49ers roster: Tyler Kroft a TE2 or off the team altogether in 2022?

New York Jets tight end Tyler Kroft (81) Mandatory Credit: Samantha Madar-USA TODAY Sports
New York Jets tight end Tyler Kroft (81) Mandatory Credit: Samantha Madar-USA TODAY Sports /

The 49ers may be hoping Tyler Kroft can serve as a No. 2 tight end to pair with George Kittle, but Kroft’s status is anything but certain.

Another year, and San Francisco 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan’s campaign to identify a quality No. 2 tight end to support his All-Pro, George Kittle, continues.

This time around, the Niners are hoping one of their offseason free-agent pickups, former Cincinnati Bengals and New York Jets veteran, Tyler Kroft, can somehow be that key complementary piece.

San Francisco inked the 30-year-old Kroft to a one-year, $1.22 million deal on May 23, which afforded him enough time to participate in some of the team’s offseason programs and will undoubtedly help him digest the playbook in advance of training camp.

But to think Kroft will drastically move the needle for the 49ers, offensively, might be a bit of a stretch.

Tyler Kroft Receiving Table
4 yr4 yrCIN513595676619.9835591.313.070.5%7.00
2 yr2 yrBUF217301819010.6414380.99.060.0%6.30
1 yr1 yrNYJ96251617310.819261.819.264.0%6.90

Provided by Pro-Football-Reference.com
Generated 6/28/2022.

Like Kittle, injuries have been a part of Kroft’s pro tenure, and about the only statistical anomaly he had was back in 2017 when he netted a career-best 404 receiving yards and seven touchdowns.

If the 49ers get that kind of production from him in 2022, it’ll likely mean one of two things:

  1. Kittle misses substantial time with an injury
  2. The Niners offense becomes other-worldly

Still, the tight end depth chart behind Kittle is awfully fluid, and Kroft does have an open late to secure this spot this season.

Let’s take a look at how he might accomplish this.

Why Tyler Kroft thrives with 49ers in 2022

It appears to be a Shanahan obsession to have two high-performing tight ends on the roster at any particular point, but actually having this has largely eluded him dating back to 2017.

Kroft didn’t exactly thrive the last time he was in a good offense with a good quarterback, the Buffalo Bills, between 2019 and 2020. But one might look at the context with second-year signal-caller Trey Lance and see why another big-bodied target could aid San Francisco’s top pick from the 2021 NFL Draft.

Young quarterbacks love tight ends, and if Kittle is garnering the bulk of attention from opposing defenses, this feasibly could open up more chances for Kroft to impact the offense.

And considering the 49ers’ remaining options at the position consist of perennial backups like Ross Dwelley, Charlie Woerner, Tanner Hudson and others, there’s a good chance Kroft catapults to the top of the reservists behind Kittle.

Why Tyler Kroft flames out with 49ers instead

One might be able to forgive Kroft for not being much of anything special during his lone year with the Jets, as New York’s offense was wholly terrible and injuries got in the way anyway.

However, and in light of those injuries, Kroft still didn’t make much of a dent in Buffalo with quarterback Josh Allen trying to get him the ball, and outside of that 2017 campaign, there isn’t exactly a lot to brag about here for the 6-foot-5, 246-pound veteran.

Kroft has been a modestly decent blocker over his career, yet the Niners already have a solid blocking tight end in Woerner, who is significantly cheaper and under contractual control for two more seasons.

Simply put, Kroft isn’t going to solidify a spot on the regular-season roster based on his blocking alone.

Chances Tyler Kroft makes 49ers’ 53-man roster in 2022

As noted, San Francisco’s tight end depth chart is awfully fluid behind Kittle.

On the surface, Kroft’s primary competition would be against Dwelley and Hudson, while the Nos. 3 and 4 spots on the pre-Week 1 roster are up for grabs between Woerner, Troy Fumagalli and Jordan Matthews.

Related Story: Tyler Kroft has a real shot at making Niners’ 53-man roster

The 49ers could feasibly keep four tight ends on the 53-man roster this season, but that might be a bit of a stretch, and it would essentially call for both Kroft and Dwelley to match each other in terms of prowess.

Another factor here is Kroft’s contract has only $25,000 in fully guaranteed money, which isn’t a lot in the grand scheme of things, so we can’t automatically assume he’ll survive cuts based on the deal he signed.

Simply put, it’ll come down to this: If Kroft looks anything like he did in 2017 during training camp and the preseason, and if he isn’t wholly outperformed by Dwelley and at least one more tight end on the depth chart, he’s likely safe.

However, should one of those two factors not pan out, Kroft might just as easily be gone by Week 1.

Quite the landing-spot trajectory.

Next. 49ers' 15 best free-agent acquisitions of all time. dark