Youth being served in 49ers' early roster moves

In cutting Matt Barkley, the 49ers are making it clear that rookie C.J. Beathard is their No. 2 quarterback and has progressed ahead of schedule. AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez

SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- On Friday, the San Francisco 49ers made about half of the moves they needed to make to get to the league-mandated 53 players on the roster by Saturday's 1 p.m. PT deadline.

Within those moves, there was one easy takeaway from the decisions coach Kyle Shanahan and general manager John Lynch made: when in doubt, err on the side of youth.

Here's a quick look at the 17 roster moves the Niners already executed:

Released or waived: QB Matt Barkley, C Tim Barnes, RB Kapri Bibbs, CB Will Davis, DL Leger Douzable, OL Andrew Gardner, RB Tim Hightower, OL Andrew Lauderdale, FB Tyler McCloskey, WR Louis Murphy, WR Tim Patrick, OL Norman Price, K Nick Rose, LB Shayne Skov, S Vinnie Sunseri.

Waived/injured: CB Prince Charles Iworah, CB Will Redmond.

Additionally, safety Don Jones posted to social media that he suffered a serious knee injury in Thursday's preseason finale. Jones was not a lock to make the roster but had a chance given his penchant for performing well on special teams.

Assuming Jones is headed for injured reserve or possibly an injury settlement, the total would be at 18 moves made Friday, meaning the 49ers still have 17 more decisions to make before the deadline. We'll get back to some of the things they have to consider in a moment.

But for now, it's worth noting the Niners seem to be embracing their youth movement. In cutting Barkley, they are making it clear that rookie C.J. Beathard is their No. 2 quarterback and has progressed ahead of schedule. The same is true at running back where Bibbs and Hightower boasted a combined eight seasons of NFL experience but were let go in order to presumably make room for undrafted rookie Matt Breida, drafted rookie Joe Williams and young veteran Raheem Mostert.

On the offensive line, undrafted rookie Erik Magnuson remains on the roster (though nothing is final yet) while Barnes, who started every game for the Rams the last two seasons was released. And Sunseri and Jones' departure created openings that could be filled by seventh-round draft pick Adrian Colbert and undrafted rookie Lorenzo Jerome.

Shanahan and Lynch were not shy about giving everybody a chance to make the roster during this camp and the preseason and they are following through on that by opting to choose the players they believe can help best in the short and long term. It's an ethos Shanahan submitted when discussing the release of linebacker Ahmad Brooks.

"It’s, how are we going to get 53 guys on this team, the right type of 53 guys," Shanahan said. "You think of guys that might not be as good in Week 1 but you think they’ll be ready in Week 3. What gives you the best chance to win in Week 1 and Week 8 and Week 16? You’ve got to play all that into account. It’s rarely as simple as saying it’s the starter versus the backup, versus the third-string guy. It has to do with the overall 53."

The moves the Niners made Friday seemed to offer some clarity at quarterback, safety, center, running back and linebacker but there's still much to consider heading into Saturday.

Here's a glance at some of the choices the Niners still have to make:

Tight end -- All signs point to rookie George Kittle and veteran Garrett Celek being in a good spot. They could be the only two tight ends on the roster but it seems more likely there will be a third. The choice would then come from Logan Paulsen, Blake Bell and Cole Hikutini. Hikutini seems like a good candidate for the practice squad but if the Niners fear someone will claim him, he could make it. Otherwise, the choice comes down to whether the 49ers prefer Paulsen's blocking and knowledge of Shanahan's offense or Bell's ability to contribute on special teams.

Cornerback -- The Niners got most of the heavy lifting here done Friday but there's still probably a choice to make between Asa Jackson and Keith Reaser for what would likely be a fifth roster spot at the position. It's also possible the Niners could move on from both and roll with Colbert as a utility piece who can play corner, safety and special teams. Rashard Robinson, Dontae Johnson, K'Waun Williams and Ahkello Witherspoon appear to be locked in but it's also safe to expect the 49ers to keep searching for help whether via trade or on the waiver wire.

Offensive tackle -- Will the Niners keep two backups to Joe Staley and Trent Brown or just one? Once that decision is made, the Niners will have to choose from a trio of John Theus, Garry Gilliam and dark horse Darrell Williams Jr. Theus and Gilliam are the best bets, probably in that order, but both could stick early in the season given San Francisco's need for depth up front.

Wide receiver -- Pierre Garcon, Marquise Goodwin, Aldrick Robinson, Jeremy Kerley and Trent Taylor appear to be solid here though it's not out of the question Kerley could be shopped in trade. Barring that, the question is really whether the 49ers keep a sixth receiver and if they do, whether it's Victor Bolden Jr. or Kendrick Bourne. Bolden would seem to have the edge given his return skills but the Niners would have to make the determination not only to keep him on the roster but have him active on game day for it to be worth it. Otherwise, it's still a pretty good bet that a couple of young wideouts land on the practice squad.

Defensive line -- Plenty of moving pieces here and the Niners could also be active on the trade market with extra linemen who could draw compensation rather than just being released. Defensive tackle Quinton Dial and end Aaron Lynch, in particular, could be available for a team in need of help up front. Otherwise, the Niners need to decide whether they want to keep Lynch as depth behind Arik Armstead and Elvis Dumervil and who to keep at defensive tackle from a group that includes Dial, rookie D.J. Jones and Chris Jones.