SFI breaks down the final 53-man roster

Four receivers, three safeties, two kickers, one slightly unbalanced roster. The 49ers have some peculiar positional numbers after cutting down their roster to the NFL's 53-man limit on Sunday, particularly when you consider those eight linebackers. But don't necessarily expect those numbers to remain that way throughout the season.

"We're glad that we've gotten through this process and have our 53-man roster assembled for the time being," Niners general manager Terry Donahue said late Sunday afternoon after the team announced that it had waived safety Al Blades, tackle Dave Costa, defensive end Darryl Sanders and receivers James Jordan and Antoine Toliver. "I say that because I think everybody in the NFL will try and continually upgrade the bottom part of their roster if at all possible. We're no different than that."


The Niners retained eight linebackers for two reasons: They had good enough players to keep at the position, and they wanted some security for Thursday's season opener against the New York Giants. Starter Jeff Ulbrich is out for that game, and rookie backup Saleem Rasheed is listed as doubtful and unlikely to play.


Don't expect the Niners to carry as many linebackers once Ulbrich and Rasheed start getting healthy. One or two of the current group could be relegated to the practice squad, depending on what transpires.


Here's our breakdown of the Niners' final roster moves and how they affect the team at each positional category:


Quarterbacks (3): There was no roster movement here Sunday.


Running backs (6): The 49ers decided that Jamal Robertson – the NFC's leading rusher during the preseason – was just too good to let go. This team definitely doesn't need six running backs, but the Niners will attempt to find a niche for Robertson on special teams. Robertson making the team is surprising only in that the five players ahead of him are so strong and will hog all the playing time.


Wide receiver (4): Jordan was a serious consideration for a roster spot, and he and Toliver – along with recently-released Scott Cloman – will be considered for the practice squad. As long as there are no injuries, the Niners should be fine with Tai Streets and Cedrick Wilson as the backups to starters Terrell Owens and J.J. Stokes.


Tight ends (4): There was no roster movement here Sunday.


Offensive line (9): The Niners would have liked to keep Costa around, but they decided rookie tackle Kyle Kosier had more upside to develop for the future. Eric Heitmann's major progress during the preseason made Costa expendable.


Linebackers (8): Undrafted free agents Frank Strong and Brandon Moore both deserved to make the team, but one of them likely is headed for the practice squad when Ulbrich returns to full health. It's possible the Niners could keep seven on the roster throughout the season because the backups have so much athleticism and potential and will be instrumental on San Francisco's special teams.


Defensive backs (8): When the Niners released Chad Cota on Saturday, it became obvious the team is comfortable going with just three safeties, like it did last year. Blades, who has been injured, just hasn't shown that he could make a significant enough contribution to be kept as a fourth safety.


Defensive line (8): Releasing Reggie McGrew on Saturday cleared the way for the team to keep Jerome Davis, who has been an impressive player this preseason after gaining more than 25 pounds since he was in camp with the Niners last year.


Specialists (4): Do the Niners really need both Jose Cortez and Jeff Chandler on the roster? Of course they don't. This is why the team is going light at other positions, but the Niners simply don't want to throw away their considerable investment in Chandler, the team's fourth-round draft pick. "We have two kickers who can play in the league," Donahue said. "You usually don't get rid of players you are convinced can play in the NFL."


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