The 49ers on Friday signed backup tight end Ross Dwelley to a one-year contract extension, keeping the three-year veteran off the market later this month as a restricted free agent.
Dwelley served a valuable role as the 49ers’ No. 2 tight end behind George Kittle over the past two seasons.
He started 10 games while Kittle was out with injuries and another five games when the 49ers opened with two tight-end formations.
If the 49ers had not reached a new deal with Dwelley, 26, the 49ers would have extended a one-year tender. But he would have been able to negotiate a contract with other teams around the NFL once the free-agent negotiating period begins on March 15.
Now, the 49ers are assured of having him on the team in 2021.
Charlie Woerner is currently the third tight end on the 49ers’ roster. Woerner, a sixth-round pick from Georgia, appeared in 14 games, mostly on special teams, as a rookie. He caught three passes for 36 yards.
Veteran Jordan Reed, 30, is a free agent after appearing in 10 games. He caught 26 passes for 231 yards and four touchdowns.
It is unclear whether Reed is a priority for the 49ers to re-sign this offseason with three other younger tight ends already under contract.
Dwelley appeared in all 32 games over the past two years with the 49ers. He caught 34 passes for 336 yards and three touchdowns over that period.
Dwelley originally signed with the 49ers in 2018 as an undrafted rookie from the University of San Diego.
After an impressive training camp, he earned a spot on the team’s practice squad over tight end Cole Hikutini, who appeared in four games with the 49ers as an undrafted rookie in 2017.
The 49ers promoted Dwelley to the active roster in mid-October of 2018, and he has remained on the team’s active roster ever since.
Dwelley is USD all-time leader for tight ends with 197 receptions for 2,305 yards and 26 touchdowns. He has greatly improved his contributions as a blocker to make him a valuable backup.
During the 2019 season, when the 49ers were 9-1, coach Kyle Shanahan said said that Dwelley was “as good of a football player as we’ve got going right now.”