Turns out the Samuel Womack belief train is gaining steam in the Bay Area.
So much so, that the San Francisco 49ers made what one NFL insider called “a bit of a surprise” roster move on Monday, August 15 with a former first round talent — and nearly 24 hours before every NFL team including the Niners have to trim their rosters down to 85 active players.
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The Surprise Move
Following the epic two interception evening from the fifth rounder Womack from the Friday, August 12 preseason win over the Green Bay Packers, the 49ers made their first roster decision in the defensive back room.
And that move: The 49ers releasing veteran cornerback Darqueze Dennard via the league’s transaction wire.
Multiple insiders who cover the 49ers were stunned by the move. One was ESPN 49ers reporter and insider Nick Wagoner.
“A bit of a surprise given that Dennard had been working with first-team often at nickel CB,” Wagoner pointed out via his Twitter page.
But, Wagoner noted that this transaction is “A good sign for rookie Samuel Womack, it seems.”
Meanwhile, The Athletic’s 49ers insider David Lombardi believes that Womack’s huge ball-hawking night at Levi’s Stadium helped seal the 30-year-old Dennard’s fate.
On Friday after the preseason contest, Lombardi wrote how Dennard was still the first option at nickelback.
“The 49ers’ first-stringer at nickelback remains Darqueze Dennard, a veteran entering his ninth NFL season who earned the 49ers’ trust with his work in a pinch against star Rams wideout Cooper Kupp last season,” Lombardi wrote. “But the 30-year-old Dennard is only under contract for 2022, and it’s clear that the 49ers — who lost longtime nickelback K’Waun Williams to free agency — want a fixture for the future at the position.”
And Lombardi added: “Performances like this week’s from Womack can hasten the arrival of that future.”
Dennard will now be seeking his third NFL stop since 2021. He was briefly with the New York Giants before he joined the 49ers’ practice squad on January 4, 2022 before the regular season ended. He signed a one-year deal on March 25, 2022.
Before the 49ers and Giants, Dennard came to the league as the No. 24 overall pick of the 2014 NFL Draft out of Michigan State. He spent six seasons with the team that drafted him, the Cincinnati Bengals, before becoming an NFL journeyman with stops in Atlanta, Arizona and Indianapolis.
Other Roster Moves
Dennard was the projected starter who was released. The 49ers, though, waived one of their starters from the Packers game.
Josh Hokit, who handled the fullback duties for S.F., was among the other transaction decisions by the 49ers on Monday.
The former Fresno State Bulldog, who became best known in the Central Valley for being a two-sport star as a football player and wrestler, has been with the 49ers since 2020 when he signed as a undrafted free agent. The 6-foot-1, 225-pounder was among one of 11 49ers who signed a reserve/futures contract on February 2, 2022.
Hokit wasn’t the only Fresno State standout who was released. Wide receiver KeeSean Johnson, who scored on a two-point conversion try on Friday, was also waived by the 49ers.