A surging 49ers team with one of the most loaded rosters in the league figures to get stronger over the last half of the season. Last week the team added two players - outside linebacker Aldon Smith and rookie defensive end Tank Carradine - to the active roster. They could add four more this month, meaning that 11 percent of their 53-man roster could change over the last eight games.
Two of those players are wide receiver Mario Manningham, who has come back from a knee injury suffered in December, and cornerback Eric Wright, who had been placed on the non-football injury list. If both, as expected, are added to the 53-man roster, it will be done today or early Tuesday.
The 49ers obviously need help at wide receiver. Manningham finished second at the position to Michael Crabtree a year ago, and he has the down-field skills to complement the power-running game as well as the short and intermediate routes fellow receiver Anquan Boldin handles so well.
The 49ers want to get a look at Wright over the last eight games to help decide their future at the cornerback position. Five of their cornerbacks - Nnamdi Asomugha, Tarell Brown, Tramaine Brock, Perrish Cox and Wright - are scheduled for free agency in March. Another, Carlos Rogers, will have a huge salary-cap figure the team is unlikely to pay. A seventh cornerback, Chris Culliver, is coming back from an ACL injury.
The 49ers released linebackers Nate Stupar and Jermaine Cunningham, as well as receiver Marlon Moore, to make room for the players they will add to the roster. They currently have an open spot but also are likely to bring in linebacker Nick Moody, who has recovered from a broken hand, and Crabtree, who has rebounded nicely from an Achilles' tear suffered in May. Crabtree is on schedule to return to the field later this month or in early December.
So who else could go to make room?
* Asomugha has been a healthy scratch for three weeks, and at age 32 he seems unlikely to be in the 49ers' future plans at the position. If the 49ers release him, the Saints - who also showed interest in Asomugha this offseason - may be his most ardent suitor. That means it's possible the 49ers could cut Asomugha and then immediately face him Nov. 17 when they visit New Orleans.
*Demarcus Dobbs suddenly finds himself at a crowded position. Unlike fellow backup Tony Jerod-Eddie, Dobbs is not built to play nose tackle if the 49ers needed a backup there. Dobbs seems to be a good fit as a 4-3 defensive end.
* McLeod Bethel-Thompson. Because the likelihood of needing a third quarterback in a game is so slim, many teams keep their third option on the practice squad. That's an option for Bethel-Thompson, who is eligible. The 49ers would have to cut him and then re-sign him to the practice squad.
* Quinton Patton. He's still recovering from the foot fracture he suffered in Week 4. It's possible the 49ers could place him on injured reserve. However, doing so would hold back his development even further. The 49ers will be short on wide receivers next season - Boldin, Manningham, Kyle Williams and Kassim Osgood are pending free agents - and may need Patton to step in right away.
In 'n Out projections
OLB Aldon Smith -
OLB Jermaine Cunningham
WR Mario Manningham -
WR Marlon Moore
CB Eric Wright -
CB Nnamdi Asomugha
DE Tank Carradine - DE Demarcus Dobbs
LB Nick Moody -
LB Nate Stupar
WR Michael Crabtree - QB McLeod Bethel-Thompson to psquad
-- Matt Barrows