With Jordan Reed yet to appear in team practices and Ross Dwelley dealing with a foot injury, the San Francisco 49ers needed to add some depth.
The tight end group’s primary story of the offseason was the re-signing of 2019 First-Team All-Pro George Kittle, but after that was accomplished, the 49ers have ran into other problems.
For the likely reason of recovering from a year away from the game, Reed has yet to appear in team practices and Dwelley has recently missed consecutive practices due to a foot issue, leaving the group a bit barren as San Francisco ramps up to the season.
The team recently worked out Caleb Repp along with former Indianapolis Colts tight end Erik Swoope, who the team is apparently signing after the NFL’s Ian Rapaport tweeted out the news Monday.
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) August 24, 2020
The addition makes sense, but what exactly can Swoope bring to a team that appears to be covered at the tight end position?
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Swoope’s Basketball and Football Journey
Before Swoope ever played high-level competitive football, he had his efforts directed on the basketball court, as the California-raised athlete headed to the University of Miami for a four-year with the Hurricanes.
Swoope was never a star for Miami, starting a grand total of 27 games during his time in Coral Gables, Florida.
After his collegiate basketball career was over, Swoope began trying his hand in football, which eventually saw him impress with Indianapolis.
Swoope did well enough to not only make the team, but cut out a role in the Colts’ offense, taking a few seasons to learn the ropes but contributing 297 yards and a touchdown in the 2016 season as he earned his first-ever NFL start.
Swoope didn’t make too much more of an impact with with Indianapolis, save for catching three touchdowns in 2018, which brings up his No. 1 skill: vertical separation and red-zone catching.
Swoope’s Chances with San Francisco
If Dwelley is healthy and Reed is ready to fully return, it will be difficult for Swoope to make the final roster. The team is already crowded when it comes to receiving talents, and Swoope likely doesn’t show enough to warrant an extra tight end on the roster.
That being said, Swoope’s aforementioned ability as a leaper and ball-winner can’t be disrespected either. His dual-sport history gives away his impressive athleticism, and San Francisco has obviously noticed something worth trying in his work outs.
Like Kittle and Reed, Swoope adds even more freak athleticism in the position that utilizes it to a great degree. Dwelley offers a more classic tight end that truly balances the responsibilities of being a receiver and a blocker.
It’s hard to imagine many scenarios where Swoope would be a better tool than any of those three options, except for a back-corner fade from quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo. And even then, one would likely prefer Kittle was the one fighting for a jump-ball in that scenario.
It’ll be interesting to see if Swoope can impress enough, or if Dwelley’s injury and Reed’s return run into hiccups. If they do, this is a pretty shrewd move. If not, expect Swoope on the practice squad to start the season.
Evan Reier is a sportswriter covering the San Francisco 49ers for Heavy.com and local sports for the Montana Standard in Butte, Mont. Reach out to him on Twitter at @evanreier and join our 49ers community at Heavy on 49ers on Facebook.