The final cuts: Why they are gone

The 49ers had some tough decisions to make as they released 21 players to get down to the NFL-mandated 53-man final roster for the regular season, and here's a look at why each of those individuals is no longer with the team.

QB Josh Johnson: The 49ers no doubt had to think twice about this cut after Johnson lit up the field during Thursday's preseason finale against San Diego, passing for 125 yards and two touchdowns and adding 50 yards rushing. Those numbers improved Johson's preseason totals to 15 completions in 25 attempts for 219 yards and a passer rating of 115.3 to go with 63 yards rushing. Johnson was expected to have a real shot at making the team after being reunited with head coach Jim Harbaugh, who turned him into a college star when both were at the University of San Diego. But despite his late flourish in the preseason, Johnson simply didn't get it done on a daily basis in training camp practices, where he quickly fell behind Scott Tolzien in the battle for the No. 3 job and never was able to catch up. Johnson struggled with his accuracy and consistently and was a clear No. 4 among San Francisco's four quarterbacks going into the preseason finale, where he looked great against reserve defenders. But that wasn't quite enough to save his job. The two-year, $2.115 million contract Johnson signed when he joined the team also may have factored into the decision – Tolzien was considerably cheaper to keep on the final roster.

RB Rock Cartwright: The 11th-year veteran was looking strong for a roster berth throughout the summer, but he was simply overtaken by a late push from third-year veteran Anthony Dixon, who also will come with a cheaper price tag. Cartwright and Dixon were essentially battling for the same roster spot, and the team opted to go with the younger, bigger player who also can contribute on special teams, where Cartwright was expected to make his biggest impact as a 49er. The preseason knee injury to Brandon Jacobs might have actually hurt Cartwright's chances of making the team – Dixon is a better option than Cartwright as a goal-line back, and Jacobs might not be ready for the regular-season opener and other September games.

LB Eric Bakhtiari: The well-traveled journeyman – who previously had been in the camps of six NFL teams, including the 49ers – made a strong roster push by performing well in extensive preseason action. Bakhtiari showed strength both as a pass rusher from the edge and as a run defender in holding the edge, leading the 49ers with 2.5 sacks during the preseason and finishing second on the team with 15 tackles. The 49ers would have liked to have a fourth outside linebacker on their final roster to provide depth behind their front three of Ahmad Brooks, Aldon Smith and Parys Haralson, but ultimately it came down to a numbers game in which the team opted to go light again at OLB, where the aforementioned trio performed admirably last year. Though Bakhtiari may have performed well enough to make the final roster, he just didn't stand out enough for the Niners to push off a player they wanted to keep at another position.

TE Konrad Reuland: After spending last season on San Francisco's practice squad as an undrafted rookie free agent, Reuland may have been one of the final players released by the 49ers this summer as he was making a strong push to win the No. 3 tight end role behind Vernon Davis and Delanie Walker, particularly after the team released Nate Byham earlier this summer. At 260 pounds, Reuland has the brawn to mix it up as a blocker, and he also was a legitimate receiving target at the position, leading the 49ers with nine receptions for 73 yards during the preseason. But ultimately it wasn't enough to beat out undrafted rookie Garrett Celek for the No. 3 job. Celek may have won that job in the preseason finale against San Diego, where he had three receptions for 54 yards, including a 37-yarder.

LB Cameron Johson: The 6-foot-3, 268-pound rookie had some of the attributes the Niners are looking for at the edge linebacker position, but he didn't make enough of an impact during the summer to be considered for the final roster. Johnson was behind Bakhtiari and probably others in the final evaluation, and the seventh-round draft pick became one of the few draft picks over the past three years not to make the final roster coming out of the preseason. Johnson had only two tackles during the preseason and never made it past fourth-string on the team's summer depth chart.

LB Ikaika Alama-Francis: A sixth-year NFL veteran, Alama-Francis was signed on Aug. 15 to compete with Bakhtiari, Johnson and others for an edge position. He came to the Niners with 35 games of NFL experience, including two starts, and flashed his proven ability during his two weeks with San Francisco. But it wasn't enough to land him on the final roster, even though he had a strong preseason finale against the Chargers with three tackles, half a sack and two quarterback hits.

DT Matt Masifilo: The undrafted rookie from Stanford was released during Monday's first roster cutdown, then re-signed later in the week for a final look against the Chargers. Masifilo did well for himself there with a standout performance that included four tackles and two quarterback hits, but that wasn't enough to push him past Ian Williams and DeMarcus Dobbs, the two undrafted rookies who made the team as reserve defensive linemen last year and held onto their jobs this summer.

WR Nathan Palmer: One of the young standouts of training camp, Palmer did well for himself this summer as an undrafted rookie out of Northern Illinois, consistently displaying he has NFL-level talent. Unfortunately, he was playing at a position for the 49ers where he had no realistic shot at making the roster no matter how well he played. Palmer flashed potential throughout training camp practices and had some big plays during the preseason, where he finished as San Francisco's third-leading receiver with six catches for 93 yards, including a 51-yard grab. He also had some conspicuous drops, however, which were plays he needed to make to have any shot at the final roster. Palmer, however, may be one of the strongest candidates to be brought back to San Francisco's practice squad if he clears waivers.

WR Chris Owusu: Big and athletic, Owusu had a nice camp with the 49ers and made some plays during the preseason, where he had five catches for 43 yards. Like Palmer, he was a long long-shot to make the final roster at a cramped position, but he also has a shot to be asked back to the practice squad.

OT Mike Person: After making the team as a seventh-round draft pick last season, but never suiting for a game, the Niners were hoping Person could take the next step and grab hold of the No. 3 tackle role after last year's No. 3 – Adam Boone – stepped into the starting lineup at right guard this year. Person certainly got his shot this summer, but he was not up to the task. He struggled in pass protection and had a holding penalty on a running play in the San Diego game. Person really missed an opportunity here, because the 49ers opted to not keep a third tackle on the final roster after Friday's cutdown, which left them with just eight offensive lineman.

OT Derek Hall: After spending last season on San Francisco's practice squad, Hall got another long look this summer at a position where the 49ers need to develop a legitimate swing tackle. He continued to show promise as a NFL player, but didn't look quite well enough along to step in as a front-line No. 3 tackle, which is what the 49ers needed from him if Hall was going to make the roster. Like Person, he is a candidate to be brought back to the practice squad, where the 49ers will surely keep at least one developmental prospect at tackle.

OT Kenny Wiggins: Like Person and Hall, Wiggins was given a legitimate look for the No. 3 tackle role but couldn't quite convince the team to give it to him. Wiggins made it to the final cut last year with the 49ers as an undrafted rookie free agent and spent time on the Baltimore Ravens practice squad at the end of the season. He was an improved player this summer with the Niners, but it wasn't enough to squeeze onto a talented roster.

WR Brett Swain: The fourth-year veteran was essentially the same player this summer that spent the final 11 games on the San Francisco roster last year as a reserve receiver. Swain has NFL skills and was solid throughout the preseason with six receptions for 63 yards, catching San Francisco's first touchdown pass of the summer in the exhibition opener. But after the 49ers drafted A.J. Jenkins in the first round and added proven veterans Mario Manningham and Randy Moss as free agents during the offseason, Swain's days on the San Francisco roster were numbered as the Niners had no room to keep him with holdover veterans Michael Crabtree, Kyle Williams and Ted Ginn Jr. also holding down slots at the position.

LB Michael Wilhoite: After finishing last season on San Francisco's practice squad, Wilhoite got a legitimate look this summer to win one of the reserve roles at inside linebacker behind All-Pro starters Patrick Willis and NaVarro Bowman. Wilhoite didn't really do anything to lose a job; he just didn't do enough to win one. The strong summer play of holdover backups Larry Grant and Tavares Gooden – who also are strong special teams player – didn't give Wilhoite an opportunity to squeeze onto the roster despite his nine preseason tackles.

LB Joe Holland: An undrafted rookie from Purdue, Holland pretty much was in the same boat as Wilhoite – he simply signed with a team that had too much talent and depth ahead of him at the position he was trying to win a job. Holland displayed some potential as a NFL player, however, and could be a candidate for the practice squad. He finished the preseason with five tackles and also had a sack on a well-executed blitz.

DT Tony Jerod-Eddie: The spunky undrafted rookie from Texas A&M made an impression during training camp, but he was a long-shot to make the final roster and did well just to make it to the final cut. Jerod-Eddie got himself on NFL film during the preseason, where he finished with three tackles.

S Michael Thomas: The undrafted free agent from Stanford was one of the more noticeable defensive rookies of training camp, and it was enough to get the athletic prospect to the final roster cutdown. Thomas had six tackles during the preseason and also recorded a sack on a blitz. But he ultimately lost out to sixth-round draft pick Trenton Robinson and veteran Darcel McBath in the battle for the team's Nos. 4 and No. 5 safety roles. Thomas is a strong candidate to be asked back to the practice squad.

LB Kenny Rowe: The first-year veteran made a strong roster push with the Niners last summer before being released at the final cutdown, where his road with the team ended again this summer. He was signed again by the team on Aug. 11 to compete for a backup role on the edge, but there was too much competition at a position where the 49ers decided to keep the same three players who manned the OLB spots for them last year. Rowe had six preseason tackles but got lost in a numbers game on the edge.

OL Al Netter: The undrafted rookie from Northwestern made an impression this summer and had a solid preseason finale while getting some extra playing time against San Diego, but he still is too raw and inexperienced to make the step up to the final roster. Netter did well for himself during August, however, and could be asked back to the practice squad.

CB Anthony Mosely The undrafted rookie from Kentucky did well for himself to make it to the final cutdown, but he couldn't push past young veterans Tramaine Brock and Perrish Cox for a backup role at a vital position for the team. Mosley got some solid game time on film this summer and had four tackles during the preseason.

TE Kyle Nelson: After spending time on the practice squads of the New Orleans Saints and Kansas City Chiefs last year as an undrafted rookie, Nelson pretty much was on the outside looking in as Garrett Celek and Conrad Reuland battled ahead of him for the No. 3 job at tight end. Nelson never really got much of a shot to move ahead of those two in that competition and he did not have a reception during the preseason.


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