After securing a winning record for the first time since October 9, the San Francisco 49ers have announced some changes to their roster heading into Week 11, adding quarterback Jacob Eason and wide receiver Dazz Newsome to the practice squad after working out a number of potential players.
In order to accommodate the additions of Eason and Newsome, the 49ers have also announced two corresponding moves, placing veteran wide receiver Tajae Sharpe on practice squad injured reserve and releasing journeyman quarterback Kurt Benkert outright.
Initially signed on October 18, Benkert didn’t appear in a single game for the 49ers during his tenure, as he was kept inactive for his entire tenure due to the presence of Jimmy Garoppolo as QB1 and Mr. Irrelevant, Brock Purdy, in place as his backup. While Sharpe’s run was far less prolific, as he just signed with the team on November 7, there’s still a chance he could return later this season should he fully recover from his as-of-yet-unspecified injury.
Jacob Eason Brings Pac-12 Pedigree to the 49ers
Measuring in at 6-foot-6, 231 pounds, Eason began his college career at the University of Georgia, where the top-ranked quarterback recruit in the nation, according to Rivals, was expected to become a star for the Bulldogs. Though he did spend much of the 2016 season starting for the team, going 8-5 while completing 55.1 percent of his passes for 2,430 yards, 16 touchdowns, and eight interceptions, he was beaten out by Josh Fromm for the starting spot in 2017 and ultimately transferred to the University of Washington to close out his collegiate eligibility.
Starting under center for Chris Petersen in 2019, Eason completed 64.2 percent of his passes for 3,132 yards, 23 touchdowns, and eight interceptions while leading his Huskies to an 8-5 record. Eason produced with his arm, provided a veteran presence under center, and ultimately kept Washington potent after saying goodbye to Jake Browning, the University’s all-time leading passer. These efforts, when mixed with his high school pedigree, made Eason an intriguing prospect coming into the 2020 NFL draft, where he was ultimately drafted in the fourth round by the Indianapolis Colts to serve as a developmental arm behind Phillip Rivers and Jacoby Brissett.
Fast forward to 2021, and suddenly everything had changed for the Colts: they’d traded for ex-Philadelphia Eagles signal-caller Carson Wentz, drafted Texas Longhorns QB Sam Ehlinger in the sixth round, and again Eason found himself hard-pressed to find a path to the football field in a full-time role. Eason appeared in one game, completed two passes for 25 yards and an interception, and was ultimately waived in October of 2021.
From there, Eason was claimed off of waivers by the Seattle Seahawks for the remainder of the 2021 season and stuck with the team through the summer of 2022 before being waived coming out of training camp. Eason eventually signed with the Carolina Panthers’ practice squad, where he appeared in one game as a backup to starter P.J. Walker and was released back to the open market on November 7th. After trying out for the Dallas Cowboys earlier this month, Eason worked out for the 49ers on November 14th and was ultimately impressed enough to earn a spot on the practice squad over Benkert.
Will Eason ever actually take a snap for the 49ers? Only time will tell, but needless to say, his addition to the team is an interesting wrinkle indeed.
Dazz Newsome Provides Insurance for Ray-Ray McCloud
A second-generation football player who spent four years with the North Carolina Tarheels, Newsome entered the 2021 NFL draft in an interesting spot. After surpassing 1,000 yards as a junior and following it up with a 684-yard campaign as a senior, Newsome was pigeonholed as a gadget player coming out of college, as NFL.com’s Lance Zierlein detailed in his draft profile overview before handing the Virginia-born product a 7th round grade.
Competitive, high-energy slot with gadget package and punt return talent to help round out his potential roster flexibility. Newsome has work to do before he can be labeled a polished pro prospect. His pass-catching technique is below average and his route-running is a little too unfocused at this time. However, his short-area footwork and ability to alter his route speed provide hope that he can improve quickly in that department. Punt returning could get him on the field quickly depending on where he lands, but his ceiling will be determined by whether or not he grows from being a catch-and-run talent to a well-rounded target.
Selected in the sixth round by the Bears, Newsome appeared in three games with one start for Chicago in 2021, where he was predominantly used as a return man. After competing for a roster spot against tougher competition heading into 2022, Newsome was released coming out of camp and, after a cup of coffee on the Kansas City Chiefs’ practice squad, has signed the same deal in San Francisco.
While there isn’t a clear path to the active roster for the UNC standout at the moment, if Ray-Ray McCloud were to suffer an injury down the line, Newsome would be among the first players considered to fill his role.