Tight end Vance McDonald, whose name first came up in trade talks during the draft, has a new home.
The 49ers dealt McDonald and a fifth-round pick to the Pittsburgh Steelers on Tuesday morning in exchange for a fourth-round pick, a league source confirmed to NBC Sports Bay Area.
"We would like to thank Vance for his contributions to this organization on the field and in the community over the last four seasons," 49ers general manager John Lynch said in a statement. "Although I have only known Vance for a short time, I quickly learned that he and his wife, Kendi, have been tremendous representatives for the team in the community and their service to others is quite commendable. We wish the McDonald family all the best as they move on to a new opportunity in Pittsburgh."
McDonald came to the 49ers as a second-round draft pick in 2013. The 49ers paid McDonald a $7 million signing bonus in December to lock him up for five more seasons.
But the new 49ers regime preferred the other options, including veteran pickup Logan Paulsen, a blocking specialist, and rookie George Kittle, a fifth-round draft pick.
The player who figures to benefit most from McDonald’s trade is veteran Garrett Celek, a sixth-year player who originally signed with the 49ers in 2012 as an undrafted rookie from Michigan State.
Celek has 56 catches for 678 yards and six touchdowns in 55 games. McDonald recorded 64 receptions for 866 yards and seven touchdowns in 48 games with 30 starts.
The 49ers could look to retain undrafted rookie tight end Cole Hikutini on the practice squad, if the team waives him and he goes unclaimed by the other 31 teams. Blake Bell, who enters his third season after being a fourth-round pick in 2015, faces a stiff challenge to make the team.
All NFL teams must trim their rosters from the 90-player maximum to the regular-season-season limit of 53 players by the Saturday deadline. The 49ers’ final exhibition game is Thursday night against the Los Angeles Chargers at Levi’s Stadium.