Two days after trading former first-round draft pick Kentwan Balmer to Seattle, the 49ers have parted ways with last-year's most expensive free-agent acquisition. The team waived receiver Brandon Jones, who fell to the bottom of the depth chart last year after breaking a shoulder and was never able to climb back up. Jones missed several spring practices with an ankle sprain and had been dealing with a hamstring strain in training camp. He returned from that injury yesterday.
Jones signed a five-year $16.5 million contract -- including a $5.4 million signing bonus -- last year, and the 49ers' front office hoped he would become the deep threat they had lacked in previous seasons. Early in the 2009 training camp, Jones appeared to be just that as he caught several deep passes from Alex Smith.
But he broke his shoulder diving for a pass in the end zone and never could gain his coaches' confidence. Shortly after his acquisition, SI's Jim Trotter reported that the team's coaching staff wasn't as enamored with Jones as the scouting department, which at the time was led by Scot McCloughan, and felt left out of the evaluation process. Jones caught one pass during the regular season. He was used more on special teams, and his most memorable play was a botched punt return that turned into a fumble during a critical loss in Seattle.
Asked in October about his role on the team, a frustrated Jones said, "To be honest, I don't know myself. That's what I'm trying to figure out. I thought I was a receiver, but I guess I'm a special teams helper. I don't know. I just do what I can and just help out the team the best way I can. But at this time, I'm wondering the same thing you are."
This summer Jones appeared to be competing against Dominique Zeigler and Jason Hill for one of the last receiver spots on the roster. Zeigler today was praised by both offensive coordinator Jimmy Raye and quarterback Alex Smith (see the previous post). Jones also had become the de facto No. 2 punt returner now that Kyle Williams is out with a toe injury. Jones, Ted Ginn and Bobby Guillory took turns returning punts this morning.
The team also waived/injured guard Chris Patrick, who had missed the last two days with a shoulder injury. The 49ers now have 78 players on the roster, meaning they can add two more.