Niners Release Braylon Edwards in Surprise Move

Team, headed for playoffs, has a very thin group of wide receivers

It was in early August that the San Francisco 49ers made a bold move, reaching out to sign wide receiver Braylon Edwards.

The team needed a big-play receiver, and Edwards – coming off a 53-catch season for the Jets – was a proven, big-time playmaker and a 6-foot-3 target who could make plays in the red zone.

“I’m a proud member of the San Francisco 49ers,” Edwards tweeted at the time. He talked about teaming with Michael Crabtree to give the Niners a tandem of co-No. 1 go-to receivers.

But nothing quite worked out the way Edwards, or the 49ers, hoped.

On Tuesday, Edwards announced on Twitter and his website that he’s been released by the team. The 49ers confirmed the move shortly afterward.

Edwards, dogged by knee and shoulder injuries this season, had just 15 catches for 181 yards and no touchdowns and became a forgotten piece of a receiving corps that has been much too thin all season, even though the team is 12-3 and has clinched the NFC West championship.

“I was released today by the 49ers due to my injury that required more time to rehab and hasn’t allowed me to re-sync with the offense,” Edwards wrote on his website. “I wish the 49ers organization the best of luck during the playoffs. I will be working hard this off season to strengthen my knee and prepare for the 2012 season. Thanks for your continued support and for being such loyal fans.”

The timing of the decision to release Edwards this week, going into the final regular-season game Sunday at St. Louis, is surprising. San Francisco is tied with the New Orleans Saints for the second-best record in the NFC and can clinch a No. 2 seed and first-round bye with a victory over the Rams Sunday.

The 49ers’ receiving corps, notes Eric Branch of the San Francisco Chronicle, consists of Crabtree, Ted Ginn Jr., Kyle Williams and Brett Swain. And Ginn missed last week’s game with an ankle injury and Williams was sidelined with a concussion in the fourth quarter vs. the Seahawks.

Branch reported the Niners are likely to add a wide receiver to the roster this week.

In addition to their very thin group at wideout, the Niners also need help at tight end.

Backup Delanie Walker, a valuable blocker, suffered a jaw injury in the win over Seattle and had to leave the game. Justin Peelle is the only other tight end on the roster behind starter Vernon Davis.

Head coach Jim Harbaugh said it’s possible that Walker’s injury could keep him out of the playoffs.

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