 postseason and the two have continued to build their chemistry this season. After suffering a hamstring injury in Week 2, Davis has been explosive. The highlight came in Week 6 when he had eight catches for 180 yards and two TDs against Arizona. It was tied for the third-highest yardage total by an NFL tight end in the past 20 years. Davis’ presence has helped ease the pain of the injuries the 49ers have at receiver.

Defensive player of the quarter: NaVorro Bowman. This is one of the game’s great underrated players. He is one of the greatest defensive forces in the league. Bowman was my choice as the first-quarter defensive MVP as well. Fellow star linebacker Patrick Willis has been coming back from a groin injury that affected him in both quarters of the season. Bowman has picked up the slack and led the charge of a defense that is playing at a high level.

Rookie of the quarter: Corey Lemonier. The pass-rusher has been playing extensively with star Aldon Smith in alcohol treatment for the past five weeks. Lemonier, a third-round draft pick from Auburn, is getting valuable playing time and he is showing he is worthy of it. He has given the team spark in both pass and run defense. Lemonier is showing he has a bright future.

Disappointment of the quarter: Lack of receiver depth. Kyle Williams and Jon Baldwin are simply not ready to be No. 2 and No. 3 receiving options. Both have started opposite Anquan Boldin during the quarter. Neither made an impact. The 49ers badly miss injured receivers Michael Crabtree and Mario Manningham. Even rookie Quinton Patton, who has missed the past four games with a broken foot, may become a better option than Williams and Baldwin. It’s amazing the 49ers’ offense has been so productive with the lack of any receiving options behind Boldin and Davis.

Biggest unanswered question of the quarter: The reinforcements. The 49ers have six players who are set to return Players such as Smith, Crabtree, Manningham and cornerback Eric Wright all could make a major impact. It is unusual for a team that has Super Bowl aspirations to be poised to get this type of boost in the second half of the season. The biggest question is exactly when all of these players will be ready to return.

Fearless prediction for the second quarter: Win in New Orleans. One of the biggest NFL games of the third quarter will come in New Orleans in Week 11 when the 49ers visit the Saints. New Orleans is 6-1 and 4-0 at home. This is one of the best home teams in the NFL. Still, the 49ers will not be intimidated. This team has a steely focus and has been through some tough conditions this season. I see a big road upset in a game that will have major NFC playoff implications. A win in New Orleans would serve the 49ers well. All eight of their final games are against NFC opponents (they went 3-1 against the AFC South). Conference games are paramount when it comes to playoff tiebreakers. San Francisco has just three games remaining against teams with winning records. Thus, a win at New Orleans would be enormous.
LONDON -- San Francisco 49ers receiver Jon Baldwin is active and Kyle Williams will be the No. 2 starting receiver Sunday against Jacksonville at Wembley Stadium.

Williams
Baldwin has been ill for the past 10 days, but he practiced some on Friday and was listed as questionable.

Both Williams and Baldwin have been mostly ineffective as the No. 2 receiver this season as the 49ers wait for Michael Crabtree and Mario Manningham to return from injuries.

There were no other surprises on the inactive list: quarterback McLeod Bethel-Thompson, receiver Quinton Patton, running back LaMichael James, cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha, linebacker Jermaine Cunningham and guard Joe Looney.
LONDON -- The San Francisco 49ers are healthy going into Sunday’s game against the Jacksonville Jaguars at Wembley Stadium.

Smith
The four players who did not practice Wednesday -- defensive linemen Justin Smith (shoulder), Ray McDonald (biceps), Glenn Dorsey (hamstring) and receiver Jon Baldwin (illness) -- all worked on a limited basis Thursday. Barring setbacks they should all be ready to play Sunday.

Defensive coordinator Vic Fangio said Smith may not practice every day for the season of the season. The 34-year-old will likely be rested on Wednesdays, which has been the case for the past several weeks.

“I don’t know that it’ll ever practice full practice when you get a guy that’s 34 years old, although he’s in tremendous shape and not like your normal 34-year-old,” Fangio said of Smith. “You take care of them during the week so they can be at their best on Sunday. So, I don’t think he’ll ever have a full-practice regimen say like Quinton Dial would, or even some of the other guys. And I don’t have much concern there. Justin knows his body better than anybody. And I really don’t concern myself with it too much.”

As far as McDonald goes, Fangio said he thinks McDonald played much better with the bicep injury against Tennessee than he did against Arizona. That was his first game since partially tearing the bicep against Houston.
SANTA CLARA, Calif. – Earlier Thursday, San Francisco 49ers defensive coordinator Vic Fangio said nose tackle Glenn Dorsey would try to practice some. But later in the day, the 49ers indicated that Dorsey had missed his second straight practice day because of a hamstring injury.

Dorsey
Because hamstrings are easily aggravated, the odds are against Dorsey playing at Tennessee on Sunday. Tony Jerod-Eddie will likely start, and the team will likely either add Mike Purcell from the practice squad or activate Quinton Dial from the physically unable to perform list.

The 49ers did get some good injury news Thursday. Guard Alex Boone and defensive linemen Ray McDonald and Justin Smith all practiced on a limited basis after not working out on Wednesday.

Receiver Jon Baldwin didn’t practice Thursday because of an illness. Linebacker Ahmad Brooks did not practice for personal reasons; it is not expected to affect his playing status Sunday.
Vernon DavisEzra Shaw/Getty ImagesVernon Davis caught eight passes for 180 yards and two TDs, but the 49ers need more receiving options.

SAN FRANCISCO -- One of the best games by a tight end in NFL history is proof the San Francisco 49ers may need to go get themselves another receiving option.

Just think how good quarterback Colin Kaepernick could look with a full complement of weapons. Vernon Davis’ 180 receiving yards in San Francisco’s 32-20 win over the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday was tied for the third-most yards by a tight end in the NFL in the past 20 years. It was another indication that there is nothing wrong with Kaepernick, who had thrown for fewer than 180 yards in each of the previous four weeks after passing for a career-high 412 yards in Week 1 against Green Bay.

“Vernon, when he plays like this, he doesn’t have to say anything,” Kaepernick said. “Everybody on the team feels it. I know it, the coaches know it, and we’ve got to put the ball in his hands.”

The problem for the 49ers is that Kaepernick has only Davis and receiver Anquan Boldin. That why the team has been linked to receivers such as Hakeem Nicks, Josh Gordon and Kenny Britt. With Michael Crabtree and Mario Manningham injured, the 49ers don’t have another legitimate, reliable receiving option. While Davis went bonkers, doing 171 yards of his damage in the first half Sunday, Boldin was held in check.

Boldin finished with three catches for 28 yards. Just 72 of Kaepernick's 252 passing yards went to targets other than Davis. While Davis had eight catches, six players combined for Kaepernick’s other eight completions. Davis was the target on just three of Kaepernick’s 14 incomplete passes. Kaepernick, who saw his offense fail to get a first down on its first four drives of the game, didn’t connect with a wide receiver until 1:20 remained in the first half.

While the 49ers and Davis should celebrate this magnificent performance, it is another reminder that this team needs more receiving help. Because if they get that help, the 49ers can win the Super Bowl. It’s that simple.

This offense -- which grinded out 149 yards on the ground and which has scored 101 points during a three-game winning streak -- can be wicked if it is truly multidimensional. If not, all it can do is try to move the ball on the ground and hope either Boldin or Davis goes off.

It has worked so far, but one of these weeks both Davis and Boldin will be taken away. Then what?

Manningham (knee) might come off the physically unable to perform list and be able to start practicing this week. Once he starts practicing, the 49ers will have a three-week window to activate him. Last week, San Francisco coach Jim Harbaugh said Crabtree, who suffered a torn Achilles in May, might be ready to play in mid-November. He could come back for the Nov. 17 game at New Orleans that could have huge NFC playoff ramifications.

But there are no guarantees either player will be back anytime soon. There is also no telling how quickly either player would knock off the rust. It’s reasonable to assume the 49ers will be at full strength in December. Crabtree would instantly be a top target and make Boldin more valuable because he would see fewer double-teams. (He said last week this is the most double coverage he’s seen in his career.) Boldin can be a major weapon as a No. 2 receiver. Manningham also would give the 49ers much-needed depth. The team’s current No. 2 and No. 3 receivers, Kyle Williams and Jon Baldwin, each had one catch Sunday. That is not going to cut it.

That brings us to the trade dilemma: Do the 49ers sit and wait for their injured players to come back, or do they get aggressive and make a deal?

You could make an argument for both sides. But seeing Sunday’s display might tempt the 49ers to load up now and worry later about having too much depth or losing a draft pick. If San Francisco adds the right receiver, Kaepernick would have more options in the immediate future, and the team could be nearly unstoppable come playoff time.

CBS Sports reported Sunday that the 49ers are considering trading for Nicks. The Giants are 0-6, and Nicks probably will leave as a free agent. He’d likely be a rental for the 49ers. They have several contracts to address in the near future with free agents. But he could be a special rental.

ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter has reported the 49ers have considered acquiring Gordon from Cleveland, but that likely won’t happen because of the soon-to-return statuses of Manningham and Crabtree. Britt, whom the 49ers will face in Tennessee next week, is also on the block. Gordon and Britt both have had off-field problems, and with the 49ers already dealing with the Aldon Smith situation, they may not want to add another player with issues.

Nicks might make the most sense. There are financial and draft-pick questions to be answered, but there is no question he’d make the 49ers better for the rest of the season and take pressure off of Kaepernick.

Led by Davis Sunday, the 49ers showed they can be dangerous. But Super Bowl winners need to be more than dangerous. They need to be multilayered. That’s why adding offensive weapons has to be tempting for San Francisco.
SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- One of the most intriguing players currently on the San Francisco 49ers' roster is third-year receiver Jon Baldwin.

Baldwin
It appears Baldwin is getting his chance to play significant minutes and perhaps start. Baldwin made his San Francisco debut in Week 4 at St. Louis, when he had two catches for 19 yards. Baldwin will be at the top of the rotation with rookie Quinton Patton out 4-6 weeks with a broken foot. Patton was the No. 2 receiver before getting hurt at St. Louis.

With Mario Manningham out with an injury for another month or so and Michael Crabtree likely out until December, the 49ers need some help and Baldwin will get a chance. San Francisco coach Jim Harbaugh was complimentary of Baldwin after the Rams’ game.

Baldwin was acquired by the 49ers in August from Kansas City in exchange for fellow former first-round pick A.J. Jenkins. Baldwin, the No. 26 overall pick in 2011, had a total of 41 catches for the Chiefs.

ESPN analyst Matt Williamson said he thinks Baldwin could develop in this system if he can improve his consistency. That was his biggest issue in Kansas City. He was terrific in practice, but often disappeared in games. Now that he is getting his chance in San Francisco, Baldwin has to show he came be a factor in the NFL.

“If the light is going to come on for Baldwin, I will say that it is likely under Harbaugh and in this offense,” Williamson said. “I thought Harbaugh wanted a big-time deep threat (he acquired Moss and then Jenkins last year), but he seems to have gotten away from that mold. I do know that he wants physicality at the position, including being an able run blocker. Baldwin could be effective as a big bodied guy that can do something after the catch and block.”

Baldwin’s opportunity is now. We will see if he can capitalize.

49ers' first-quarter checkpoint

September, 30, 2013
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SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- The first quarter of the San Francisco 49ers' season is complete. Let’s look at some key developments as the defending NFC champion sits at 2-2:

Smith
Story of the quarter: It’s a sad story, while being one of the biggest in the league this season. Superstar pass-rusher Aldon Smith is receiving treatment for alcohol abuse. He entered treatment at an undisclosed facility two days before he turned 24 after being arrested on a charge of drunk driving. It was his second DUI arrest in less than two years. He publicly acknowledged he has a problem and vowed to “fix” it. He is expected to be away from the team for a month. It’s a stunning and rare NFL story.

Offensive MVP of the quarter: Let’s go with running back Frank Gore. He got the team on track Thursday night at St. Louis with 153 rushing yards on 20 carries. It was his highest rushing total in four years. Gore was also good in Week 3 before the 49ers went away from the run. Gore showed he is still the sparkplug to this offense.

Bowman
Defensive player of the quarter: Smith was great when he played and Patrick Willis was also outstanding before sitting out the St. Louis game with a groin injury. Overall, the 49ers’ defense has been better than statistics show. I’m going to with linebacker NaVorro Bowman. He has been steady. He was spectacular against the Rams in Willis’ absence. I know I am putting a lot of stock in the St. Louis game, but this game might be looked upon as a season-saver. It was vital.

Rookie of the quarter: Safety Eric Reid looks like the goods. The first-round pick has been a big part of the defense since the start of the season. He is smart, instinctive and a ball hawk. He has a bright future.

Disappointment of the quarter: The lack of discipline. San Francisco has 39 penalties. It is ridiculous. Penalties have hurt this team in all four games. The 49ers have to get a handle on on this issue.

Boldin
Boldin
Biggest unanswered question of the quarter: Are there enough weapons in the passing game? Quarterback Colin Kaepernick was not the problem when this team scored a combined 10 points in losses to Seattle and Indianapolis. His receivers, other than Anquan Boldin and tight end Vernon Davis, did not come through. It improved somewhat at St. Louis. Newly acquired Jon Baldwin was active and looked decent. But this is something the 49ers will have to work on until Mario Manningham comes back in a month and star Michael Crabtree tries to return late in the season. As of now, receiver depth is still a huge question.

Fearless prediction for the second quarter: The 49ers will go 3-1 in the next quarter and sit at 5-3 at the bye week. That’s a pretty solid record for a team that was 1-2. The 49ers’ toughest games in the next quarter are at home on a Sunday night against Houston and at Tennessee on Oct. 20. They also play host to Arizona on Oct. 13 and against Jacksonville on Oct. 27 in London. The 49ers are not perfect and they have some issues to work through, but I expect them to straighten out some in the coming weeks with the help of a manageable schedule.

Patton's injury opens door for Baldwin

September, 27, 2013
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SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- Quinton Patton’s bad break may be a good one for Jon Baldwin.

Baldwin
Patton
It appears Baldwin will get a chance for extra playing time now that Patton has a broken foot. The rookie was hurt in the San Francisco 49ers’ 35-11 win at St. Louis on Thursday, and will miss several weeks. Patton was working as the No. 2 receiver when he was hurt.

Baldwin, Kyle Williams and Marlon Moore will get more work, while Anquan Boldin and tight end Vernon Davis will remain the top options. Mario Manningham could come back from an injury in a month. Michael Crabtree could return from a torn Achilles in December.

In the meantime, Baldwin is the most intriguing option the 49ers have. He was acquired in August from Kansas City for former first-round pick A.J. Jenkins. Baldwin was inactive for the first three games before playing solidly at St. Louis.

Baldwin was considered a potential star for the Chiefs, but he never put it together. It sounds as if 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh is ready to see if Baldwin is ready to be a contributor.

“He’s got a competitive heart,” Harbaugh said of Baldwin. “I had that feeling about him.”

With Patton down, we’ll see what Baldwin can do.
A review of four hot issues from the San Francisco 49ers' 35-11 road win over the St. Louis Rams:

Digging deep: The 49ers simply had to win this game. They were 1-2 and were outscored by a combined 56-10 the past two weeks. Their offense looked horrible, injuries were piling up, linebacker Aldon Smith left the team to seek alcohol rehab treatment and they were playing on a short week. The odds were stacked against them -- and the 49ers responded. They dominated on both sides of the ball. They are now 2-2 and feeling pretty good about themselves.

[+] EnlargeFrank Gore
Scott Rovak/USA TODAY SportsFrank Gore gained 153 of the 49ers' 219 rushing yards against the Rams Thursday.
Back to basics: In the first three weeks, the 49ers didn’t run the ball consistently on offense and had trouble, at times, on defense. That’s not the 49ers’ way. They win by dominating on the ground on both sides of the ball. It sets their tone, which is what happened Thursday. Frank Gore ran for 153 yards (his highest total since 2009) on 20 carries. His 34-yard touchdown run on fourth-and-inches late in the second quarter gave the 49ers a 14-3 lead. It also increases their win probability 18.1 percent to 85.3 percent. According to ESPN Stats & Information, Gore had 115 yards between the tackles Thursday. He had a total of 88 yards between the tackles in the first three games. Defensively, the 49ers held the Rams to 18 rushing yards on 19 carries. It was a great bounce-back performance -- especially considering they were missing inside linebacker Patrick Willis -- for a unit that allowed 179 yards on the ground last Sunday against the Colts.

Dodging a bullet: This great win looked like it was going to be ruined very late in the game when standout left tackle Joe Staley was on the turf, yelling in pain. He later said he thought he broke his ankle, but he tweeted that he was fine. Coach Jim Harbaugh said it looked like the team “dodged a bullet.”

Youngsters get involved: The 49ers are one of the league’s youngest teams and they are starting to rely on some less experienced players. Receiver Jon Baldwin played for the first time since being acquired in a deal with Kansas City for fellow former first-round pick A.J. Jenkins. Baldwin came up with some big catches. Harbaugh liked what he saw. Running back LaMichael James played for the first time this season. He didn’t do much, but at least he’s in the mix. Rookie Corey Lemonier played a lot in Smith’s absence and looked promising. Michael Wilhoite played solidly in Willis’ absence. Getting these players work should pay off as the season progresses.

San Francisco 49ers cut-down analysis

August, 31, 2013
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Most significant move: The San Francisco 49ers released long-snapper Brian Jennings eight days before Jennings would have set a franchise record for consecutive games played. Jennings had been with the team since 2000 and was the longest-tenured current 49ers player. Undrafted free agent Kevin McDermott will handle snapping duties heading into the regular season. Coach Jim Harbaugh had called the snapping competition close, an indication the 49ers were thinking about going younger and cheaper at a position that can be taken for granted. Still, there was some shock value to such a longtime player receiving his release. The second-guessing will be justified if McDermott falters. Jennings, 36, was automatic.

Receiver trend:The 49ers had the oldest wide receivers in the NFL by average age before and after teams reduced to the previous 75-man limit. They got younger at the position Saturday by parting with Kassim Osgood, who turned 33 in May and was primarily valued for his contributions on special teams. Anquan Boldin (32), Kyle Williams (25), Jon Baldwin (24), Quinton Patton (23) and Marlon Moore (26) were the five wide receivers sticking on the initial 53-man roster. The mix will change as the season progresses. Michael Crabtree and Mario Manningham enter the season on the reserve/physically unable to perform (PUP) list. Rules allow them to begin practicing between Aug. 15 and Nov. 19. Once they begin practicing, they have 21 calendar days to join the active roster.

What's next: The 49ers will wait for several players to get healthy. Manningham, Crabtree, Tank Carradine, Eric Wright, Marcus Lattimore, Luke Marquardt and Quinton Dial are on the reserve/PUP or reserve/non-football injury lists. None of them counts against the 53-man roster. None can resume practicing before Oct. 15. Lattimore, the running back San Francisco selected in the fourth round this year, isn't expected back until next season. Another player, Demarcus Dobbs, is on the reserve/suspended list for Week 1. Having so many players on reserve lists gives the 49ers some roster flexibility early in the season. The cuts they made Saturday didn't require as many difficult choices as a team with the 49ers' overall roster strength might anticipate otherwise.

Players cut: OT Carter Bykowski, WR Austin Collie, CB Marcus Cooper, TE MarQueis Gray, WR Chad Hall, RB Jewel Hampton, WR Lavelle Hawkins, LB Joe Holland, WR Chuck Jacobs, LS Brian Jennings, LB Travis Johnson, CB Darryl Morris, OG Patrick Omameh, WR Kassim Osgood, NT Mike Purcell, SS Trenton Robinson, FB Jason Schepler, SS Michael Thomas, OG Wayne Tribue, QB Seneca Wallace, OT Kenny Wiggins.
The NFC West complied with the 75-man roster limit Tuesday by releasing some players and placing others on various reserve lists.

The chart shows how many players each team from the division is carrying by position. Note that figures for defensive lineman and linebacker can be tricky, so a generic "front seven" figure could be more relevant in some cases.

One observation per team:
  • Arizona Cardinals: Injury concerns have led the Cardinals to carry additional players at tight end. Starter Rob Housler suffered a high-ankle sprain and might not be ready for the opener. Veteran Jeff King has not yet played during preseason. The team added Richard Quinn as short-term insurance. Housler and King both passed physicals and have practiced during camp, making them ineligible for the physically unable to perform (PUP) list. Both are expected back sooner than PUP rules would allow, anyway. For now, though, their injuries are creating roster challenges. Guard Jonathan Cooper is also ineligible for PUP. He could go on the injured reserve list with a designation for return later in the season.
  • San Francisco 49ers: The 49ers have 10 wide receivers on their 75-man roster, tied for most in the NFL even after placing Michael Crabtree and Mario Manningham on the PUP list. Four or five of their remaining cuts figure to come at that position. The 49ers' wide receivers are the oldest in the NFL by average age thanks to Anquan Boldin (32) and Kassim Osgood (33). If Osgood sticks on the 53-man roster, special-teams contributions will explain why. Boldin, Jon Baldwin, Kyle Williams, Quinton Patton and Marlon Moore would be by picks if the team kept five.
  • Seattle Seahawks: Defensive end Chris Clemons remained on the roster instead of shifting to the reserve/PUP list, another indication the team thinks he could return from knee surgery sooner rather than later. The PUP designation would allow Clemons to resume practicing between Oct. 15 and Nov. 19, but all signs point to Clemons being ready before that. Seattle needs him, too. Bruce Irvin faces a four-game suspension. Cliff Avril has a hamstring injury that could affect his availability for the opener. Keeping Clemons in play for Week 1 makes sense as long as there's a chance he could be ready by then.
  • St. Louis Rams: The Rams are a little heavy at tight end while Cory Harkey recovers from injury and Lance Kendricks gets back to full speed following knee surgery. The Rams' roster appears pretty normal overall. The decisions looming appear straightforward. That could change as the team continues to build its depth.
Former San Francisco 49ers receiver A.J. Jenkins could compete with former St. Louis Rams receiver Donnie Avery for a starting spot in the Kansas City Chiefs' offense.

That coincidence illustrates the high level of turnover at the position around here.

The San Francisco 49ers' Michael Crabtree and the Seattle Seahawks' Percy Harvin suffered serious injuries this offseason. The St. Louis Rams decided against retaining 2012 starters Danny Amendola and Brandon Gibson. The Arizona Cardinals still have Larry Fitzgerald, of course, and they're excited about Michael Floyd. But even they have remained on the lookout for supporting players at the position, including the recently signed Mike Thomas.

[+] EnlargeA.J. Jenkins
Ed Szczepanski-USA TODAY SportsA.J. Jenkins was one of just two receivers the 49ers drafted before the fifth round between 2009 and 2012.
The chart below provides some context. It shows every wide receiver NFC West teams have selected in the past five drafts. I've shaded the 49ers' selections to show why they're scrambling at the position after losing Crabtree indefinitely and deciding Jenkins wasn't worth keeping for a second season. Crabtree and Jenkins were the only wideouts San Francisco selected in the first five rounds from 2009 until the team used a 2013 fourth-round pick for Quinton Patton, who recently returned from a finger injury.

We should have expected the 49ers to get more from their wideouts as their quarterback situation has improved. That happened for the Seattle Seahawks last season as Russell Wilson gained momentum. Receivers Golden Tate and Sidney Rice began producing at levels they had not achieved in Seattle previously.

Crabtree seemed to benefit from the 49ers' improved quarterback play last season. Jenkins didn't earn or otherwise receive sufficient chances. That helps explain why 2010 sixth-round choice Kyle Williams has ranked as the leading contender to start opposite 2013 trade acquisition Anquan Boldin while Crabtree and 2012 free-agent addition Mario Manningham remain on the physically unable to perform (PUP) list.

Williams has outperformed his sixth-round pedigree, but the 49ers never planned for him to be a starter. Jon Baldwin, acquired from the Chiefs in the Jenkins trade, can only improve the dynamic in the short term after Jenkins failed to factor.

Chiefs coach Andy Reid said his team felt comfortable with Jenkins after consulting with quarterback Alex Smith and assistant head coach/receivers David Culley. Smith played with Jenkins in San Francisco. Culley ran Jenkins through a workout before the 2012 draft. Reid said the Chiefs liked Jenkins' speed, hands and smarts.

"Alex was very positive about it," Reid told reporters in Kansas City.

Reid's comments regarding Avery and Baldwin might also be of interest:

  • On Avery: "We know that A.J. is going to have to come in here and learn, so we had to feel comfortable that Donnie was a legitimate starter, and we felt that. We felt that when we brought him here and since he’s been here, that he could be a quality starter on our football team. Donnie has tremendous speed, and he’s got a lot of experience and he's shown in this offense that he can do some nice things."

  • On Baldwin: "I'll always take responsibility for putting the guys in a good position to get them open and for the time that Jon was here, he did nothing but work his tail off for me. I’m not going that direction. I wish I could have helped get him open a little more than we did. ... This presented itself. I think it's good for Jon. They lost a big, powerful receiver, Crabtree, and Jon fits in that role. We needed extra kick in there and we'll see if A.J. can give us a little extra speed."


While Baldwin's 6-foot-4 and 230-pound frame surely appealed to the 49ers, I don't think they necessarily went into the trade seeking a receiver more closely matching Crabtree's physical dimensions. More likely, they were cutting their losses with Jenkins and figured Baldwin, a first-round choice in 2011, would be better than any other receiver the team was likely to receive in a trade. The fact that Baldwin has excellent size factored into their thinking, too, particularly after the smaller Jenkins struggled getting separation against physical corners. But the 49ers knew about Jenkins' size when they drafted him.

"He was the best player available when we picked," general manager Trent Baalke said on draft day 2012. "His card was above all others. That was a big reason in why we made the decision. Not only do we feel he has the skill sets we're looking for -- explosive playmaking ability -- but like we've always talked, he's our kind of guy. He's a football guy. He loves the game. He's very passionate. He lives for the games. He lives in the building. He loves the game. It was an easy decision when it came time to make the pick."

Chart note: I did not include the Seahawks' Jameson Konz because he was drafted more as a utility player than as a receiver, and he has changed positions more than once.

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