49ers roster 2023: Willie Snead to have Dontae Johnson-like Niners tenure?

Perhaps Willie Snead finds himsel signed and released, signed and released by the 49ers a good deal of times.

San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Willie Snead
San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Willie Snead / Lachlan Cunningham/GettyImages

The 49ers seem to think wide receiver Willie Snead is the 53rd man on a 53-man roster.

For years, the San Francisco 49ers had an "on again, off again" working relationship with cornerback Dontae Johnson, who regularly would find himself signed to the regular-season roster, only to be released a short while later.

Occasionally, once the rules changed in 2020, Johnson would revert onto the Niners' practice squad, then he'd be called up again. Only to be released again.

It must be rough being the 53rd man on a 53-man roster.

Now, entering 2023, it's looking as if veteran wide receiver Willie Snead IV is destined to be a Johnson-like player, someone who can never quite carve out a solid role with San Francisco but nevertheless finds a way to hang around.

Snead, now 30 years old, broke into the league as an undrafted free-agent signing of the Cleveland Browns in 2014 but failed to make their regular-season roster, ultimately joining the Carolina Panthers' practice squad shortly after Cleveland waived him.

His first NFL action came with the New Orleans Saints a year later, and Snead spent three seasons there, two of which were highly productive where he averaged 940 yards over his first two years.

Snead then spent three more season with the Baltimore Ravens before becoming something of a journeyman receiver in 2021, eventually landing with San Francisco in the summer of 2022.

Last year, Snead appeared in four games with the 49ers but didn't record a catch or a target on 30 offensive snaps.

Over his career, Snead has 279 catches for 3,431 yards, 16 touchdowns and six fumbles over 99 regular-season games played.

How much are the 49ers paying Willie Snead?

According to Over the Cap, Snead is back with the Niners on a one-year deal worth up to $1.318 million with $275,000 guaranteed.

That might give Snead a leg up over some of the other long-shot wideouts vying to make San Francisco's 53-man roster, but the guaranteed cash isn't quite substantial enough to prevent the 49ers from releasing him either, should he fail to impress enough to grab what'd likely be one of the last two spots on the receiving depth chart.

Will Willie Snead make 49ers' 53-man roster this season?

If we're asking whether or not Snead will be on the regular-season roster in 2023, the answer is: probably yes.

Considering Snead is having a Johnson-like tenure with the Niners, he'll probably wind up playing some regular-season football with San Francisco at some point or another.

Making the initial 53-man roster is a bit more of a challenge, though.

The first three spots are occupied by Deebo Samuel, Brandon Aiyuk and Jauan Jennings. Now, a wrist injury to return specialist Ray-Ray McCloud does open up an extra spot to begin the season, and Snead has some modest experience as a returner, albeit only a little.

Read more: Predicting 49ers WR depth chart after Ray-Ray McCloud injury

Another veteran, Chris Conley, could have a leg up over Snead. Younger wideouts like Danny Gray and rookie Ronnie Bell have also impressed leading up to the preseason, so they may snatch away two more spots, leaving only one more available for someone like Snead, assuming the 49ers keep six receivers on the 53-man roster.

A stout preseason could separate Snead from other competitors, though, so that'll be something to monitor leading up to Week 1.

Even if Snead doesn't make the 53-man roster, however, he'll likely be back in some capacity awfully soon.

Read more from Niner Noise