SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- In the midst of everything going on around San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, the team made a trade that didn't register much on the NFL richter scale but could turn out to be important.
On Sunday afternoon, the Niners dealt offensive lineman Brandon Thomas to the Detroit Lions for wide receiver/returner Jeremy Kerley. The timing of the deal was no coincidence as the Niners have been inundated with injuries at wideout during this preseason.
At the time of the trade, the 49ers had already released wideouts Jerome Simpson and DiAndre Campbell and were hoping for Bruce Ellington (hamstring), DeAndre Smelter (hamstring) and Bryce Treggs (knee) to make full recoveries from their respective injuries. Of course, those ailments left the 49ers thin at a position that already lacks for depth, experience and talent.
When it comes to Kerley's addition, it's particularly important to note the injuries to Ellington and Treggs. Ellington is the presumptive primary slot receiver and has now suffered injuries in two of the team's three preseason games on top of a history of other injury issues. The Niners have not revealed the extent of Friday's injury but Ellington appeared to be in serious pain and had an MRI over the weekend. The addition of Kerley could indicate Ellington might miss some time.
Treggs is an unproven rookie but had showed some promise as a potential slot receiver. But with neither one of those players at full strength, the Niners did what they could to bolster a position in need.
"Jeremy gives us some depth as a slot receiver," offensive coordinator Curtis Modkins said. "He's played a lot of football in this league as a slot. He also gives us some versatility as a returner, so he's added depth that we really need and I think he'll be able to get caught up to speed fairly quickly. I have a history with him also. I had him in the Senior Bowl, I think when I was at Buffalo. So, I'm kind of familiar with what his skill set is and look forward to seeing it.”
Upon arrival, Kerley is already the second-most accomplished wideout on the roster. In five seasons with the New York Jets after entering the league as a fifth-round pick in 2011, Kerley has 182 catches for 2,225 yards and nine touchdowns working mostly out of the slot. He also has averaged 9.3 yards per punt return with one touchdown.
Kerley went through his first practice as a 49er on Monday and it's unclear if he'll be able to play in the preseason finale against San Diego on Thursday night. Asked if he thought it was possible the Niners would have a handful of plays in for him against the Chargers, Kerley made it clear he'd like a little more than that.
"I have no idea (if I'll play) but if I do I hope it's two handfuls of plays," Kerley said.
But even if he doesn't, it's reasonable to think that Kerley could find himself in position to contribute right away.
"It's all on me how much I can take in this playbook," Kerley said. "I will take it one day at a time but like I said, I'm excited about it. I'm eager about the opportunity.
"Right now, we are just trying to get in this playbook as much as I can."