Jordan Matthews

49ers free agents: Six under-the-radar players ready for open market

49ers free agents: Six under-the-radar players ready for open market

Editor's note: This is the final installment of a series in which we examined the 49ers’ scheduled free agents. We conclude with a look at the team’s under-the-radar free agents and those who have already retired.

Jason Verrett, CB

The 49ers took a calculated gamble last offseason that Verrett could remain healthy. He did not.

Verrett entered the Week 3 game against the Pittsburgh Steelers and was beaten badly for a TD. He was removed from the game and went on season-ending injured reserve due to knee issues.

The 49ers should have a handle on the extent of his physical issues after he was in the building for the season. But it seems reasonable that the 49ers gave it a shot for one season and do not have to give it another try.

Shon Coleman, OT

The 49ers sent a seventh-round draft pick to the Cleveland Browns at the start of the 2018 regular season to acquire Coleman. He was inactive for his entire first season with the 49ers.

A year ago, he was projected to be the team’s swing tackle. But he sustained a fractured right fibula and dislocated ankle in the team’s first preseason game. Justin Skule and Daniel Brunskill took over as the team’s backup tackles behind Joe Staley and Mike McGlinchey.

If the 49ers were impressed by what the saw from Coleman on the practice field and meetings, they could bring him back on a one-year deal.

Damontre Moore, DE

Moore had a really good training camp and was the last cut before the start of the regular season. The team struggled with that decision. Somewhat surprisingly, no other NFL team picked up Moore.

He was still available when Ronald Blair sustained with a season-ending ACL tear. (Blair is scheduled for free agency, too.) Moore immediately stepped into a spot in the 49ers’ D-line rotation. But his season came to a quick end with a fractured forearm.

Jordan Matthews, WR

The 49ers made a mini-splash by signing Matthews last offseason. He was cut before the start of the regular season, then went to his former team, the Philadelphia Eagles, for a couple of games before he was let go. 

San Francisco had Matthews for a couple of stints during the season. He appeared in one game and did not catch a pass. The 49ers can go in another direction this offseason.

Dontae Johnson, CB

Johnson appeared in seven games last season while bouncing on and off the roster. Johnson is not a bad insurance policy to have in the back pocket to step onto the field in a pinch.

There is no urgency to re-sign him, but he definitely is an option to be with the club in the offseason for competition and insurance.

Anthony Zettel, DE

Backups Blair and Moore were injured, and Jeremiah Valoaga did not give the 49ers what they wanted. So the 49ers signed Zettel in late-December. Defensive line coach Kris Kocurek had experience with Zettel from their days together with the Detroit Lions.

Zettel ultimately played 15 snaps in Super Bowl LIV, but the 49ers can certain look for other backup options with more upside.

Garrett Celek, TE

Celek Time has come to an end. The popular backup tight end announced his retirement this offseason after experiencing back issues in recent seasons.

He played eight seasons with the club after signing as an undrafted rookie in 2012 from Michigan State. Celek concluded his career with 82 receptions for 1,104 yards and 12 touchdowns. George Kittle, Ross Dwelley and Levine Toilolo, who is scheduled for free agency, were on the 49ers' roster as tight ends last season.

[RELATED: 49ers should target these five offensive players]

Earl Mitchell, NT

Mitchell came out of retirement to play for the 49ers down the stretch after D.J. Jones was placed on injured reserve. Mitchell had a limited role as a rotational player in the playoffs.

After playing 19 snaps in the Super Bowl behind starter Sheldon Day, Mitchell said he decided to step away from the game permanently. Mitchell, 32, played nine NFL seasons.

49ers re-sign cornerback Dontae Johnson, wide receiver Jordan Matthews

49ers re-sign cornerback Dontae Johnson, wide receiver Jordan Matthews

The 49ers have re-signed cornerback Dontae Johnson and wide receiver Jordan Matthews, the team announced Wednesday morning.

The 49ers expect to be without starter Richard Sherman for multiple games due to a strained right hamstring. 

Ahkello Witherspoon and Emmanuel Moseley are expected to be the 49ers’ starting cornerbacks as long as Sherman is out of action. Johnson provides depth in the 49ers’ defensive backfield, along with D.J. Reed.

Johnson, 28, was among the 49ers’ final cuts before the start of the regular season. He re-signed with the club on Oct. 3 and was waived on Nov. 11. Adam Caplan of Sirius-XM NFL Radio first reported the re-signing of Johnson.

Johnson (6-foot-2, 200 pounds) has appeared in 71 games in his NFL career with 22 starts. He played his first four NFL seasons with the 49ers from 2014 to ’17 after being selected in the fourth round of the 2014 draft.

[RELATED: 49ers place Goodwin on season-ending injured reserve]

Matthews also was one of the team's final cuts before the regular season. He re-signed with the club on Oct. 3, but was then cut three weeks later. The six-year pro has 3,288 career receiving yards and 22 touchdowns. 

Center Weston Richburg also was placed on season-ending injured reserve. He tore his patellar tendon on Sunday against the Saints. 

49ers sign receiver Deontay Burnett in wake of Deebo Samuel injury

49ers sign receiver Deontay Burnett in wake of Deebo Samuel injury

It could be nothing, but it might be something.

NFL Media's Tom Pelissero reported Tuesday that the 49ers are signing wide receiver Deontay Burnett to their practice squad, citing a source. Burnett reportedly was signed following a workout featuring multiple receivers.

The 49ers confirmed the transaction Wednesday, releasing Malik Henry from the practice squad in a corresponding move.

The fact that San Francisco is altering its practice squad isn't necessarily notable, unless it's a reaction to developments regarding the 53-man roster. As we know, the 49ers' receivers haven't exactly had the cleanest bills of health up to this point in the season.

Trent Taylor might have been talking trash following San Francisco's big win over the Rams on Sunday, but that doesn't change the fact that he has yet to appear in a game this season while recovering from surgery. The same goes for third-round draft pick Jalen Hurd. Jordan Matthews was signed after Hurd was placed on injured reserve on Oct. 3, but he has been inactive for both games since. Then second-round draft pick Deebo Samuel injured his groin in the win over the Rams, leaving the rookie questionable for the 49ers' Week 7 game against Washington.

Given all of those injury concerns circling around San Francisco's receiving corps, the Burnett signing could simply be viewed as insurance, or perhaps it's an indication the 49ers don't expect to have Samuel when they attempt to improve to 6-0 on Sunday.

A three-year player at USC, Burnett looks the part of a Kyle Shanahan receiver. He doesn't have blazing speed, but he's a good route runner who has shown glimpses of potential. Burnett caught on with the Titans after being undrafted out of college and produced a solid preseason with Tennessee, but was a casualty of final roster cuts. He was signed by the Jets shortly thereafter, and caught 10 passes for 143 yards over five games with New York last season. He was waived by the Jets at the conclusion of training camp earlier this year.

[RELATED: Staley, Witherspoon closest to return among injured 49ers]

The 49ers signing Burnett to the practice squad doesn't necessarily mean they expect him to eventually make an impact on the 53-man roster. However, it sure would seem to suggest one or more of San Francisco's ailing receivers is further away from a return than originally thought.