Brayden Willis

49ers Rumors: Willis, Floyd, Ward

The 49ers have one of the NFL’s more complete rosters with few holes, if any. While tight end is certainly not a hole on the roster with George Kittle bringing his All-Pro talent to the offense, the team will be looking to fill in the depth behind him after the departures of Charlie Woerner and Ross Dwelley in free agency. Both former San Francisco backups signed with the Falcons this offseason.

According to Cam Inman of The Mercury News, second-year tight end Brayden Willis is making a case for the TE2 job in 2024. Willis, a seventh-round pick out of Oklahoma, was the second tight end the team drafted last year following Cameron Latu, whom the team drafted in the third round out of Alabama. While Latu spent his rookie season recovering from surgery to repair a torn ACL, Willis got depth experience with some special teams play and minimal snaps on offense.

The team does have some experience at the position in veteran free agent addition Eric Saubert, who can step in if Willis and Latu fail to make an impact during their sophomore campaigns. Local Cal-product Jake Tonges and Furman undrafted free agent Mason Pline serve as under the radar prospects at the position who will likely find their way to the practice squad. Some combination of Willis, Saubert, and Latu will likely be used to replace the backup production lost in Woerner and Dwelley’s departures.

Here are a few more rumors coming out of the Bay Area in recent weeks:

  • San Francisco may have added the complimentary pass rusher across from Nick Bosa that they’ve been looking for this offseason in Leonard Floyd. That signing can be directly attributed to another offseason addition: the hiring of assistant head coach Brandon Staley. Staley worked directly with Floyd in Chicago as the Bears outside linebackers coach in 2017 and 2018 and in Los Angeles as the Rams defensive coordinator in 2020. With Staley’s backing, Floyd became a priority free agent target this offseason for the 49ers.
  • Coming off of a second-team All-Pro season, cornerback Charvarius Ward is entering a contract year with the 49ers. In a recent interview on the Up & Adams show, Ward told Kay Adams that he’s “trying to get that bag.” He’s in no rush, though, as he said he’ll have to have his best year and, hopefully, get paid in 2025. He also shared an encouraging update on his injury status with Adams, telling her that he’ll “be ready for training camp for sure.”

49ers Finish Draft Class Deals

Without a first- or second-round pick in this year’s draft, the 49ers did not have an especially challenging task of rounding out their draft class signings. They cleared that low bar Friday, signing six draftees to their four-year rookie deals.

San Francisco agreed to terms with third-round safety Ji’Ayir Brown, third-round tight end Cameron Latu, sixth-round cornerback Dee Winters, seventh-round tight end Brayden Willis, seventh-round wide receiver Ronnie Bell and seventh-round linebacker Jalen Graham. The team began its rookie minicamp Friday, joining many other teams in this regard.

The two tight ends hail from Alabama and Oklahoma, respectively, with Latu arriving at pick No. 101, which the NFL gave to the 49ers as compensation for the Dolphins hiring Mike McDaniel as head coach in 2022. Willis stands to have a better path toward the 49ers’ 53-man roster as a result of 2022 backup Tyler Kroft joining McDaniels’ team earlier this week. Willis caught 39 passes for 514 yards for the Sooners as a senior. Fourth-year tight end Charlie Woerner resides as George Kittle‘s top veteran backup, though veteran Ross Dwelley remains on the team’s roster as well.

Brown came off the board to the 49ers with their first pick this year. The team moved up (via the Vikings) from No. 102 to select the Penn State product. Brown totaled 10 interceptions between the 2021 and ’22 seasons with the Nittany Lions, and the JUCO transfer added 4.5 sacks as a senior. He joins a 49ers team that lost Jimmie Ward in free agency. Scouts Inc. graded Brown as this year’s No. 67 overall prospect.

The 49ers have generated some production from recent seventh-round receiver draftee Jauan Jennings, whom they retained via an ERFA tender this offseason. Bell played five seasons at Michigan, finishing with 889 receiving yards as a senior. The 49ers traded their 2023 first-rounder to move up for Trey Lance two years ago and dealt their second-rounder in the Christian McCaffrey swap last year. Here is San Francisco’s 2023 draft class:

Round 3, No. 87 (from Vikings): Ji’Ayir Brown, S (Penn State) (signed)
Round 3, No. 99: Jake Moody, K (Michigan) (signed)
Round 3, No. 101: Cameron Latu, TE (Alabama) (signed)
Round 5, No. 155 (from Dolphins): Darrell Luter Jr., CB (South Alabama) (signed)
Round 5, No. 173: Robert Beal Jr., DE (Georgia) (signed)
Round 6, No. 216: Dee Winters, LB (TCU) (signed)
Round 7, No. 247: Brayden Willis, TE (Oklahoma) (signed)
Round 7, No. 253: Ronnie Bell, WR (Michigan) (signed)
Round 7, No. 255: Jalen Graham, LB (Purdue) (signed)