Niners change again at QB

Jesse Palmer is the latest casualty in the 49ers' constant effort to upgrade at quarterback behind Alex Smith. Palmer, released by the team Tuesday, follows Ken Dorsey and Cody Pickett as QBs who have been shown the door in the past four months, and his departure allows the Niners an opportunity to look at strong-armed prospect Gibran Hamdan, who was signed to take Palmer's place on the roster.

Hamdan is an intriguing prospect who some observers in Seattle believed was out-performing David Greene for the Seahawks' No. 3 QB role before he was waived by the team on Monday. The 49ers like a lot of what they see in the 6-foot-6, 240-pound gunslinger, so they dumped Palmer to clear space on the roster so that they could take a quick look before Saturday's deadline for all NFL teams to cut down to the final 53-man rosters they will take into the regular season.

"I didn't see Jesse making the final cut," 49ers coach Mike Nolan said after practice late Tuesday afternoon. "The biggest thing was just trying to make a spot for (Hamdan) at that position. He's a big, strong, young guy with a good, strong arm and somebody we'd like to at least have an opportunity to take a look at. Had we not claimed him now, there's no guarantee we'd get a good look because he could get claimed by another team. This way, we have the week to take a look."

Nolan left open the possibility Hamdan could see some playing time at the end of Friday's exhibition season finale against the San Diego Chargers if he can get down some of the team's offensive terminology in the next two days. But it's more likely the only look they'll get is in practice when Hamdan joins the team for Wednesday's session.

Hamdan, a seventh-round draft pick of the Washington Redskins in 2003, is coming off an impressive spring in NFL Europe, even though his season there was truncated by a broken ankle.

But in seven games with Amsterdam, Hamdan lit it up, leading the Admirals to the World Bowl for the second consecutive season. The injury, now fully healed, didn't prevent Hamdan from earning NFLE MVP honors and leading the league in completion percentage (63.0), passing yards (1,629) and touchdowns (12) while posting the highest passer rating (113.4) in league history.

Some Seattle sources believed Hamdan had a legitimate shot during the preseason at unseating Greene in the No. 3 role behind starter Matt Hasselbeck and backup Seneca Wallace, but Hamdan saw minimal action in the Seahawks' first three exhibition games - throwing just two passes, completing both for 20 yards - as Seattle opted to stick with Greene, the team's third-round pick in 2005.

Despite throwing the ball well in practice, Palmer had fallen behind Shaun Hill in the battle for San Francisco's No. 3 quarterback role behind Smith and backup Trent Dilfer.

Palmer - who served as San Francisco's emergency No. 3 quarterback during his three weeks with the team last November - was released by the 49ers for the second time in the past nine months.

The sixth-year veteran had a strong preseason debut against Chicago on Aug. 10, when he completed 5 of 7 passes for 64 yards and recorded a passer rating of 99.7. But that ended up being the only live game action he saw with the 49ers during his two stints with the team.

Palmer did not appear in either of San Francisco's next two exhibition games, and Hill surged past Palmer with his second strong showing of the preseason during last week's loss to the Dallas Cowboys.

Hill, a fifth-year veteran who played in only one regular-season game during his first four NFL season with the Minnesota Vikings, hardly is guaranteed a roster spot by Palmer's departure.

The 49ers kept four quarterbacks on their final roster entering last season, Nolan's first with the team, but the coach said that won't happen this year. With three converted college quarterbacks on the roster at other positions - that's running back Michael Robinson and receivers Arnaz Battle and Rasheed Marshall - Nolan said there's a chance the 49ers might not even keep three quarterbacks on their final roster this year.

When asked if Tuesday's move makes Hill the 49ers' No. 3 quarterback to entering the season, Nolan responded, "If there is a third spot. (Hill) did a good job (Saturday vs. Dallas) and he's done a good job up to this point. I've been pleased with what I've seen him do. He's got some good natural instincts playing the quarterback position. Certainly, he's competed very well. But we still could go with just two or three (quarterbacks)."

"We would like to have another on the practice squad if that's the case," Nolan continued. "You never go short on quarterbacks."

Hamdan still has practice squad eligibility remaining. He has appeared in just one regular-season NFL game, completing 1 of 2 passes during his rookie season.

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