The San Francisco 49ers were in desperate need of a new tight end after the team’s latest major injury.
With typically backup tight end Jordan Reed having to step in for star TE George Kittle, things were already a little bare for San Francisco. But when it became clear the team would have to place Reed on IR, things got a little bit more urgent.
The #49ers plan to place two players on IR this week, TE Jordan Reed (knee) and LB/special teamer Mark Nzeocha (quad). They likely will be replaced by WR Deebo Samuel and LB Joe Walker.
— Matt Barrows (@mattbarrows) September 28, 2020
With the need for depth at the tight end position, even if Kittle is able to successfully return for Week 4’s clash with the Philadelphia Eagles, the team looked toward a familiar name on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, per The Athletic’s Greg Auman.
Bucs have lost tight end Daniel Helm off their practice squad as he is signing with the 49ers to join their 53-man roster.
— Greg Auman (@gregauman) September 29, 2020
Helm spent a big chunk of the 2019 season on the 49ers’ roster, and has a familiarity with head coach Kyle Shanahan’s offense that not many other options had, so it only makes sense for Helm to head to Santa Clara, California.
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Many may not remember Helm from his time with San Francisco, primarily because the tight end never hit the field for a snap while a member of the 49ers.
The biggest testament to Helm, at the NFL level at least, is the fact that he has consistently spent time on practice squads outside of his time with the 49ers, the latest stint coming with Tampa Bay.
Helm went undrafted in the 2019 NFL Draft after a consistent three years as a Duke Blue Devil after transferring from Tennessee.
Over three seasons under head coach David Cutcliffe, Helm totaled 767 yards in Duke’s offense, catching two touchdowns in each of the 2016, 2017 and 2018 seasons.
While Helm has yet to get a proper NFL regular-season chance, being in demand as a practice squad player is a sign of someone who’s up to the task, but is still waiting for his turn. With the Buccaneers trotting out O.J. Howard and Cameron Brate, it makes sense that Helm hasn’t seen a ton of playing time so far this year.
When Kittle and Reed are both healthy alongside Ross Dwelley and Charlie Woerner, Helm will likely find himself back on the practice squad.
But in the meantime, the second-year player will get an opportunity to show what he can contribute. Don’t expect many balls thrown his way, but considering how much Shanahan loves two-TE sets, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Helm get a snap or two.
49ers’ TE Situation
With Kittle set to return fairly soon, possibly even for Week 4 against the Eagles, the team will get to a much more comfortable place than where they currently sit without either of their dynamic tight ends.
Kittle is a completely different beast than Reed, but it’s still unfortunate just to see Reed go down, especially after his two-touchdown performance in Week 2.
If the 49ers can continue to navigate the first half of the season and get the team as close to full health as possible, it’ll be a major accomplishment. The reward of being able to run out Reed and Kittle at the same time will be more than worth the wait.
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.