When the 49ers pulled the trigger and signed wide receiver Randy Moss to a one year contract, they knew he would report on April 30th instead of the day most of his new teammates would report about two weeks earlier. Moss was the first of several new WRs brought onto San Francisco’s roster to bolster the teams biggest weakness coming into the off season.
Since Moss signed, the 49ers have added Mario Manningham, brought back Ted Ginn Jr and drafted AJ Jenkins in the first round of the draft. Suddenly, surviving training camp and making the 49ers final 53 man roster is no given for Moss, one of the most prolific WRs in NFL history.
Michael Crabtree returns after having his best season as a pro and is a lock to make the team. Ginn is another lock due to his return abilities. Both Jenkins and second round pick running back LaMichael James have return abilities, as does Perrish Cox the veteran corner the team brought in before the draft. The 49ers have some depth at the position but the only one ready for the job full time this season, is Ted Ginn Jr, so pencil him in.
Mannningham would seem to be another lock. After signing a two year deal and performing very well in the playoffs for the Giants. The young WR has a chance to break out after playing in the shadows of Victor Cruz and Hakeem Nicks in New York. Something would have to go terribly wrong for Mario not to make the final 53. Jenkins is a guarantee to suit up on game days as the teams first round pick.
So far Crabtree, Manningham, Jenkins and Ginn look like locks. General manager Trent Baalke and head coach Jim Harbaugh have spoken about keeping more WRs and RBs this season given the additions they have made to the roster. They could keep as many as six receivers when all is said and done. That means Moss is fighting for either one, or two, open roster spots at WR. Given the fact that the others he will be competing against, Kyle Williams, Brett Swain and Chris Owusu all have value on special teams, something Moss does not, he will have to clearly beat them out on the offensive side of the ball and prove to the coaches he can still be a reliable weapon on Sundays.
If it comes down to the 49ers keeping extra RBs or WRs and not both. The battle then could come down to whether or not the team believes Moss is more valuable than a Brandon Jacobs or Rock Cartwright, two RBs that likely will also be on the fringe. At the end of the day, the 49ers signed Moss because they believe he still has something left in the tank. They were interested last year apparently when he decided to retire. If Moss is able to still stretch the field some, draw extra attention from defensive backs and especially if he’s able to be effective on third downs and in the red zone, he’ll find his way onto the roster. Only now, after all the additions to bolster the offense, Moss is no longer a shoe in, and that’s a good thing for 49er fans.