A defensive line unit for the San Francisco 49ers that was carrying an astonishing 17 different trench options is now one less a defender.
And the decision comes off the heels of the 49ers’ Monday morning, May 23 signing as mentioned in this Heavy on 49ers story.
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After signing Tyler Kroft to help fill the tight end room, the 49ers announced that defensive tackle Chris Slayton has been waived by the team — with the franchise announcing the transaction at 2:15 p.m. PT.
And as 49ers insider David Lombardi of The Athletic pointed out, the decision to place Slayton on waivers now gives the 49ers a 16-deep trench room on defense.
Who Was Slayton?
Slayton entered the league as a seasoned veteran on the Syracuse Orange defensive line — playing in 43 games total across four seasons per Sports Reference.
Lance Zierlein of nfl.com wrote some solid praises for the decorated Orange defender — calling him “picturesque” for his position on the interior defensive line.
“Picturesque 3-technique with desired frame and initial quickness to make a roster,” Zierlein wrote in his opening evaluation of the then 6-foot-4, 307-pounder.
Zierlein included how Slayton was “well-built with broad chest, thick arms and good lean muscle mass” plus how Slayton came equipped with what he described as movement that was natural and athletic for a defender his size.
Slayton became productive right away in Syracuse: Snatching six tackles behind the line of scrimmage during his 2015 freshman campaign that saw him take on the likes of LSU, Florida State, Pittsburgh and Clemson. But then he elevated that total to 10 per the Syracuse football website in 2016 while adding four sacks. He delivered 28 tackles and 8.5 stops behind the line the following season.
Then in his final college campaign, Slayton hit 24 tackles, eight tackles for a loss and and earned 3.5 sacks — one of them on future first overall pick Trevor Lawrence during Clemson’s narrow 27-23 win on September 29, 2018.
Slayton, however, still entered the league with his flaws…the kind that pointed to him being considered a late round pick. Zierlein mentioned how he had an alarming lack of production and came with lower body tightness.
The 25-year-old Slayton was taken in the seventh round of the 2019 Draft (same class as Nick Bosa and Deebo Samuel) as he ended up with the New York Giants. But now, he will now be searching for his sixth NFL franchise. After the Giants, he’s had stops with the Buffalo Bills’ practice squad, then the Atlanta Falcons’ practice squad three days after being released by Buffalo, then was with the Pittsburgh Steelers in October of 2021 and finally, ended up on the 49ers’ roster as a practice squad addition on November 17, 2021.
He was also one of 11 players who signed a reserves/futures contract with the ‘Niners on February 2.
Loaded DL Room Likely Reasoning Behind Waive
With enough for a fourth string in the trenches, it’s all but likely that the overcrowded defensive line room also helped persuade this move.
The 49ers not only bolstered their front line through free agency by adding Hassan Ridgeway and Kemoko Turay via the Philadelphia Eagles and Indianapolis Colts, respectively, but spent two of their draft picks on defensive linemen in Drake Jackson out of USC and Kalia Davis from Central Florida.
But there’s more. The 49ers went ahead and invited one more trench representative: Signing Kevin Atkins from Fresno State as one of the 14 undrafted free agent signings on May 2.